Today I’m reviewing Ranae Kaye’s The Shearing Gun. At 224 pages it isn’t a super long book, but it is a fun, substantive read. There are no major warnings other than some violence, some homophobia, and one still born baby. Also, a word for those of you not from Australia, take the time to read the glossary at the beginning of the book. You will be so much less confused later. I have to admit after reading this book I’m feeling a bit about Kaye the way I did the first time I spent a week reading nothing but Amy Lane books. I want to burn through her entire catalogue so that I can then mope about having nothing new to read from her until her next release. Her books are heart food.
I actually finished this book two days ago at about one in the morning, but I decided that I didn’t want to write the review then. I tend to get snarkier than is generally healthy that late at night. My reviews tend to be a bit stream of consciousness, in no particular order other than category, so let’s take a look at the blurb first.
At twenty-five, Hank owns a small parcel of land in Australia’s rural southwest where he supplements his income from the property with seasonal shearing. Hank is a “shearing gun”—an ace shearer able to shear large numbers of sheep in a single day. His own father kicked him out when his sexuality was revealed, and since no one would ever hire a gay shearer, Hank has remained firmly closeted ever since.
Elliot is the newbie doctor in town—city-born and somewhat shell-shocked from his transplant to the country. When a football injury brings Hank to Elliot’s attention, an inappropriate sexual glance and the stuttered apology afterward kickstarts their friendship. Romance and love soon blossom, but it’s hard for either of them to hope for anything permanent. As if the constant threat of being caught isn’t enough, Elliot’s contract runs out after only a year.
I will comment on the cover on this one. For whatever reason, the cover looks absolutely nothing like what I thought the main characters looked like. They’re cute guys, but for starters, Elliot’s supposed to have curly hair, and for whatever reason I walked away from the novel with the impression that he was blond. And the other guy isn’t tall, tan, or rugged enough to be the Hank in my head.
I enjoyed the parts of this book that were steeped in levity. I really liked the nickname Hank concocted for Elliot, Quackle, and I enjoyed the teasing that went on between the two. These two characters seemed very real as far as personality quirks and chemistry, and I liked that. Even the secondary characters felt well thought out. I didn’t pause over the dialogue, never had a moment where I was shaken out of the story by something that didn’t ring “right” from a character.
I really enjoyed the sensuality of Elliot, how responsive he is and how much Hank enjoys that. I think all of the sex scenes were well written and I liked that we got to see the first time Hank was topped. I even particularly enjoy the fact that Elliot, who seems the more shy of the two, was the one who technically made the first move. I thoroughly enjoyed how organic the development of the relationship between these two was. It’s not insta love or even insta lust even though Elliot checks Hank out. He’s only human though. Who wouldn’t?
I like the way that coming out in small town nowhere was handled. Hank was cautious and I don’t blame him at all. I think small towns are kind of the same the world over. Most people are likely to be okay, but there’s a thick conservative vein because out in the middle of nowhere time moves slower. The values are generally that of the last generation as there are fewer young people than older people. There’s the brain drain, everyone leaves for college and doesn’t come back. Things are just different in very small towns, and Kaye captures the feel of it here in such a way that I totally get it. I may not be from Australia, but I’m from small town America. We had feedstores and gossip chains.
As usual, I find myself learning the strangest things when I read Kaye’s books. With Safe in His Arms I learned a few things about mining country, and with this book I learned more than I ever thought I might about sheep. And I found that it was fairly interesting, oddly enough. I like sheep anyway, since they’re cute. I also learned a bit about Australian football too. It sounds brutal.
One thing I found I didn’t quite believe in this book is how much abuse Hank could take and still be moderately all right. When we first see him he has a broken collar bone, which he continues to work a full farm on. Then he gets into a fight while the collar bone is still broken and he’s still pretty much okay. He gets into another fight where he should have probably had a concussion and all he needed was two stitches. He was in a car accident, and then he was in the hospital for three days, but less abused than I would reasonably expect a person to be after such an ordeal. In short? Hank is a sheep shearing super hero. Honestly, it’s fine. I mean, it’s a story and that’s what happens in this story, but it seems like he should have been more injured then he was.
This book is written from Hank’s perspective, and only Hank’s perspective. That bums me out. There was so much I wish I’d gotten from Elliot’s view. I would have liked to know what he thought about Hank’s Uncle Murray and Jimmie. I would have liked to seen a sex scene or two from his perspective. I think the agonizing that was going on with him while he thought Hank was straight would have been fun in that way that knowing a secret someone else doesn’t always makes you giddy.
Oh, geez. I have to say, that there was a stillborn baby in this book, and it kind of ripped my heart out to read about it. We had something similar happen in my family, things were going along swimmingly with a pregnancy and then—BAM!— they weren’t. It was a horribly sad time, and I was sort of happy that it tore up Elliot. If he’d been all doctorly, and that’s the way it goes, I wouldn’t have blamed him and it wouldn’t have turned me on the character, but the fact that he wasn’t endeared him to me greatly. Still births and miscarriages are actually fairly common occurrences, the statistics say 1 in 5 pregnancies end that way, but it’s still something no one likes to confront head on.
To sum everything up, this book was delightful. I would recommend it to anyone who is looking for a fun, heartwarming, character driven read.
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