Book Reviews

Come Unto These Yellow Sands by Josh Lanyon at JustJoshin Publishing

Genre Gay / Contemporary / Law Enforcement / Students/Teachers/Professors / Romance / Mystery/Suspense/Thriller
Reviewed by ParisDude on 23-July-2021

Book Blurb

Once a bad boy, the only lines Professor Sebastian Swift does these days are Browning, Frost and Cummings. When a student he helped to disappear becomes a suspect in a murder, he races to find the boy and convince him to give himself up before his police chief lover figures out he’s involved.

Max likes being lied to even less than he likes sonnets. Yet his instincts--and his heart-- tell him his lover is being played. Max can forgive lies and deception, but a dangerous enemy may not stop until Swift is heading up his own dead poet’s society.

 

 

First edition published by Samhain Publishing, June 2011.

 

Book Review

Strange that I didn’t read this novel earlier, given that I’m such a huge fan of Josh Lanyon’s writing. It somehow never popped up on my radar although Josh published it in 2012 if I’m not mistaken, and this is but the reformatted 2021 release. Whatever the reasons for me not having noticed it before, I’m really happy to have picked it up now via NetGalley, because the read was a real treat.

 

The book centres on Sebastian Swift, son of two renowned American poets, himself a once successful poet and rising star of his generation of writers. For reasons that are left deliberately vague to allow the readers to fill in their own details, Sebastian became addicted to cocaine, however, blowing his writing career and almost blowing his whole life. After his umpteenth stay in rehab, he finally managed to get back on track. Now in his late thirties/early forties, he is teaching at Casco Bay College in Southern Maine. He even found a lover, sort of: the small town’s police chief Max Prescott. Theirs is a no-strings-attached, no-commitment relationship, which if it seems to suit them both leaves Sebastian slightly… wanting. He has the impression his feelings and his dedication are much stronger than Max’s, who is apparently not looking for more than convenient companionship.

 

One day, Tad Corelli, one of the most gifted students taking part in the Lighthouse residency program Sebastian oversees, shows up in his office, looking shaken and bearing the signs of someone who has just been beaten up. He tells Sebastian he needs to go away for a while, dodges his questions, and begs him not to throw him out of the program. Recognizing his younger, tortured self in the troubled boy’s features, Sebastian accepts and even gives him the keys to the isolated island house he inherited from his father. That evening, however, Max informs him that a local restaurant owner was killed on the beach—none other than Mario Corelli, Tad’s notoriously irate father. Although gossip abounds immediately—some whisper about the mob being involved, others point in turns at Corelli’s ambitious second wife, who’s running for mayor, at the current mayor himself, even at Corelli’s first wife—the police think their best lead is Corelli’s son. His strained relationship with his father was common knowledge, after all, and there are witnesses who heard the young man threaten that he would kill his father. His sudden disappearance right after the murder spells guilt in capital letters. Sebastian knows he should tell his lover about his conversation with Tad and the latter’s probable whereabouts, but something holds him back. Probably his firm conviction that Tad is innocent. He decides to ask some questions instead and suddenly finds himself thrown into the middle of the murder investigation, which jeopardizes everything he has been fighting for these last years: his relationship, his new career, even his hard-achieved victory over his addiction…

 

Sebastian Swift—a character who held me in his thrall from page one till the end. A tortured mind with a difficult past and demons aplenty that he kept struggling with every waking minute, or so it seemed. His character remained subtle, his fight never becoming some pathetic big-time drama, and Josh created and treated him with empathetic psychological insight. He was just a man trying to keep his head above the churning waters of life—life being something he was very ill equipped to deal with, hence his addiction. He was that sort of endearing character living in his own bubble rather than in reality that awakened my “motherly” feelings; I wanted to hug him and cradle him and tell him everything would be all right. But make no mistake—under his apparent frailty, he turned out to be tougher and stronger than I would have suspected, plus he was well-read and really smart (always a sexy touch).

 

At first I didn’t know what to make of his odd relationship or of Max, whom I rather disliked on first sight. I’m aware he perfectly fits the description of Josh’s favorite trope where the “romantic interests” of the (softer, sweeter) main characters are concerned—they are always their exact opposite (and, I suspect, something Josh is rather attracted to). Taciturn, no-nonsense, often commitment-shy, outwardly strong, broad-shouldered and broad-chested men’s men; nigh übervirile hunks who we always need to get to know better before understanding (and liking) them. As the going gets tough and Sebastian is openly targeted by whoever committed the murder, Max finally realizes his feelings go deeper than thought, and he stands by his man, no questions asked (more or less; he’s the police chief, so of course he asks questions).

 

All in all, I think it’s this perfect blend of murder investigation (a classical whodunnit) and the parallel development both of the main characters and their relationship that made this such an enjoyable, even intriguing read. I went from “poor Sebastian and crappy lover” to “oh, they do love each other” to a final, contented sigh. What made this journey so interesting was the fact that nothing was simplistic (not even simple) and that I could sense their road would remain bumpy and difficult even after the denouement of the murder mystery. But at the same time, the mutual commitment someone as romantically inclined as I always hopes for was there and let me foresee more harmony than the book started out with. The murder investigation itself was cleverly woven, with twists and turns and a final culprit I didn’t see coming, yet not so implausible that I would name that person a deux ex machina, which is a cheap writing trick I never really warm up to.

 

So yes, nine years after the novel’s original release, I finally read it, loved it, and hereby recommend it wholeheartedly. A millésime, a very fine vintage Lanyon, if I may say so.

 

 

 

 

DISCLAIMER: Books reviewed on this site were usually provided at no cost by the publisher or author. This book has been provided by the author via NetGalley for the purpose of a review.

 

Additional Information

Format ebook and print
Length Novel, 230 pages
Heat Level
Publication Date 24-March-2017
Price $6.99 ebook, $13.99 paperback
Buy Link https://www.amazon.com/Come-Unto-These-Yellow-Sands-ebook/dp/B06XVJCNXR