Title: Beneath the Surface
Author: Kate Sherwood
Length: 198 pages
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
Genre: m/m contemporary
Blurb: When Peter Carr’s company sends him to Southwestern Ontario to sweet-talk the town into agreeing to a gravel quarry proposal, he welcomes the challenge. Technically he’s a lawyer, but really he’s a problemsolver. He just never expected the problem to be Caleb Sinclair, the passionate but introverted artisan carpenter who lives next to the proposed quarry site.
“Know your enemy.” That’s Caleb’s philosophy. And trying to turn fertile farmland into a gravel pit earns Peter the title of “enemy.” Caleb loves that land, and if he has to make peace with his homophobic neighbors to make war on Peter, so be it. Except knowing his enemy doesn’t turn out anything like he expected. Peter’s not the fairy-tale monster—he just might be the first step to happy ever after.
Review: So the gold stars are not so much for the story itself, although it’s perfectly cute and enjoyable on its own, it’s for an aspect of the story. But first we’ll start with a brief outline. Caleb is an introverted gay man in a town that would rather he wasn’t there, but he’s not going to leave his family property and minds his own business. However when a company buys the neighboring land and plans to put a gravel pit on it, (bringing noise and possible pollution to the town), he decides to take on the company with the help of his best friend’s wife. Peter is the company’s rep and is there with his partner, an engineer, to make the town see reason.
This is a pretty typical opposites attract. Peter thrives on the challenge. He loves people and the puzzle of how to turn people’s opinions around. Caleb is the opposite in every way. The physical attraction zings, but they don’t get together until the end, so it’s always simmering there. There are of course some bumps on the way to true love. Caleb’s partner, Riva, is starting to wonder if this is life. Traveling from town-to-town convincing people they are doing something good. She’s engaged and questioning her life. Peter loves it and has no desire for anything else, he’s not really relationship material…. Of course we know how that goes.
Anyway, as I was reading it, Riva and Peter have been working the same schtick in a number of towns for years. They are friends and colleagues, and at one point they were bantering back and forth as he suddenly had a crisis and was deciding what to do about his job, since it conflicted with his feeling for Caleb, and I just though … I love this woman. She was smart and capable, she’s an engineer, she’s East Indian, she’s reasonable, she was snarky with Peter, she cared about him and gently pushed him to look at his own life, but she never said “Don’t do this” or “You have to do that.” She let him find his own way and whatever he chose, she was behind him. Too often the female best friend treats the guy like he’s 8 and without a brain cell.
So then I looked at the other female characters. The best friend’s wife. Nice woman, teacher, friendly, likes our main character, works with him against the bad guys. (They’re not really bad.) The aging celeb who comes on board to back the town – lovely woman, very gracious. Even the big boss lady of the company was decent enough. Wow, not a bitchy vindictive female in the bunch. Hallelujah. I am so sick of women always being irksome and as I said, Riva was a great character who I think kept Peter from flying off the rails, she was like his calming influence.
This was the part where I kind of got a girl crush on Riva.
Riva looked at him thoughtfully. “I think the responsible thing for me to do would to be tell you to slow down and not jump into anything. I think I should remind you that there’s no rush; nobody’s pushing you to make any decisions right away.”
He waited. “So… are you going to remind me of all that?” He was pretty sure he wasn’t going to listen, if she did. He was loyal to his company; loyal enough to think it was his duty to let them know if one of their employees was off his game. That didn’t change just because he happened to be the slacking worker. But if Riva had something to say, he respected her enough to hear her out.
But she just gave him another one of her beatific smiles. “No, I don’t think I am,” she said. “You haven’t got any dependents for me to worry about, and you and Scott get along so well that if you show up on my doorstep in four months, unemployed and homeless, it won’t be a big problem for me to loan you a bed.” She leaned back in her chair. “I think I’m just going to watch this one play out. I’m really enjoying the show so far.”
“Thanks, Riva. And, you know, when you finally catch up to me and have your own career meltdown, I’ll be there for you. And I’ll be living in your guest room, probably, so… it’ll be pretty convenient.
“I look forward to it,” she said, and he grinned at her before he headed into the other room to make his call.
So if you are tired of annoying female characters, I suggest you pick this one up. Fun story and with female character who won’t make you want to scratch someone’s eyes out, possibly your own. Gold stars all around for the ladies today.