So – a book I really liked, with bonus digression into best-of lists habits…
Rosario started me on Kate Sherwood‘s books late last year – I was familiar with her name as she’s one of the more popular M/M romance authors around, but I had never read any of her books before. But after reading Rosario’s review of THE FALL, I bought it when AllRomanceEbooks* had one of their 50% rebate events, and finished it post-Christmas festivities. I really liked THE FALL – it was one of those quieter, non-OTT romances (which makes the book sound totally boring, but it’s not, I swear). It’s refreshing to have sensible protagonists who actually think and talk to each other (am I starting to sound old yet?), but the romance had enough of the grand gestures to hit the right buttons for me. And an excellent supporting cast with some complicated family dynamics to add more interest.
Anyway, Rosario ended up listing Kate Sherwood’s MARK OF CAIN on her best of 2014 list, which, you know, meant she liked it better than THE FALL. I had seen MARK OF CAIN around when it was first released, but the premise didn’t appeal – a gay priest falling in love with an ex-con who had killed his brother? It just sounded overly-angsty and way too much conflict to resolve in a single novel. But between my enjoyment of THE FALL and its place on Rosario’s 2014 favourites list, I decided to give MARK OF CAIN a go – and it was one of those books that I picked up to read whenever I had a spare moment.
MARK OF CAIN actually ended up feeling less angsty to me than the setup indicated – the conflict is definitely there and ramps up as the book progresses, but it never felt too much at any one time. The alternating POVs book worked well in showing how both Mark and Luke dealt with a complicated mix of anger, guilt, betrayal, and well, a lot of other emotions, and I ended up really believing in their connection and relationship over the course of the book. Unusually for an M/M romance, Mark’s faith was very present in the book and not just wallpaper, which added more depth to the story. Kate Sherwood also tackled how the church is handling the issue of gay priests – she did it in a way that felt realistic (and non-preachy!). I’m not sure I was convinced by the resolution in this book, but I did believe in Mark and Luke’s HEA. If I had any niggles, it was that Luke felt a bit too young at times, but then again, he probably is.
If I’d read this book a month ago, it would have also ended up on my 2014 favourites list – as it is, it’ll be on my 2015 favourites list.
And a slight digression here: A few years ago, I used to wonder how people could make the declaration that this book would be on their best of/favourites of the year – I’d be like “It’s January! How do you know what else you’re going to read during the year…?!”. But after six or so years of compiling my annual lists, it’s kind of obvious now. A book lands on my keeper shelf regardless of when I read it – I don’t really compare Favourite A to Favourite B, and wonder which one to drop at the end of the year. If I love a book, I love it, and if I have a fantastic reading year, I’d have a really long list of favourites (if only!). Also, I have to say it is possibly easier for me because I don’t limit my list to a top ten or anything – I’d have to look back to see what I’ve done over the years, but I think I’ve usually landed between ten and twelve books, and they tend to be clear-cut decisions.
Does that make sense?
*Non-affiliate link! I wanted to flag ARE, because apart from their occasional rebate events, they do a Buy 10 Get 1 Free thing for publishers that allow discounted books. Their sister site, Omnilit, has a wide range of non-romance books – fantasy, mystery, etc – so they’re not purely for romance books despite the name.