By Elle Keaton
Rating: 5 out of 5 stars
If you don’t know what you want, would you recognize it if you found it?
Miguel Ramirez is the definition of pochos; a half-breed-white-washed Mexican–American who doesn’t speak Spanish (also unapologetically bisexual). Three years ago he arrived in Skagit a broken man having barely managed to escape an abusive relationship. Slowly, he’s rebuilt his life. He’s tried hard to discard his deepest desires and be happy with what life has doled out. Family feels out of his grasp, no one really wants to keep a stray after all. Except, maybe, a red-haired stranger with a galaxy of freckles covering his face who seems to encompass everything Miguel’s learned to avoid.
Nate Richardson; focused, solid, reliable, career-minded, Federal Agent. No time for relationships outside of work. Then he runs into Miguel with his crazy green eyes, rakish smile and outrageous sense of humor. Nate starts thinking about Miguel as more than just another guy. Nate was sure he didn’t care about sex and didn’t believe in love…he’d never met Miguel Ramirez before.
Things quickly heat up between Nate and Miguel. Crime is heating up in Skagit as well. Nate is sidelined when the case he is working on reaches a frustrating standstill. In the meantime, unnerving incidents transpire, some literally on Nate’s doorstep. Will outside forces—or their own baggage—keep Miguel and Nate apart? What exactly is family, and can Miguel and Nate make one of their own?
I was absolutely smitten with this story. The author’s writing and storytelling style is captivating, absolutely mesmerizing to me. There was something refreshing about this story and its characters.
River Home is definitely a character-driven story. As a reader, I want to be drawn into the story, drawn to the characters, and feel like I know them intimately, personally – that they’re real, with real back stories, real emotions, real experiences – and this book delivered. This is the first work I’ve read of Elle Keaton’s, but her writing is so very good – and as an editor, I’m typically more critical than complimentary – that I feel comfortable giving her work a blanket endorsement/recommendation based on a single book.
What struck me most and drew me in was the crisp, clean writing, the true-to-life characters with their realistic and normal personification, from vulnerabilities originating in childhood to the long-term sense of unworthiness that respective relationships or non-relationships planted in their psyches, to the real persons their friends knew and appreciated. Keaton also grounded the major secondary characters into the story framework, a couple times in surprising and unsuspecting ways. She also portrayed these secondary players in such a way that they were more than fixtures or to advance the story along: the reader was given sufficient insight into these characters’ personalities, histories, and motivations to clearly understand where and how they fit. The plots and sub-plots did more than contribute to Miguel’s and Nate’s relationship, but to the surrounding characters and community, too – the coffee shop and its head barista, the human trafficking ring and a decade-old crime that has left its victims and survivors unsure how to return to living, a dysfunctional family drama linked by secrets, unexpected disruption and innocent victims in a sleepy vacation area, arguing brothers, future dreams fulfilled. There is certainly a lot happening in this patchwork of interwoven scenarios, just as in real life, and written and told by a less eloquent and engaging author would not have captured and retained my attention from cover to cover. (Plus, the change-up in terminology, expressions, and descriptions in the sex and relationship-building scenes were A+++.) And Nate “just knowing” how he felt about Miguel and willingly professing that? Thank you, Elle Keaton, for foregoing angst and betrayal and sharing a positive perspective on love.
River Home was like a brightly lit beacon. I always looked forward to picking up where I left off.
I voluntarily read an Advanced Reader’s Copy and provided a written review.
Original review posted on Amazon and Goodreads on March 27, 2018.