Bitter Springs

Laura Stone. Interlude (interludepress.com), $17.99 trade paper (302p) ISBN 978-1-941530-55-9
This personal and tender story of tough men, soft hearts, and open spaces in 1870s Texas warmly serves the author’s purpose of showing that gay people have existed in all times and places. Family drama shifts the fates of the brothers of the Valle Santos ranching family, leaving Renaldo, the youngest, to train with talented mesteñero (wild-horse tamer) Henry Burnett. Hank eventually opens up about his history as a freed black slave and his adoption into an Apache tribe, as well as sharing his envy of the closeness within Renaldo’s Mexican family. Slowly, Renaldo comes to terms with the fact that, he, like Hank, is attracted to men. Simple, clean storytelling and an uncomplicated plot keep the story quietly intimate. Stone (The Bones of You) walks the fine line of keeping her protagonists traditionally masculine but never posturingly macho, and they’re often vulnerable with each other and gentle with the horses. Smatterings of Spanish throughout the dialogue ground the reader in the setting and help keep the book feeling period rather than revisionist; a scene of Renaldo teaching Hank Spanish endearments is particularly delightful. Readers will savor this sweet, loving historical. (Dec.)
Reviewed on: 10/26/2015
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