Title: Beneath the Palisade
Author: Joel Skelton
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
Release Date: September 16, 2016
Page Count: 807
Reviewed by: Kristin
Heat Level: 2 flames out of 5
Rating: 4 stars out of 5
This warm, quirky, character-filled series begins with a life-changing event that triggers Harper and Ian, the anchors of all three stories, to search for an adventure that takes them out of the city and out of their comfort zones. Pooling their collective talents, they risk everything when they set their sights on a dilapidated resort located on the North Shore of Lake Superior called Beneath the Palisade.
Beneath the Palisade: Reliance :
When attorney Harper Callahan hires Ian Burke to landscape his yard, they’re soon on the fast track to romance and life changes neither of them anticipated.
Beneath the Palisade: Courage :
Theo Engdahl is struggling with his sexuality, but he finds support in out-and-proud Alex at the Men’s Center.
Beneath the Palisade: Justice :
Wrongly accused Owen Grady is seeking legal help. When young lawyer Brent Burns takes on the case, obstacles seem determined to prevent the acquittal—not least being their hearts.
A ‘new to me’ author that intrigued me with a setting on the shores of Lake Superior.
Beneath the Palisade: Reliance (3.5 stars):
Reliance kicks off the series in Minneapolis, where Harper Callahan hires Ian Burke of Burke Landscaping to fix his back yard. What develops is a rather speedy relationship that ultimately brings the two men to the shores of Lake Superior by Silver Bay.
I faltered a bit with the first ¼ of the book when everything is just going super smooth and warp speed. The reader knows it’s going somewhere, but I was beginning to question when. When Harper is hurt in the line of his lawyerly duty (no spoilers!), the relationship and ultimate plot finally kick into gear.
While the writing is solid, where I struggled was with the constant “giggling”. I swear, these two guys giggled more than any set of teenagers that I’ve met. I can see a couple of giggles, but after a while, I wanted to smack someone upside the head.
As a local to the North Shore, I thought Skelton was pretty spot on with the use of location, excepting the run to Pickwick for a steak. That steak was going to be mighty cold by the time it got back to Palisade… Should have driven that as a time check.
Other than the giggling and the one issue with a driving time, I thought ultimately, this was a strong first story.
Beneath the Palisade: Courage (4.0 stars):
Three years have passed since Reliance. Harper, Ian and their co-manager Alex have built a strong resort and even stronger relationships. Alex and Harper are about to officially open their Center for Gay men to help others struggling with who they are. Theo, local mechanic, finds himself at the Center’s doorstep questioning his sexuality, his feelings and who he really is. His attraction to Alex is immediate – and according to what he’s been taught, wrong. Theo has to find the courage to step away from that teaching
As Theo gradually comes to accept the doctrine that has been drilled into him since birth isn’t necessarily correct, he builds more than just friendship with the outgoing Alex.
What I liked about this relationship was it felt real: from the first tentative guy kiss, to the awe of a mutual blowjob, to what sex is – and isn’t, it covered the joy, the awkwardness, and the embarrassing mistakes that happen in any blossoming relationship. It really was a delight to read.
This story also had an unexpected aspect to it – as Theo and Alex are finding each other and starting their journey, the story explores the opposite end: the courage of letting go of a partner. I can only wonder if the author experienced a similar loss, because watching Quentin and Harold was just beautifully heart wrenching. This is something that just isn’t written about on any regular basis, and Skelton wrote about it so superbly.
My small complaints with this story still involved the giggling – it was much reduced but still there, and Alex and Theo were almost lost in the Harold and Quentin plotline.
Overall – a very strong, engaging and emotional story.
Beneath the Palisade: Justice (2.5 stars ):
I have to be upfront – this story disturbed me a lot and I ended up having to skim it. It wasn’t the writing, it was the subject. Kudo’s to the author for that kind of emotional reaction, but it’s not the kind of reaction *I* want to be having while reading. Others might not have the same opinion or reaction.
Harper, with the help of his former assistant from book one, Brent, are opening a law office at the Men’s Center. Brent and Harper take on the case of Owen, a music teacher at a local school, who finds himself in a case of sexual entrapment by a local and crooked cop.
Owen was in the wrong place at the wrong time, was propositioned by another hiker, and found himself to be the victim of unsolicited groping, a beating, and false accusations which land him in jail. The “hiker” was a well-liked and respected cop in town.
As Brent and Owen start to work together, their attraction is undeniable. But it’s going to take a miracle to save Owen’s reputation and keep him out of jail.
Two things made me skim this: a teacher being falsely accused of sexual wrong-doing and a crooked cop. I think it’s just a matter of bad timing… Or maybe not? Maybe Skelton was pulling inspiration from (somewhat) recent Minnesota media events? Either way, these two plot devises were just too unsettling for me to fully read or enjoy the story.
But please, rest assured, Justice does have a HEA.