Reviewed by Christine
TITLE: Smoky Mountain Dreams
AUTHOR: Leta Blake
NARRATOR: John Solo
PUBLISHER: Leta Blake Publishing
LENGTH: 14 hours, 46 minutes
RELEASE DATE: October 17, 2017
Sometimes holding on means letting go.
After giving up on his career as a country singer in Nashville, Christopher Ryder is happy enough performing at the Smoky Mountain Dreams theme park in Tennessee. But while his beloved Gran loves him the way he is, Christopher feels painfully invisible to everyone else. Even when he’s center stage he aches for someone to see the real him.
Bisexual Jesse Birch has no room in his life for dating. Raising two kids and fighting with family after a tragic accident took his children’s mother, he doesn’t want more than an occasional hook-up. He sure as hell doesn’t want to fall hard for his favorite local singer, but when Christopher walks into his jewelry studio, Jesse hears a new song in his heart.
Christopher is a country singer at the Smoky Mountain Dreams theme park in Tennessee and has given up on pursuing a career in Nashville. His enjoys his relationships with his grandmother and his friends, but he yearns for a connection with someone he can connect with and perhaps to share his life. Jesse Birch is a local jewelry designer who has his hands full with his two children and a wife who remains in a vegetative state after a horrible accident years ago. When Christopher commissions Jesse to make something special for his grandmother, it is instant attraction. The question is, can there be more between the two men?
I enjoyed the romance aspect of Smoky Mountain Dreams. It has solid, well-developed main characters who grow into a nicely crafted relationship. It is built carefully, with beautifully intimate dialogue and interactions. Jesse and Christopher work well together on an emotional level, and their sex scenes, though somewhat numerous and a bit odd and heavily laden with detail at times, are certainly vivid, raw, and dynamic. They are both likable, interesting characters with sympathetic backstories and engaging personalities. Their one big personal conflict is organic and handled with just the right amount of angst before it is addressed and smoothed over. However, there remains a big, unresolved elephant in the room. Jesse is still married, and that causes an issue for me.
Jesse’s family scenes with the children and his ill wife are some of the most authentic and well written, in my opinion. Tender, heartbreaking, and laced with compassion, uncertainty, and inevitable drama, they ring with definitive truths and harsh realities. The tension created by the presence of Jesse’s wife and the resulting conflicts are sufficient for this story. Unfortunately, there are too many other conflicts surrounding Christopher’s family that are distracting, unnecessary, and sometimes over-the-top unbelievable. Burdened with extraneous homophobia, caricatures rather than characters, and actions that belie the true love between a grandmother and grandson, these scenes feel detrimental to the story’s natural progress and could easily have been removed, allowing the focus of conflict and much-needed resolution to center upon the true obstacle in Jesse and Christopher’s relationship: Jesse’s marriage.
The narration by John Solo is well done, overall. He does a good job with the voices, though the accents are a bit heavy at times. Also, the storytelling outside of the dialogue can to be a somewhat over-dramatic.
Moving, tender, and heavily peppered with solid messages about family unity and acceptance, Smoky Mountain Dreams is mostly an enjoyable read. I am hoping the author is planning more installments for Jesse and Christopher, as the story feels like an incomplete HFN, despite its length. The storyline surrounding Jesse’s wife, children, and Christopher is beautifully written up to this point but needs resolution and a satisfying closure to the issue of Jesse’s marriage. Additionally, with as much attention paid to Christopher’s music and performing, his story feels unfinished, as well. I recommend Smoky Mountain Dreams with the caveat that there should be more, though this isn’t promoted as a series.