Desert Isle Keeper
Narrated in the first person, St. Nacho’s is a story of contrasts. Cooper, the narrator, is struggling with his past, and yet for all the angst, the story is full of hope. Also, although Cooper is a skilled violinist, he falls in love with a deaf college student. Yet it’s Cooper’s past that truly gets in the way of their relationship. While this is not a thriller, the reader constantly wonders when Cooper’s past will intervene – which created just as much suspense.
Cooper has been going from place to place for years, chased by guilt. With few possessions other than a motorcycle, a leather jacket, and a violin, he pulls into Santo Ignacio, not expecting to stay long. A job at a gay bar is just supposed to feed him and give him a place to stay until he moves on again. But the town of “St. Nacho’s,” and the bar, pull him in. Especially when he first sees Shawn, a deaf college student who works at the bar.
Their relationship has a lot of barriers. While Shawn can read lips, Cooper doesn’t know sign language. There’s also Kevin, a deaf student who wants Shawn for himself. Cooper and Shawn find innovative, and often erotic, ways to communicate. Of course, the biggest barrier is Cooper’s past. He hasn’t stayed in once place for long for years, and he has been everywhere from BDSM clubs to a motorcycle gang. The reader knows that St. Nacho’s is only a temporary solution.
We’ve all read romances where the past inevitably comes between the main characters. When this part happens in St. Nacho’s, I was torn. I didn’t want to see the two heroes hurt, yet at the same time, I knew it had to happen to make the story complete. Cooper still had to face his past. He couldn’t heal until he had come to terms with it. This is the sort of character who avoids the intimacy of kissing and even becomes nervous about simple joys like watching a movie with his new-found friends, so we know he has some way to go. We also know that the time will come when Cooper has to leave, even for a little while, to deal with the people he left behind.
Because Cooper is the point of view character, he’s the character the reader becomes the closest to. We wince when he tries to pull away from relationships, even as we rejoice when he starts to find a place at St. Nacho’s. Maxfield does a great job of creating intimacy between the reader and Cooper with the first person point of view. Yet that doesn’t mean Shawn gets short shrift – we get to know him by his actions. It was also refreshing to read a story where Shawn, the beautiful fair-haired one, dominated in bed. Also, while their encounters are burning, they are more intimate than graphic. While Cooper has gone through a BDSM period, this story avoids the use of BDSM in their relationship.
Maxfield does a great job of contrasting the world of Cooper’s violin and Shawn’s world. It starts from the time Shawn touches Cooper’s violin while he plays La Habanera and continues when they dance together. They even communicate by texting. How’s that for a modern couple? And like St. Nacho’s itself, many of the secondary characters are more than they seem at first glance. I did have some misgivings about a character who appeared in the last half of the book, perhaps because he made a better well-meaning prig than he did delusional fool. Something about his demeanor made me wonder if the author was implying that he had motives even he wasn’t aware of.
St. Nacho’s is a great story about a town, and a relationship, that help heal a hero who carries a lot of guilt. Even though Cooper and Shawn spent some time apart, the pace of the story never slowed. There was always something driving it forward.