Review - "Two Sides of the Same Coin" by Jake Mactire
Warm, detailed and sprawling story
Jeff Connelly has run into a bit of a bad streak. His father died in a car accident - hit by a drunk driver. He has to leave his life in San Francisco to come back to the family ranch in Washington state to handle the funeral arrangements. See how things stand on the ranch. And Robert, his boyfriend, has no interest in helping. In fact, he is trying to change Jeff, wanting him to leave his cowboying and rodeo ways behind and use his accounting degree. Become "civilized".
Mike Guidry is a cast off, thrown out by an uncaring family when he was 16. Dropped off at the bus station in Nebraska by his fundamentalist preacher dad with a ticket to San Francisco and $200, told to go live with other perverts and abominations. He learned early not to trust anyone - keep other people at arm's length and they can't hurt you first. He has worked his way up in the world, finding his way through working on ranches, and has been working on the Lucky Jeff Ranch. For Jeff's dad.
When Jeff starts working the ranch and meets Mike, he is attracted. But he is with Robert, and doesn't know if Mike is gay. After deciding to stay on the ranch, breaking up with Robert, and getting closer to Mike, both of their walls start to come down. And they wonder if maybe Jeff's dad set them up a little.
Then some cattle go missing from the ranch. And then one of the ranch hands is murdered, shot in the back. Jeff and Mike do some digging, and discover that the rustling is widespread, covering quite a few ranches spread out over several counties in the area.
Between investigating the rustlings, running the ranch, starting a relationship with Mike and working on his art, Jeff is one busy man. And when his and Mike's lives are put in danger, and he is in the line of fire, will they stay safe, or will his new found happiness be taken away?
Jake Mactire has written a sprawling, involved, detailed and very entertaining book here. His characters are earthy, real, fun, and ultimately oh so human and fallible. Jeff is a cocky guy, but truly a good man at heart - supported by his dad early on, he grew up strong and sure of himself. Mike, on the other hand, grew up beaten down mentally and physically, and is so unsure of himself, but is, like Jeff, such a good man at his core. Jeff is Mike, without the abuse, Mike, Jeff with the advantages. As the title says, two sides of the same coin.
There is a huge level of detail in this book - I have read some reviews critical of this. I find it true to the characters and story. This book is about salt of the earth people, and the everyday is what is important. From meals to work to loving and sex, these are the things that make their hearts sing and their days full. To cowboys, ranchers, farmers, food and fun and a good man or woman fill the days and the nights with love. Mr. Mactire honors them and us by showing us what matters to them.
These are the men and women I grew up with. Honest, warm, loving, real. Nothing special, but oh-so-solid and good. People that hold you up when you need it and surprise you when you least expect it. Kind of like this book.
I enjoyed sitting and visiting with these folks in this book, and having a cup of coffee while I shared their days and nights with them. Jeff and Mike touched me, and I hope they will you too.
Give this book a chance - it may surprise you.