I bought a copy of H. J. Brues’ Warriors & Healers.
Description from Goodreads:
When Dr. Daniel Ugarte arrives from Spain to work on the Apache reservation, he meets Jeff Redbear, a Native American social worker, and Sean McCallum, the local sheriff. The men come from three different worlds, and they have little to no common ground until an immediate, unexpected attraction sparks between them.
Facing the growing desire is just the beginning of the obstacles they will face: Daniel’s past makes him blind to Jeff and Sean’s feelings for him and terrified of standing in the way of their love for each other; Sean has to fight his present worry of not being strong enough to protect the men he loves; and Jeff’s pride and fear of future rejection make him push Sean and Daniel away before they get too close to his heart.
But the strength of the love that blooms between them is the worst of their fears, because it will take as much courage to run from it and go on living empty, meaningless lives as it will to fight for the happiness they might never reach together.
There were times that this book was so sweet my heart wanted to fly from my chest. There were other times that same attempted sweetness became so saccharine I almost couldn’t be brought to keep reading. This book was really hit and miss for me. Some aspects of it I loved—how determinedly loving Sean was, for example. However, even more aspects of it either forced eye rolls or flat out exasperated huffs from me—how Daniel was nothing more than a china doll for Sean and Jeff to love between them, for example. (Let me just pause and rant on this a moment. I’ll try to be vague so there won’t be spoilers, but I’ll be discussing an event or two. So read with caution.)
I have two complaints about Sean and Jeff’s love of Daniel, and neither of them has anything to do with them forming a trio. My first is the assumed knowledge that passes between S & J and apparently that the reader is supposed to share. Without exception, Jeff is hostile toward Daniel from the moment he arrives. He apparently makes some sort of peace with Sean, evidenced only by the fact that it’s noted that he can call him by his first name. So already, the three men are not friends and there are no subtle hints that they might become friends.
Due to circumstances, J admits to S that he is attracted to D (kind of). Then suddenly (and I mean SUDDENLY, with no forewarning) S & J fall on one another in a fit of passion. Yes, two men who have not even been friends, one of whom just admitted his attraction to a third (and not the first) pounce on one another in a hallway. What? Why? What psychic communication did I miss that would make this make sense?
Afterwards, the two are
A) instantly a couple and falling in love, even though they’ve barely spoken up to this point (stunning example of sex equals love, that)
B) somehow both aware that the other loves D, even though it hasn’t even been hinted out that S likes him as anything but a friend up to that point (Guess I’m just supposed to presume two men in an mm novel can’t be friends so the lust is assumed, even if not shown.)
Additionally, when D leaves the reservation, S & J go about planning to get him back, despite the fact that as far as D knows nothing in J’s attitude has changed. Seriously, just because S knows how J really feels doesn’t mean D has any way of knowing and there are no pleasant interactions to counter the previously evidenced attitude. So again, psychic communications?
And lastly, it’s quite explicitly stated that S & J never talk about ‘this thing between them’ but they are falling hard and heavy for one another and are open and determined to add D as their third. You’d think this would require a conversation or two. Yeah? How do they each know that the other is open to such an unusual relationship? There is a lot of presumed knowledge flying around and I disliked it. A lot.
Secondly (after all that), the whole book is about S & J trying to convince D to become their third, without asking him and scaring him away. I can run with that, it makes sense. However, at no point is D anything but an acquisition. His feelings change in accordance with the growth of S & J’s feelings for each other and their determination to possess him, but at no point is there any reason they should. From what must be D’s position, the two men are never anything but friendly to him (and J not even that). So there is no reason that he, a straight man, should be falling in love and lust with them. His feelings constantly change to conveniently fit where the story is going, but IT MAKES NO SENSE. He is never seduced, invited, or even talked to about it until after he too is in love. What?
Even worse, once they have him the obvious power dynamics of the group irked me. He was not an equal participant. He was their ‘little cub’ or ‘pretty prince’ he was something to be taken care of or responsible for, like a child. This was also reinforced by the roles played in bed (and there was no indication this would be fluid). If it wouldn’t be insulting to everyone involved to say he was obviously the woman in the scenario I probably would. He was a damsel in distress, who had to be protected from himself. It made him seem fragile. Then he is…let’s call it made love to by S & J, instead of makes love with S & J.
Additionally, and this is a general complaint but it’s especially relevant in relation to the romance. Large important chunks of time pass unrevealed. For example, D arrives and despite being attracted to him, J is rude to him. Then it’s suddenly weeks later and D is out running. The whole settling in, getting to know each-other, etc is completely skipped. At this point, S sees a strange man and decides he wants to meet him. Then it’s weeks later and the two of them are BFFs who are out running together. We never get to see them meet or get to know one another. Then, after D left the reservation the first time, weeks pass in which S & J’s relationship is progressing but we see none of it.
These are IMPORTANT events. These are events I want, need to see to understand the relationship between the characters. Lacking them everything felt rushed and UNBELIEVABLE. Really, that’s the crux of my problem, S & J’s relationship makes sense and even wanting D makes sense. But nothing about D’s actions, feelings, thoughts, etc are realistic and anytime there is an opportunity to delve into his motives or change of heart, it’s skipped over.
The writing too was hit or miss. For 99% of the time it was wonderful. But the author had this horrible habit of using oddly outdated phrases on occasion—’lest we do…” or “they waited upon” or “for it had been,” “for it was,” “for they thought.” These anachronistic words stood out like neon signs. The ‘for’ seemed to be especially prevalent and once I took note of it I was jarred by every subsequent one. I found it really disruptive. There were also times that it was difficult to keep track of who was who and/or who was speaking at any given point.
But like I said in the beginning, some parts of this book really are sweet. Seeing S & J’s love for each-other and how desperately they wanted D (I refuse to acknowledge his love as it was so unbelievable) was heartwarming. They way the men are able to understand and heal one another was nice. The dialogue was mostly pretty smooth. There are a lot of things to like about this book. Unfortunately, FOR ME, there was also a lot to dislike.
On a side note, that’s a wretched cover!