I have to give Ms. Blaydon credit for writing about a priest and having the book so heavily placed inside the religious community. There are a lot of readers out there who won't even touch a book with religion in it because of their own preferences. Me, I'm not religious at all and because of that I don't read a lot of m/m books with religion. I gave this book a chance because I liked the cover. Yes, I am shallow like that. ;-P
I was actually shocked at how much I enjoyed the story. The beginning was rocky. I wasn't sure which direction it was going to go in and a few times I was even uncomfortable with Father Israfel's line of thinking. But there was just something about either the writing or the storyline that had me so captivated I didn't want to put it down. I stayed up late to finish it because it turned from sad to angsty to happy to down right sweet. I was glad I stayed up to finish it because it left me with a smile and good thoughts when I went to sleep.
The story is told solely from Father Israfel's POV. He is a complicated character who, while a devout Catholic, was basically pushed into the clergy by his twin brother when he was a teen and got caught with another boy. Raf has spent the last eleven years dedicated to the priesthood in a life of celibacy to stay away from his 'unnatural' urges. He's a good man and he's helped a lot of people. It's not until he meets Nate one of Raf's altar servers who is 17 years old but where they live that is the age of consent that Raf's desires start to become uncontrollable. There's something about Nate that Raf can't deny and when Nate sets his sights on Raf, Raf doesn't stand a chance. He folds like a house of cards and the short time they have together is blissful. However, it's not until Raf's twin brother, Michael shows up that chaos reins again. Michael pushes Raf to make the hardest decision of his life which could hurt both Raf and Nate.
I loved these characters, I truly did. Raf was hard to like at first because of how meek he seems. Nate, however, is intense which I enjoyed a lot. It was nice to see Nate go after Raf and showed that while Nate might still be young, he's determined and stubborn enough to know what he wants and goes for it. The internal angst Raf has was chaotic and extreme. I loved being able to see him fighting with himself and struggling with being a man of the cloth. It takes almost the whole book for him to realize he doesn't need to hate himself for loving who he does. In the end, he comes to love himself for who he is while still being able to have his religion without self-hatred involved. One thing I really loved about this book was how close Nate and his brother, Tom, were even though they are four years apart. They both were home-schooled so they only had each other but they were really close and told each other almost everything which made their teasing and interactions together quite nice.
I enjoyed the book a lot but at first I was extremely confused with all the Church talk. I haven't gone to Church since I was a small child so I had no idea what any of the Church speak was about. This started the book off rocky and rough for me. I wasn't sure if I liked it or not for a good portion of the beginning but then it quickly became a page turner for me. I think this book could have used a little more dialogue, however. More talking between Raf and Nate as well as secondary characters. There was also the fact that Raf is never described, at least not that I can remember, so I was never able to actually visualize what he looked like. Even his twin was never described outside his body build.
In the end, this is one of the best books I've read this year. While it didn't grab me in the beginning, it wasn't long before I lost myself in the pages of the story. I loved the characters, their story and their angst. I loved the fact that while it's sad, it's not too heartbreaking because there are sweet, lighthearted moments that even out the intense parts. It was a struggle for Raf to get to where he goes but I was very satisfied with how it ends and what they both sacrifice for the love they have together. It was an amazing book and while I know some people won't read it no matter what, I do encourage everyone to at least give it a try.
One of my favorite quotes that sums up Raf nicely:
"Israfel has long been a house of cards, and he has been disturbed. He can feel his supports collapsing, day by day."