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Review: Home the Hard Way by Z.A. Maxfield

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Home the Hard Way
Author: Z. A. Maxfield

Reviewer:
B.
Rating: A

What I’m Talking About:

When Dare Buckley left Palladian, he was a golden boy in mourning, and the town was a place of personal tragedy and loss. Going away meant starting over, and moving on wasn’t something he’d ever allowed himself to regret. As with all things not fully understood until much later, however, leaving usually means leaving someone behind, and Dare soon finds that the secrets that shaped the former children and the community he once knew run far deeper than he could have ever imagined.

Isolated and stigmatized from the moment he arrived in town, Finn Fowler has never had it easy. Small and unmistakably “different,” he was targeted and bullied, briefly finding acceptance and friendship with Dare, only to lose everything all over again when Dare and his mother left Palladian. But, time and circumstance have redefined Finn, and the man he’s become has been getting along just fine on his own. At least, he was until his former protector’s return threatens everything, especially the walls he’s so carefully built around his heart.

As much as I loved Home the Hard Way, I never quite figured out how I felt about Dare. While his past is certainly tragic, and grieving is a process that is unique to every individual, I really didn’t like him at first, and was never thoroughly convinced of his worthiness. Still, he is necessary on many levels, and provides an excellent lens through which to watch the story evolve. His assumptions about Palladian and all the people in it compared to the reality of what he finds when he comes home in disgrace are important, and serve as a painful testimony about selfish actions. His befuddlement over the changes in Finn, especially, but the rest of the town as well, was more than a little insulting, considering his abandonment of the boy he’d sworn to protect, yet I found the entire situation intriguing and darkly entertaining. I may not have liked Dare, but I very much wanted him there, learning and, yes, hurting a bit as he decided how to handle the second chance he was given. Regardless, Dare is a vivid, crucial component of the narrative, and I can’t imagine this story being as meaningful without him.

Finn, on the other hand, is a wonderful character, and I absolutely loved him from the start. He has a seemingly infinite number of layers to discover, and his capacity for empathy and understanding is both attractive and impressive. I couldn’t help but enjoy Finn’s matter-of-fact and often detached way of pointing out Dare’s misapprehensions, as well. Contrary to Dare’s initial assumptions, he no longer needs saving, and he doesn’t apologize for the life he’s made for himself. Arguably the brightest spot in Home the Hard Way, Finn holds the key to all the secrets, and is the strongest character (aside from his Aunt Lyddie, perhaps) in the entire story. Described beautifully by Dare as “bright and a little cold,” Finn really made this book for me, and is one of my favorite characters in quite a while.

I found Home the Hard Way to be an excellent story for quite a few reasons, and I don’t mind that I’m gushing over combined effect they had on me one bit. It is a tale of roads diverging and reconnecting, but never in the way anyone expects they will. It is an exploration of consequences, regret, transformation, and acceptance. Dare learns that turning his back on his past won’t change it, but it does guarantee a forfeiture of any and all claims to status, regard, or the right to influence the actions of those he left behind. The setting is detailed enough that the various scenes sprang to life with little effort on my part, and between the rain and the river, the water imagery in Home the Hard Way is nearly a character in and of itself. The secondary characters are no less well conceived, and whether good, bad, or somewhere in between, they each contribute something vital to the story as a whole.

The relationships in Home the Hard Way are complicated, to say the least, but not overwhelming in any way. Revealed in logical, timely doses, they are easy to keep track of, and it is through these connections that the story takes its true shape. The BDSM elements of the story are expressed just as strongly in the personalities and non-sexual interactions of the characters as they are in the more explicit scenes themselves, which I liked tremendously. I felt that the concepts of domination, submission, self-awareness, and acceptance were very well represented here, along with the notion that most preconceived ideas on the subject are likely in need of some serious rethinking.

Having read several other titles by Ms. Maxfield, I have to say that this is one of my favorites thus far. There were many, many things about this story that struck me as significant, and I suspect I’ll discover even more as I finish my second reading. Not merely an account of what happens when the threads of the decisions we make collide in catastrophic ways, Home the Hard Way also examines the paths that are irrevocably altered because of it. Sometimes suspenseful and dark, sometimes sweet, it isn’t so much contradictory as it acknowledges the complications of human nature, in a specific, unorthodox, and intuitive manner. Overall, I thought this was a fantastic story, and I know it’s one I’ll read again and again.

My Rating:  A, Loved It

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About the Book:

Dare Buckley has come home—or at least, he’s come back to Palladian, the small town he left as a teenager. After a major lapse in judgment forced him to resign from the Seattle PD, Palladian is the only place that’ll hire him. There’s one benefit to hitting rock bottom, though: the chance to investigate the mystery of his father’s suicide.

Dare also gets to reacquaint himself with Finn Fowler, whose childhood hero worship ended in uncomfortable silence when Dare moved away. But Finn isn’t the same little kid Dare once protected. He’s grown into an attractive, enigmatic stranger who neither wants nor needs what Dare has to offer.

In fact, Dare soon realizes that Finn’s keeping secrets—his own and the town’s. And he doesn’t seem to care that Dare needs answers. The atmosphere in Palladian, like its namesake river, appears placid, but dark currents churn underneath. When danger closes in, Dare must pit his ingenuity against his heart, and find his way home the hard way.

Release Date: July 28, 2014
Publisher:
Riptide Publishing
Series:
Standalone
ISBN: # 978-1626491465
Genre: LGBTQ, BDSM elements, m/m, Contemporary, Suspense
Format(s):
paperback (324 pages), e-book
Book Source: Publisher

Purchase Info:
Home the Hard Way

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