Title: The Preacher’s Son
Author: Lisa Henry & JA Rock
Publisher: Self published
Release Date: 1/16/2018
Genre(s): M/M Contemporary Romance
Page Count: 272
Heat Level: 3 flames out of 5
Rating: 2.5 stars out of 5
Jason Banning is a wreck. His leg’s been blown to hell in Afghanistan, his boyfriend just left him and took the dog, and now he’s back in his hometown of Pinehurst, Washington, a place that holds nothing but wretched memories…and Nathan Tull. Nathan Tull, whose life Jason ruined. Nathan Tull, who will never believe Jason did what he did for a greater good. Nathan Tull, whose reverend father runs a gay conversion therapy camp that Jason once sought to bring down—at any cost.
Nathan Tull is trying to live a quiet life. Four years ago, when Nate was a prospective student visiting UW Tacoma, his world collapsed when senior Jason Bannon slept with him, filmed it, and put the footage online. A painful public outing and a crisis of faith later, Nate has finally begun to heal. Cured of the “phantoms” that plagued him for years, he now has a girlfriend, a counselor job at his dad’s camp, and the constant, loving support of his father.
But when he learns Jason is back in town, his carefully constructed identity begins to crumble. As desperate to reconcile his love for God with his attraction to men as Jason is to make sense of the damage he’s done, Nate finds himself walking a dangerous line. On one side lies the righteous life he committed himself to in the wake of his public humiliation. On the other is the sin he committed with Jason Banning, and the phantoms that won’t let him be. But is there a path that can bridge those two worlds—where his faith and his identity as a gay man aren’t mutually exclusive?
And can he walk that path with the man who betrayed him?
This is such a difficult review to write but let me start by saying that I did enjoy reading this book. It seems wrong to say that considering the subject matter but I did.
Returning home to the town where he knows he’s public enemy number one, was never Jason’s plan but his injury in Afghanistan leaves him no other option than to move back in with his Aunt Rose where he can help look after her in her ill health. Before Jason left, it was his mission to take down Moving Forward and in doing so, he alienated most of the town and humiliated Nate. So determined to stop Nate’s dad, the Reverend Tull, from ruining the lives of the gay kids sent to his camp for conversion therapy, he doesn’t stop to think of the consequences to the people he’s going to hurt. Now back in town and facing Nate, he’s still angry that the camp is running at full capacity and is as popular as ever but his attraction to Nate makes him want to seek forgiveness.
Nate has never gotten over the world seeing him give himself to another man for the first (and last time) but now he is living proof that the camp works – or is he? He has a girlfriend who accepts him despite knowing his past and he knows his father and their religion will not accept a relationship that is not between a man and a woman. He’s accepted that this is the way his life has to be and puts all his energy into ‘helping’ the kids. He doesn’t expect all the old feelings to come flooding back when he sees Jason again and he knows it’s going to be a struggle to keep his true self hidden.
The whole concept of those types of places is awful and my heart goes out to anyone who has who has been subjected to it. I have to say, I suspect that the real thing is a lot less like a holiday camp and much more terrifying than Moving Forward and I assume that the mild-mannered Reverend Tull is a far cry from the kind of people who do work in these places.
Despite this, my only real issue with the story is that I don’t believe that Nate (no matter how good a person he is) would ever truly forgive Jason far less trust him enough to enter into a relationship and find a happily ever after together. I understand that there wouldn’t have been much of a story if the pair hadn’t had a relationship that was unlikely to succeed but still.
This isn’t a hearts and flowers tale that’ll give you a warm glow. It covers some pretty tough subject matter, there are victims and there are survivors and there is a happily ever after of sorts. If these things are subjects that you don’t feel you would be happy to read, then don’t. It is a well-written piece which I’m sure will draw mixed reviews. The reason I’m not scoring this book too highly is because of our MC’s relationship. Nate deserved to fall in love with someone who wouldn’t be a constant reminder of such a traumatic and humiliating time.