m/m challenge – book #2
St.Nachos by Z.A Maxfield
Cooper has spent the last three years running from a painful past. He’s currently moving from town to town, working in restaurant kitchens, and playing his violin for tips. As soon as he starts to feel comfortable anywhere—with anyone—he moves on. He’s aware that music may be the only human language he still knows. Ironically, the one man he’s wanted to communicate with in all that time is deaf.
Shawn is part of a deaf theater group at the nearby college. Shawn wants Cooper as soon as they meet and he begins a determined flirtation. Cooper is comfortable with down and dirty sex, just not people. As far as Shawn is concerned, dirty sex is win-win, but he wants Cooper to let him into the rest of his life as well.
Cooper needs time to heal and put his past away for good. Shawn needs to help Cooper forgive himself and accept that he can be loved. Both men find out that when it comes to the kind of healing love can bring, the sleepy beachside town of Santo Ignacio, “St. Nacho’s” as the locals call it, may just be the very best place to start.
Z.A Maxfield is a wonderful writer. As usual when I started reading this book I had that ‘oh, why can’t I write like this?!’ feeling. Her prose is a delight and the strength of her language makes it easy and fun to read almost no matter what the story. So I knew I was going to like this no matter what, and I did.
This is the third book of hers that I’ve read, not including the longish short story in the I Do anthology, and I’ve enjoyed every one of them. This one is probably my least favourite because I found Shawn too alpha, and Cooper too beta for my liking. I don’t enjoy that traditional m/f divide even when – as in this case – it seems to proceed entirely from the characters own internal characteristics. Z.A Maxfield’s other books have not had a strict alpha/beta power imbalance, and I’ve preferred them because of it. But to me that implies that this is a deliberate choice for this novel, and although this particular one didn’t work as well for me because of it, it means I’ll approach her next one with just as much enthusiasm as her first.
In the mean time, I think this sounds too negative. The fact is that this is a truly excellent m/m novel. The characterization is wonderful. The setting, particularly St.Nachos at the beginning, is a feast for the senses, a real idyll. I’d like to live there! The story is gripping and engaging, heart wrenching at times. The thread of music and the thoughts about how Cooper and Shawn can communicate through music in particular I found very gripping. I loved the sign language choir and the insight into what music is and how it affects both characters.
Basically, if you don’t mind one character being very take charge and the other one being very passive, then I think you’ll love it. I know that my dislike for masterful men is not shared by the majority of readers, so it’s a drawback only for me, not for the book itself.