Title: Chase the Stars (Lang Downs #2)
Author Name & Publisher: Ariel Tachna (Dreamspinner Press)
Publication Date & Length: September 10, 2012 – 250 pgs
Twenty-year-old Chris Simms is barely keeping his head above water. After losing his mother and his home, he struggles to provide for himself and his brother. When homophobes attack him, he thinks his life is over, but then he’s rescued by jackaroos from a nearby sheep station. He’s as stunned to be offered a job there as he is to discover both the station owner and foreman are gay.
For Chris, Lang Downs is a dream—one that only gets better when Chris realizes the jackaroo he’s crushing on, Jesse Harris, is gay and amenable to a fling. Everything goes well until Chris realizes he’s falling for Jesse a lot harder than allowed by their deal.
Jesse is a drifter who moves from station to station, never looking for anything permanent. Convinced Chris is too young and fragile for a real relationship, he sets rules to keep things casual. Watching the station owner and his foreman together makes Jesse wonder if there are benefits to settling down, but when he realizes how Chris feels about him, he panics. He and Chris will have to decide if a try for happiness is worth the risk before the end of the season tears them apart.
The second book in the Lang Downs series focuses on Chris and his brother Seth. Lang Downs’ foreman, Macklin rescues twenty-year-old Chris from an attack before he and Caine offer the homeless boys a place on their station. While a romance develops between Chris and one of the seasonal Jackaroos, Jesse, Tachna also continues to develop the story of Caine and Macklin from the first book.
The continued development of Caine and Macklin’s story is what makes me award this book five stars. So many authors, even in complex series, complete a love story in each book. Tachna recognises that relationships actually develop over lifetimes, not months. Tachna also refuses to make her characters’ romances more complicated than they need to be. Granted, all the men on Lang Downs seem to have complicated, difficult histories, but growth in these books is personal. Once characters get a chance to heal (and some of Chris’ healing is actually physical in this book) their relationships are relatively simple.
So Macklin and Caine struggle to live openly without upsetting the men who work for them. Chris and Seth come to grips with their mother’s death and their subsequent abandonment, and Jesse begins to consider permanence and making a home on Lang Downs. Other characters begin to develop in more detail in this book – Seth and Jason meet each other here, paving the way for their story in book five. Neil becomes a more rounded character, and we get our first glimpse of Molly.
I love the way this second book becomes less of a traditional romance and more the story of the interactions between the many characters on the Lang Downs sheep station. For me, this is the book where the series moved from good to fantastic.
Ariel Tachna lives outside of Houston with her husband, her daughter and son, and their cat. Before moving there, she traveled all over the world, having fallen in love with both France, where she found her husband, and India, where she dreams of retiring some day. She’s bilingual with snippets of four other languages to her credit, and is as in love with languages as she is with writing.