The Lang Downs series
- Inherit the Sky (book #1)
- Chase the Stars (books #2)
- Outlast the Night (book #3)
Inherit the Sky by Ariel Tachna
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
Caine Neiheisel is stuck in a dead-end job at the end of a dead-end relationship when the chance of a lifetime falls in his lap. His mother inherits her uncle’s sheep station in New South Wales, Australia, and Caine sees it as the opportunity to start over, out on the range where his stutter won’t hold him back and his willingness to work will surely make up for his lack of knowledge. Unfortunately, Macklin Armstrong, the foreman of Lang Downs who should be Caine’s biggest ally, alternates between being cool and downright dismissive, and the other hands are more amused by Caine’s American accent than they are moved by his plight… until they find out he’s gay and their amusement turns to scorn. It will take all of Caine’s determination-and an act of cruel sabotage by a hostile neighbor-to bring the men of Lang Downs together and give Caine and Macklin a chance at love.
So what did I think?
I really wanted to love this book particularly because it was set in Australia. However, although the potential was there, there was something lacking that prevented me from fully escaping into the world of Lang Downs.
I think the author did a great job of describing the locations and environment, giving a real sense of the country where the book is set. There are a lot of references to Australian life and iconic brands which are accurate and fit well.
Probably being really picky here but as a NSW resident I did struggle with trying to picture exactly where the location of the property was. There is reference to it being 4-5 hours from Boorowa and Yass seems to be the biggest town they visit. But driving 4-5 hours north or west from Boorowa would put you in the vicinity of heaps of relatively large towns so you would have no need to go to Boorowa or Yass even. Anyway, largely irrelevant so back to the book….
A lot of time is spent seemingly educating the reader on station life. Yes, Caine needed to be educated on how to run the sheep station but as a reader, I wanted to see less talk of organic sheep farming and more of the romance!
As individuals, I liked both the main characters. Caine had a failed relationship, failed career and stutter but was courageous enough to head to the other side of the world to make a change. Macklin is the typical tough Australian country man.
But I was reading this for the romance and the combination of Caine and Macklin didn’t work fully for me. I could see them as a couple but I didn’t get a sense of much chemistry between the two and the sex didn’t have natural passion. I actually found the sex discussions and scenes a bit uncomfortable to read as it seemed a bit forced.
Overall the story was ok with a good mix of secondary characters and a pleasant read. I enjoyed this book enough to read the next book in the series Chase the Stars.
Chase the Stars by Ariel Tachna
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
Twenty-year-old Chris Simms is barely keeping his head above water. After losing his mother and his home, he struggles to provide for himself and his brother. When homophobes attack him, he thinks his life is over, but then he’s rescued by jackaroos from a nearby sheep station. He’s as stunned to be offered a job there as he is to discover both the station owner and foreman are gay.
For Chris, Lang Downs is a dream—one that only gets better when Chris realizes the jackaroo he’s crushing on, Jesse Harris, is gay and amenable to a fling. Everything goes well until Chris realizes he’s falling for Jesse a lot harder than allowed by their deal.
Jesse is a drifter who moves from station to station, never looking for anything permanent. Convinced Chris is too young and fragile for a real relationship, he sets rules to keep things casual. Watching the station owner and his foreman together makes Jesse wonder if there are benefits to settling down, but when he realizes how Chris feels about him, he panics. He and Chris will have to decide if a try for happiness is worth the risk before the end of the season tears them apart.
So what did I think?
As with the first book in the series, Inherit the Sky, this book did not fully live up to it’s potential for me. However it was still a pleasant read.
I enjoyed the characters in the book, where once again we have one main character (Jesse) who is a jackaroo and another character (Chris) who is totally out of his element.
Chris has been assaulted (for being gay) and rescued by Macklin and a few other men from the sheep station. When they find out that Chris and his younger brother Seth are struggling on their own, Caine and Macklin take them back to Lang Downs. Jesse is working at the station for the season with no real plans for the future or for settling down.
Chris and Jesse start a casual relationship but of course things aren’t simple. They begin to have feelings for each other but each of them doubt they are right for the other. They don’t fully admit their feelings to each other but their internal reflections show that their bond is more than physical.
“Chris needed someone so much better than Jesse, someone with a stable life and the ability to make promises and keep them. Jesse didn’t know where he’d be after April when the seasonal work at Lang Downs ended.”
“His heart was his to give as he chose. Jesse might not keep it, but if the other option was breaking things off now, Chris realized he’d rather have a broken heart later, having loved now for all he was worth, than never have that experience at all.”
This book was an interesting blend of story that focused on the new couple of Jesse and Chris but also continued to build on the story of the original couple, Macklin and Caine.
As with the previous book, I had a few issues with the writing style. Basically I didn’t like the way the sex scenes were written (they didn’t seem natural) and also found a few passages where I felt the author was aiming for the deep or profound but it just didn’t work. For example, I didn’t understand the following “They walked upstairs to their bedroom, hand in hand, pausing to kiss occasionally, but mostly walking together like it was the simplest thing in the world. Macklin wasn’t sure if it was the simplest thing or the most complicated, but he knew one thing to the depths of his soul: it was the most important.” Maybe I am missing something here? There is also the scene where Caine tops Macklin for the first time. Macklin has always resisted as he didn’t want to give up control. In the midst of this scene, instead of focusing on the beauty and significance of Macklin’s gesture, the author has Macklin thinking “The problem had been his own hang-ups and issues, but they all seemed insignificant in the face of Caine’s proposal. If they lost more men because of it, they’d hire new ones. If they had to work twice as many hours to get everything done, they’d do it.” It seemed unnecessary and weird because how would the men even know that Macklin had been topped to lose respect for him? Finally there were a few sections where Caine’s stutter seemed too obvious, alternating from no stutter in one paragraph, followed by a paragraph full of stutter (showing he was nervous), to another one with no stutter.
These issues weren’t enough to detract from the story too much and it was still a nice enough read.
Outlast the Night by Ariel Tachna
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
Office manager Sam Emery is unemployed and out of luck. When his emotionally abusive wife demands a divorce, he contacts the one person he has left, his brother, Neil. He doesn’t expect Neil to reject him, but he also doesn’t expect the news of his divorce—and of his sexuality—to be met with such acceptance.
Neil takes Sam to Lang Downs, the sheep station Neil calls home. There, Sam learns that life as a gay man isn’t impossible. Caine and Macklin, the station owners, certainly seem to be making it work. When Caine offers Sam a job, it’s a dream come true.
Jeremy Taylor leaves the only home he’s ever known when his brother’s homophobia becomes more than he can bear. He goes to the one place he knows he will be accepted: Lang Downs. He clicks with Sam instantly—but the animosity between Lang Downs and Jeremy’s home station runs deep, and the jackaroos won’t accept Jeremy without a fight. Between Sam’s insecurity and Jeremy’s precarious position, their road will be a hard one—and that’s without having to wait for Sam’s divorce to be final before starting a new life together.
So what did I think?
I feel I am going really against the grain here as I have seen mainly really positive reviews about this book, the third in the series. I actually found it my least favourite of the series.
Once again I liked the characters but didn’t get any satisfaction on the romance front. Too slow and not enough sex. I know in past books I have commented that I don’t like how the author has written the sex scenes (they seem forced and unnatural and lacking true passion) but I have decided in the case of this series that any sex is better than no sex!
As with the previous two books, we have a main character from the city (Sam) and one from the country (Jeremy). Sam is battling a witch of an ex-wife as he goes through a divorce. His wife has beaten his spirit with the result that he has no confidence and little self-esteem. Jeremy is the brother of the homophobe who owns the neighbouring sheep station and has been kicked out of his home and taken in at Lang Downs.
There are some very obvious metaphors in the book – Macklin’s horse Ned was a rescued Brumby and not easily ridden. “We helped him heal, and we let him come to us, and once he did, we taught him what kindness meant.”
Due to Sam’s pending divorce, and his fear that his ex-wife may find out and hold it against him, he and Jeremy agree to wait 6 months until the divorce is final before starting a physical relationship. This may be sensible but also seems highly unlikely! It also meant that by 80% in the book they had only kissed once!
I also wanted Sam to show a bit more growth throughout the course of the story. Towards the end of the story he still appears quite immature “I know,” Sam said, “but I kind of like the idea of sleeping with you. Next to you, I mean!” He flushed bright red. You would think a grown man would laugh or make a joke of the slip up but not blush (although as you can tell from my previous comments, I would have preferred they just got on with it!)
For more information on Ariel Tachna and her books visit her website.
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