After the Fall
Until this novel, the Tucker Springs gay romances have been hard-hitting, gritty explorations of love between two very different guys who must work through some pretty heavy differences in order to find a workable middle. Covet Thy Neighbor saw an atheist tattoo artist and a devout minister fall in love while Dirty Laundry found a reclusive entomology grad student and a bar bouncer become close. Given its predecessors, After the Fall is a fairly bland addition to the series
Equestrian Nathan and rolling stone Ryan literally crash when Ryan turns his motorcycle onto a bridal path while Nathan is riding his new horse. Consequently, Nathan’s horse falls on him, and Nathan is laid up with a broken leg and hand for twelve weeks.
Because Ryan feels so badly about the accident, he agrees to exercise Nathan’s horse while Nathan can’t ride her. The horse and the accident bring the two men together. No grittiness or awkward problems there. Accidents happen.
If both Nathan and Ryan were other than dull guys, this story might have been more than a predictable, mild-mannered love story. But they’re not.
Nathan has commitment issues because his last two relationships flared, then died, and he felt hurt when he didn’t see the end coming. As Witt writes his past, what he suffers from isn’t the death of love, but disappointment in the squelching of hope. His are the relationships formed in high school that seem monumental at the time, but are hardly remembered later. Nathan, however, likes to wallow in his disappointment.
Ryan isn’t the best person to pin hopes on, as Nathan immediately recognizes, since Ryan tells him that he doesn’t usually stay in one place for longer than a few months. In fact, Ryan has lined up a job for the fall, so when he agrees to exercise Nathan’s horse all summer, he’s committing for a little longer than usual. Neither guy really knows what commitment or love mean, much less what a relationship might entail.
This means the reader is left with two clueless guys who find someone to talk to easily and who both enjoy horseback riding. Mundane “getting to know you” dialogue segues into lackluster sex. Even when they break up, my response was to Nathan was, well, what did he really expect. My advice? Go apologize and, for heaven’s sake, stop bellyaching about being lonely.
While Witt’s level of writing is still at her competent best, without anywhere important to go and without two interesting adult character in which to invest our time, After the Fall just lopes along like a well-trained horse around a rink. It’s as if Witt herself wasn’t really engaged in this book, but merely making a token effort.
Readers who might have heard about the usually exceptional Tucker Springs series will be well advised to start reading with a different book or they will be left wondering what the accolades were all about.