Reviewed by Dee & Donna
TITLE: Snakes Among Sweet Flowers
AUTHOR: Jason Huffman-Black
PUBLISHER: Dreamspinner Press
LENGTH: 240 Pages
RELEASE DATE: June 20, 2016
Two-time ex-con Camden Sanders has decided that Hog Mountain—an isolated community on the outskirts of Atlanta, Georgia—is the perfect place to continue running small scams without the threat of more prison time. But there are a few problems with this plan. One is the neighborly citizens of Hog Mountain thwarting his dirty dealings at every turn with their kindness. Another is Jackson Rhodes, a closeted Hog Mountain police officer who can see right through Cam’s good ol’ boy act and plans to catch him red-handed despite the attraction they both can feel. But the biggest problem of all is that Cam’s past is threatening to catch up with him, and it could mean trouble for more than just himself.
This is one of the most engaging stories I’ve read in a very long time. For me to be totally awed by a story I need to feel for the characters. Jason has done a wonderful job of bring an entire cast along with the town of Hog Mountain to life. From old to young, good and bad, and I even fell for the damn cat!
My heart went out to Camden, his mother was barely a there and his father was abusive. Yay for his grandmother. Despite her having passed away years ago, I felt like I knew her too. Dotty, Ida and Charles, came across as surrogate grandparents to me. I loved how accepting they were of an ex-con. Many, many wise words were spoken.
Grant the vet, married closeted gay, was a character I loved to hate. Nuff said.
The relationship between Jackson Rhodes, an officer of the law, and Cam, recently released from prison, was such an unlikely fit I wondered if they could ever become an item. The growing romance is a long slow burn, and really couldn’t have been any other way.
The story has a dark edge, which will keep readers on the seat. The scene with a flashback to what Harold did to Cam is no easy read. Knowing it’s only a matter of time until he finds Cam adds tension to the story. The enviable show down is gut-wrenching and not entirely for reasons one might suspect.
The fact Jackson is a family man and attends church, means this story has some religious connotations. I’m not normally a fan of such, but not once did it overwhelm the story, and the sermon at the end was bloody brilliant. Food for thought, for sure.
Last but not least, the addition of the kids, and Cam’s interaction with them was heart-warming, not to mention added another layer to this complex and extremely well written plot.
I’ve previously read a short story that had been penned by this author, which I thoroughly enjoyed, but it was definitely not my standard reading material. So I went into this story expecting good things, but maybe something quite different. Instead I was surprised to discover a fairly conventional romance. And please don’t take that as any sort of criticism. I don’t mean that it was ordinary or middle-of-the-road, I most assuredly love everything about this story, I just meant that I think this book will appeal to a vast majority of readers.
First of all – Hog Mountain! This author has created the most brilliant town for his characters to live in; in fact, the town is almost a character in itself. I loved the way the author wrote scenes of Cam going about town as we follow him through his day. We discover the people and places along with our main character, who had no idea a place like that really existed.
Which leads me into the evolution of Camden Sanders. I guess most stories feature at least one main character who needs to go through some sort of change or growth, but Cam takes that to a whole new level. At the beginning of the story Cam is nothing more than a crook, who excels at appearing innocent while absolutely robbing people blind. His moral compass is totally lacking a north, and he feels no guilt at only caring about himself. He sees the trusting, friendly residents of Hog Mountain as the perfect marks – if only that pesky police officer, Jackson Rhodes, would stop watching him so closely. Basically, Cam is thoroughly unlikeable, but I remained confident that the author would somehow redeem him before the end of the book. And he did. Marvelously. The way that Cam’s redemption was played out on the pages, as he became more immersed in the lives of the people around him, was skillfully executed. There was no “hallelujah I’m a changed man” moment, instead he slowly made a conscious decision to be a good person. I was so invested in this character that I could feel his struggle to make better choices and I swear I felt proud every time he did the right thing.
The plot itself was absolutely engrossing. I really hope that the addition of the children doesn’t turn some readers away, because I think the author handled that part of the story well. They weren’t annoying brats or overgrown babies, and they didn’t steal the scenes in anyway. There were flashes of darker past moments interspersed with some lighter humor and attention holding banter. Added to that the anticipation of the showdown between the good guys and the bad guy that you know is inevitable, and I literally couldn’t put this story down. Yes, I mean literally. My iPad made several trips to the bathroom with me and at one point I tried to read it through the glass shower screen while shampooing my hair. (Don’t pretend you’ve never been there!)
I recommend this book to everyone. Every. One. That cover is mouthwatering and the story behind the cover is just as irresistible.