Guest Review: Smoky Mountain Dreams by Leta Blake

Sometimes holding on means letting go

After giving up on his career as a country singer in Nashville, Christopher Ryder is happy enough performing at the Smoky Mountain Dreams theme park in Tennessee. But while his beloved Gran loves him the way he is, Christopher feels painfully invisible to everyone else. Even when he's center stage he aches for someone to see the real him.

Bisexual Jesse Birch has no room in his life for dating. Raising two kids and fighting with family after a tragic accident took his children's mother, he doesn't want more than an occasional hook-up. He sure as hell doesn't want to fall hard for his favorite local singer, but when Christopher walks into his jewelry studio, Jesse hears a new song in his heart.

Reviewed by Vivian

A cozy tale to enjoy during the inhospitable months.

The character interactions are the strongest part of this story. Each one is developed and imbued with their own personality and resonance. Christopher is sweet, from a homophobic, fire and brimstone family. He's a talented, but not gifted musician; Jesse is his new muse.

Jesse, a single father of two who still has to bury his wife. Reformed rebel and dilettante wanting to give his children more warmth and comfort than he received. Along with his sister and his in-laws, Will and Brigid have a good support group.

Double serving of family drama as both Jesse and Christopher become involved and their lives entangle. This is a character driven story. Past tragedy plays a crucial role. Like the characters we all have to decide, the future or the past? Where do you want to live? How does one move on? What keeps us bound?

For Jesse that is a big issue for him and the kids. Will has already moved on. Brigid needs more, and there comes the cranes and wishes. Brigid's actions and decisions are one of the most touching parts of this story. You might cry, but it'll make you happy, too. Christopher's interactions with her are wonderful and they made me smile.

This book tries to do a little bit of everything and that makes it seem undirected. Almost like the author wanted to please and check as many boxes as possible. First, the kink seems forced. The breath play out of no where was a little disturbing with no prelude or discussion between the characters and the mild dominance unnecessary in their relationship. I didn't understand why it appeared and then disappeared. Second, stylistically, it's a mishmash with a little bit of paranormal, a dash of BDSM, and a healthy dose of angst so that it comes across unfocused or more generously, a smorgasbord.

The environment plays a significant part and lends a bucolic air as Christopher and Jesse fall in love. It is the calm in the swirling distractions of life. There are a lot of secondary characters clamoring for attention: Gran, the kids, Jesse's sister-in-law, Christopher's family, Gareth, Amanda and other friends. Life is messy and complicated is a theme and the clutter of characters supports that idea.

Overall, highly emotional read that deals with the tangled mess of living.

Favorite quote: “If expressing what you want and feel means you can’t be a man, then this society has a really fucked-up view of masculinity."

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