Title ~ Tackling The Tight End
Author ~ Tara Lain
Publisher ~ Dreamspinner Press
Published ~ 15th January 2016
Genre ~ Contemporary M/M Romance
A Novel in the Long Pass Chronicles
Everyone wants the best for SCU student and tight end Raven Nez—and they know exactly what that is. Enter the NFL draft, become a big football hero, promote his tribe’s casino, and make a lot of money to help people on the reservation. Just one problem. Raven’s gay and he really wants to work with gay kids. Plus he figures a gay Native tight end will get flattened in the NFL. Then the casino board hires a talented student filmmaker to create ads for the tribal business and asks Raven to work with him. But the filmmaker is Dennis Hascomb, a guy with so much to hide and a life so ugly it’s beyond Raven’s understanding. Still he’s drawn to Dennis's pain and incredible ability to survive. Captivated by Raven’s stories of the two-spirited and by the amazing joy of finally having a friend, Dennis knows he has to break free from everything he’s ever been taught was good—but that’s a struggle that could kill him and Raven too. Is there a chance for “the great red hope” and the “whitest guy on earth”? A future for the serpent and the raven?
There are things I just love about Tara Lain’s writing. Paramount among them is her elegant prose, authentic dialogue and wonderful characters. She often takes on fairly standard themes and memes, but writes them exceptionally well, and from a perspective skewed just enough to make them fresh, new and surprising.
None so much as her “Long Pass Chronicles”, a series of books centering on gay football players. There’s no shortage of gay football fiction - it’s always fun to smash a stereotype. But Ms. Lain doesn’t follow the herd. Her football players are excuses to spin out tales about families, dedication and good people who refuse to compromise their lives and their deepest convictions. Her men don’t anguish over discovering that they’re gay. They’re fine with that. It’s the world that has the problem and throws up unnecessary and cruel obstacles in their path. And, just to make things more interesting, Ms. Lain often throws in ethnicity to add a little spice to her tasty brew. In the case of “Tackling the Tight End”, that ethnicity is Native American.
The hero of “Tackling the Tight End” is Raven Nez, the highly-lauded NFL prospect who’s also the son of the President of his tribe. His father, his family, and the rest of his tribe expect him to become the Jim Thorpe of the 21st Century, bringing the tribe along with him on his inevitable ascent to fame and fortune. The problem is, no one asked him if that’s what he wants to do. It isn’t. Raven is pretty sure he can’t make it in the NFL, and doesn’t want to be bashed into senility by aggressive men who are much bigger and would probably love to have the opportunity to crush the only openly-gay player in the NFL.
But he has a real passion for working with kids. He’s been volunteering at a not-for-profit residence for homeless youth, many of them kids kicked out of their homes when their parents or foster parents found out they were gay. He knows he can make a difference. He knows he can set an example. But he’s being guilted into the NFL Draft by experts at the practice, carrying his responsibility for his tribe (and the money they can make from his fame, endorsements and fronting their casino) as a backbreaking burden.
He meets a young man. Not a Native American, let alone one of his own tribe. Ms. Lain handles this with a bit of sly humor that left me thinking of the age-old plaint: “you couldn’t find a nice Jewish girl?” In an outrageously ironic twist, Ms. Lain has Raven’s parents and tribe endlessly trying to set this gorgeous young man up with a nice gay Native American boy. The more things change…
As the author puts it, with tongue only slightly in cheek: “Is there a chance for “the great red hope” and the “whitest guy on earth”? Maybe not. The boy Raven is falling for has a lot of baggage. Dennis is a talented videographer and photographer hired to create a documentary for the tribe. Also a student at SCU, Raven can’t keep his eyes off the gorgeous man. They are polar opposites who seemed to click on-sight. Unfortunately, Dennis is hiding some terrible baggage and, from time-to-time, his fear and unhappiness inadvertently come to the surface, leaving Raven concerned for his well-being. It always seems to be worst whenever Dennis’ family is mentioned.
Dennis has every right to be depressed and fearful. His family’s secrets are not only depressing, but dangerous and evil. Dennis is terrified of exposing Raven to the risk that he and his family pose to anyone close to him. I promise you, Miss Lain has outdone herself with these stuck-in-the-1950s villains and the violent people they do business with. There are crimes, frauds, violence, even a death or two in the process of working out Dennis’ life. Tara Lain treats the action and danger with great aplomb, heart-pounding moments followed by the satisfying feeling of justice served, and a world set right.
“Tackling the Tight End” is a story of two men finding each other and their own path to the future. Like all of Ms. Lain’s heroes, they’re good men, trying to do the right thing, but constrained and buffeted by outside forces and agendas. Do they make it? You’ll have to read “Tackling the Tight End” to find out, but (hint), this is a gay romance and Ms. Lain is brilliant at beautiful and moving happily-ever-afters.
The journey she lays out, however, is fun, scary and even has a touch of the Native American supernatural: the spirits that guide and help these young men; Raven’s grandfather, a great shaman and spirit guide; and the healing power of love and acceptance.
This is an inventive, moving and absorbing book. It’s one I couldn’t put down. As I said, the main themes are not all that unusual, but the treatment of them, the honesty and integrity of the characters, the beauty of the boys’ hearts, are a joy to behold.
If you’re looking for a passionate, eloquent, beautifully-written book to lift your spirits and sooth your soul, “Tackling the Tight End” is the one to read. Don’t miss it.
The Long Pass Chronicles
Connect with Tara
Tara Lain writes the Beautiful Boys of Romance in LGBT erotic romance novels that star her unique, charismatic heroes. Her first novel was published in January of 2011 and she’s now somewhere around book 23. Her best-selling novels have garnered awards for Best Series, Best Contemporary Romance, Best Ménage, Best LGBT Romance, Best Gay Characters, and Tara has been named Best Writer of the Year in the LRC Awards. In her other job, Tara owns an advertising and public relations firm. She often does workshops on both author promotion and writing craft. She lives with her soul-mate husband and her soul-mate dog in Laguna Beach, California, a pretty seaside town where she sets a lot of her books. Passionate about diversity, justice, and new experiences, Tara says on her tombstone it will say “Yes”!