West, Cooper. “Dawn in the Orchard”, Dreamspinner Press, 2011.
Gary Winston is a musician with a problem. He suffers from stage freight and this really hinders his performing. To make matters a bit worse, his boyfriend and him are having problems. Gary realizes that the tile has come to move on and he was very lucky that his great aunt has left him her pecan farm in North Carolina. He finally has a chance at some stability in his life but he worries about homophobia in the South (as we all do). He certainly does not feel that he is ready for love. However, a man comes into his life—Chuck Everett, a local farmer and businessman who also plays the fiddle. Chuck and his family have come to work for the pecan harvest. There is one little problem—Chuck has not come out and he lives in the closet. He is also a perfect match for Gary and since both men play musical instruments, there is a common bond. The music that brings them together is the background motif of the plot. As can be expected, the music leads to love and despite the issues that each man has, love takes over. Neither man can just leave what the two have found. We see that sometimes we just have to take a giant step forward to ensure happiness in our lives.
What I really like about this novel is the pacing. This allows us to really get to know the characters and while I could not really identify with their situations, I could most certainly sympathize. At first Chuck does not really win us over and I felt that, even though he was closeted, he was moving into Gary’s life and knowing that Gary has some rebuilding to do, I was not sure that I wanted a closeted, divorced, wealthy single dad intruding into his life. However, first impressions did not hold and as the two men get to know each other, we get to know them. I realized that Chuck’s past history could be put aside and the two men can, indeed, come together.
If you have never lived in the small town south, you probably are unaware of the pressures that are felt here. I know that in Arkansas, gay men do not have an easy time dealing with their sexuality. Here there are only a couple of gay bars and they are located out of the way. Were it not for the internet, I am pretty sure that it would be very difficult to meet gay men here. Both Gary and Chuck know that being gay in North Carolina can be a liability and the two overcome it by just being together.
Cooper West is a terrific writer and an excellent story teller. He is able to weave subplots into a romantic story and lets us believe that people do live happily ever after.