Title: Between Sinners and Saints
Author: Marie Sexton
Genre: Contemporary Romance, M/M Romance
Sensuality Rating: Steamy
Source: review copy provided by publisher
Published: May 29, 2011 Amber Allure Press
Levi Binder is a Miami bartender who cares about only two things: sex and surfing. Ostracized by his Mormon family for his homosexuality, Levi is determined to live his life his own way, but everything changes when he meets massage therapist Jaime Marshall.
Jaime is used to being alone. Haunted by the horrors of his past, his only friend is his faithful dog, Dolly. He has no idea how to handle somebody as gorgeous and vibrant as Levi.
Complete opposites on the surface, Levi and Jaime both long for something that they can only find together. Through love and the therapeutic power of touch, they’ll find a way to heal each other, and they’ll learn to live as sinners in a family of saints.
Reviewed By: J9
In a Nutshell: Excellent character-focused romance with wonderful inclusion of family and faith.
The Set Up: Jamie’s childhood abuse has left him isolated, except for his faithful dog, until he meets his new patient Levi. Levi’s spent ten years partying in Miami outrunning his Mormon family but his years of bartending have left him in need of a massage therapist. Levi never expects to have more than fun with men but he’s drawn to Jamie.
Why I Read this Book: This is on a lot of best of MM lists so had to read it. Plus it’s nearly 400 pages long so it’s a good, involved read which is too rare in MM romance, IMO.
What I Liked: This is a powerful and in-depth character-focused romance. I can’t say I feel in love with playboy Levi at novel’s beginning but this writer excels at stellar character development so I did by novel’s end. Levi has a sense that he’s unfulfilled with the random hook-ups and emotionless escapades but he’s trying to prove to himself and his Mormon family that there is nothing wrong with his gay lifestyle. Levi’s early attempts at seducing fragile Jamie made me hate Levi a bit but his acceptance of his horrible behavior and him rectifying it was wonderful to read. Jamie’s isolation from his childhood abuse is realistic and heartbreaking to read. He’s got very complicated issues with trust and sexuality and his healing journey made this book for me. In the hands of a less talented author this may not have worked but here Jamie’s exploration of his desires with Levi made for an emotional read. Levi and Jamie aren’t “fixed” by their relationship but instead they explore how two injured men can have a meaningful relationship and I loved this. For instance, Jamie’s issues with sexuality aren’t washed away because he desires Levi but the men see what Jamie can and can’t handle. I love how Levi isn’t pushy and Jamie communicates his issues. The scene where Jamie is slipping into depression and how he and Levi handle this is the perfect example of this powerfully written emotional romance.
What I Also Liked: Let me admit I’m normally not a fan of romance which includes faith and organized religion but it totally worked for me here. Levi was raised in a staunch Mormon family with lots of siblings and he feels alienated from them and his faith since he came out. Levi’s estrangement from his family and the Mormon faith is a huge component of this romance and story. Jamie visits as Levi’s friend and falls in love with the big warm family who can’t accept homosexuality and Levi wants to have them be a part of the his family. How Levi’s family copes with Levi’s homosexuality is complicated and very fascinating to me, especially since I know next to nothing about Mormonism. Simultaneously, Levi is reconciling his lifestyle with his belief in God and the faith he was raised in. This integration of faith and family with Levi and Jamie’s romance is brilliantly crafted and made me devour this novel.
What I Didn’t Like: I loved this novel but should warn readers it includes descriptions of Jamie’s childhood abuse that may be difficult or impossible for some readers.
IMO: This is a stellar novel with believable leads in a complicated and emotionally fulfilling romance.