I like romance and boys loving boys in my books.
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Ya know, I read Shaking The Sugar Tree (twice) and highly anticipated this 2nd installment in the Southern saga of Wiley and Jackson. I was also a little wary, because the first book was so good, and I wasn't quite sure that the 2nd would not have bad sequel syndrome.
I shouldn't have worried!!
With unapologetic frankness and wicked humor, Nick Wilgus delivered an outstanding sequel that's immediately going to my re-read list.
We meet up with Wiley and Jackson again, two years or so after Sugar Tree ended. They're living together in Jackson's house, Noah is approaching his teenage years, and things are about as good and scary with that as they can get.
Papaw is still a riot, Wiley's momma is still the same as she was, his brother Bill is still a bit homophobic (or so Wiley thinks), and Jackson is still off the drugs, and they're engaged and looking forward to getting married, soonish. Wiley still hates his job and his boss, and worries about Noah.
But now Jackson's parents are coming down for a visit.
Holy shitballs, people, if y'all thought Southerners are bad with the judgmental shit, you haven't met Jackson's mother. The woman sweeps into town and immediately establishes herself as a Jugdy McJudgerson, deriding everything and anything, including Wiley and Noah. I hated her on sight.
But I was meant to hate her. She's so offensive, so outrageous, there's really no other reaction possible. Until you see behind her meanness. She's blunt, she's not afraid to speak her mind, and in the end, I actually admired her for her convictions, even if I couldn't necessarily agree with her actions.
When the tornado blows through town (in more than one way), lives are changed forever. And it turns out that Wiley and Jackson both still have some major lessons to learn.
The novel isn't a romance as such, and there's not a single bedroom scene in this book. It's not really about their romantic love story, you see, but about their everyday relationships, and Wiley's struggle with not only Jackson's addiction, but his fears about Noah. There are moments when Wiley nearly buckles under the pressure, when he loses hope entirely and almost makes a stupid decision, and finally learns that despite their disapproval, his family does love him.
And so do the Ledbetters.
What stands out in this novel, as well as the first one, is the unconditional and irrevocable love Wiley has for his son. I don't think that can be emphasized enough. Their relationship and Wiley's feelings for his kid are breathtakingly beautiful.
With tons of snark and sarcasm, typical southern statements and ideologies set against northern frankness, and a heavy dose of realism, this novel delivered on its promise, and then some. I bow to you, Mr. Wilgus. This was extraordinary!
Highly recommended, but do yourself a favor and read the books in sequence. Please though, do read them. You'll miss out on greatness otherwise.
** I received a free copy of this book from its publisher. A positive review was not promised in return. **