Title: Where the Allegheny Meets the Monongahela
Author: Felicia Watson
Genre: Contemporary Romance, M/M Romance
Sensuality Rating: Erotic
Source: review copy provided by publisher
Published: January 28, 2011 by Dreamspinner Press
Logan Crane’s life changed dramatically the day a blind fit of temper resulted in him accidentally injuring his wife. Although he’s now in an abuser counseling program, Logan cannot face the real source of his unhappiness: he’s always been attracted to men but has refused to accept it since witnessing an act of violence.
During his therapy, Logan meets Nick Zales, a counselor at a shelter for victims of domestic violence. Nick is understandably suspicious of Logan despite an immediate attraction to him. Logan feels the same attraction and faces a critical internal struggle as he finds himself falling in love with this enigmatic man.
Both men are haunted by unacknowledged ghosts and abuse in their pasts. How can they help each other heal if they continue to ignore their own wounds?
Reviewed By: J9
People often mock romance readers, saying our genre lacks depth or impact. Most of the time I just roll my eyes when I hear this but once in a while I’ll read a romance book that perfectly illustrates the depth the genre can achieve. Where the Allegheny Meets the Monongahela by Felicia Watson is such a book.
Logan Crane has deeply repressed anger at his life. When he and his wife are drinking, they begin to argue and he accidentally injures his wife while his two girls are home. Now Logan is in court mandated abuser counseling and his anger builds. Part of his unhappiness is that he’s long been attracted to men but scared to act on it due to witnessing a gay bashing in high school. While doing his court mandated therapy, Logan meets Nick, a domestic violence abuse counselor whose family was torn about when his father nearly killed his mother, leaving her mentally-impaired. Nick can’t deny he’s attracted to Logan but hasn’t he learned that children of domestic abuse households often partner with abusers?
This isn’t a light read but it perfectly illustrates the complicated and intense story a romance can tell. Logan’s displaced anger at his wife and female therapist and his initial inability to take responsibility for his decisions makes character growth necessary. Nick’s complicated issues with loving an abuser and comparing Logan to his father is emotional and honest. The storytelling is centered on their romance but revolves just as much around each of their character development. Neither their romance nor character developments happens quickly but instead in incremental steps that are realistic and profound.
Another facet of this complicated book is the secondary characters of Logan’s female therapist who is also Nick’s boss and best friend as well as Logan’s daughters and the women at the shelter where Nick works. These female characters are flawed and human in their attempts at self-reliance and loving both men. One of Logan’s most powerful epiphanies happens after the women in Nick’s car repair class share with him and each other their survivor stories along with their fear that their children who saw the abuse will end up with abusers themselves. Logan is finally ready to see the long-term consequences of his mistakes and how they will affect his own girls. This novel doesn’t offer quick solutions to any characters’ problems but still manages to tell a story full of hope if people take responsibility for their life journeys.
In providing this exceedingly well written cast of characters the author is able to pose very challenging issues for readers to consider. For instance, are all abusers the same? In what way is Logan different from Nick’s father who is serving a life sentence for nearly killing Nick’s mother after years of escalating violence? This novel also asks what authority our friends have over our lives in the context of Nick’s best friend and boss asking him to figure out his own issues before continuing a relationship with Logan. This novel captures the scared hopefulness of women escaping violence, sometimes to return to their death. The issues of domestic violence and the long-term consequences on the individuals and society at large are part of this storytelling—talk about depth and intensity!
Finally, please bear with me as I share a bit of my personal connection to this book and why it struck me so deeply. Statistics say 4 to 10 million children witness domestic violence annually, and I was one until age 11. My life journey has included wrestling with the same issues of acceptance and forgiveness that Nick does in this book. I was struck by how well this author understood the nuances of abuse survival and yet integrated them into a heartwarming story of love in its many forms.
Where the Allegheny Meets the Monongahela isn’t always an easy read but its complicated storytelling and realistic characters make it an engaging read. In my opinion this is a perfect example of a romance book with depth, intensity and integrity that could hold its own against the “literature” others use to malign our genre.