“It had felt like Lucas was being swept along in a powerful river and he’d reached out to grab hold of Mark, standing safely on the bank. But Lucas hadn’t wanted to be rescued, he’d wanted to pull Mark into the current with him. Maybe they’d have drowned or maybe they’d have ridden the rapids together.” – Kate Sherwood
Author: Kate Sherwood
Publisher: Samhain Publishing
Pages/Word Count: 338 Pages
Rating: 4 Stars
Blurb: When a man is consumed by hatred, is there anything left to love?
After a tough day of counseling sessions, Anglican priest Mark Webber is looking forward to a relaxing dinner at a local restaurant. When he sees who’s bellied up to the bar, though, he reaches for his cell phone to call the police.
It’s Lucas Cain, the man who killed Mark’s brother three years ago. Apparently he’s out of jail and hanging out with his old crowd, which has to be a breach of parole, right?
Pulled over upon leaving the bar, Lucas blows a clean breathalyzer and hopes this isn’t a harbinger of things to come. He’s ready to build a sober, peaceful life. His friends aren’t ready to let him move on, though, and he ends up taking refuge in an Anglican half-way house.
Thrown together, Mark and Lucas find common ground in the struggle to help a young gay man come to terms with his sexuality—and the fight against homophobic townsfolk. As attraction grows, the past is the last stumbling block between them and a future filled with hope.
Review: As I do with all my favorite authors, I will begin by saying that I am a huge Kate Sherwood fan. Her Dark Horse books were among the first handful of M/M romances that I read. She ushered me into the wonderful world of reading gay love stories. I think I would have loved Mark of Cain even if it had been written by someone, anyone, else, though. The only reason it didn’t get a five star rating from me is because there were parts in the last third or so that dragged a little bit. It was so close, but I felt I had to give it four stars.
So many authors crank out book after book after book at such a rapid pace that they all begin to run together. That’s not always a bad thing. If the author is able to keep the quality up to their previous standards, and the stories interesting, I say the more to read, the better. However, Kate Sherwood isn’t that kind of author. Her books are released less frequently, and that fact makes the anticipation that much sweeter.
Mark of Cain was a challenging read for me. Not difficult to comprehend, but intellectually, emotionally and even morally, challenging. We all have a belief system in place in our minds and hearts. Whether or not we realize it, most of us have internalized strong beliefs about certain things. They may have been what we were taught as children, or we developed a set of beliefs as adults based on our own experiences and those of our friends or chosen families. The conclusions we reach as adults may differ dramatically from those of our families. This is the case for me. After meeting so many new people and learning so much about the inequality afforded the LGBTQ community, I have a set of beliefs about it that go against everything I had ever been taught. I hold those beliefs just as firmly as my family holds their opposing ones.
Mark of Cain wasn’t so much about LGBTQ values being challenged, although there was a little of that. Most of us believe that murderers are bad and deserve to be punished. We believe that priests are men of God and somehow less apt to take part in activities or have feelings that are considered by most to be non-biblical in nature. There is the crux of the conflict in this book. Is the man, Lucas Cain, who murdered another man over three years earlier, a bad man who deserves to live the rest of his life in a prison of one form or another?
Is the dead man’s brother, Father Mark Webber, a “Godly” man who is immune to feelings of anger, hatred and revenge? Their situation in a small town where they were constantly crossing paths really threw me. I was torn for a good portion of the book. Is Lucas an evil man who can never change? Is Mark able to fulfill his duties as a priest and guide Lucas through his re-integration into society? I must mention that Mark is an Anglican priest. The Anglican Church doesn’t hold their priests to a vow of celibacy and is also somewhat accepting of gay clergymen.
Lucas is trying desperately to build a new, honorable life. He isn’t reverting to his old patterns of behavior. Mark is drowning in anger and hatred. He goes so far as to intentionally cause trouble for Lucas and derail his travel down the straight and narrow path. I literally stopped reading at many points to think about my own long-held beliefs about criminals being able to be truly rehabilitated and priests being capable of such despicable behavior. I cried for Lucas’s seeming inability to make good choices regardless of how desperately he wanted to. I cried for Mark’s broken heart and grief over the death of his only sibling.
Ms. Sherwood has written a very thought provoking book in Mark of Cain. All the while it is challenging the reader, it is also entertaining and emotionally satisfying. She finds a way to bring the two men together to help guide a gay teenager through his acceptance of his homosexuality and coming out process. In coming together, Mark and Lucas are able to get to know each other on a deeper level. They are each able to understand the other’s pain surrounding the events of the past, and difficulty accepting the changes of the present. They come to the realization that both of them and their families were destroyed by the events of one night.
I realize I didn’t give much of a summary of the book here, but the blurb will do that for you. I want to relay the depth of emotion that was stirred up in my own heart while reading Mark of Cain. Ultimately, the book was great. The story and main characters were very original and fully developed. I can’t remember ever reading another romance novel with a priest and a murderer as the main characters. The discomfort of having to re-think my beliefs turned to happiness when Mark and Lucas were able to overcome the strongest of their old feelings to work together. A sequel is very possible as a few loose ends were left dangling. I would love to see one and I’d be quick to grab it.
I challenge you to challenge yourself by reading this well written and thought provoking book.