“I can offer you my life, though it is a short life. I can offer you my heart, though I have no idea how many beats it shall sustain. But I love you enough to hope the rest of my life-whatever its length-happy, by spending it with you.” – Cassandra Clare
Author: A.J. Thomas
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
Pages/Word Count: 266 Pages
Rating: 5 Stars
Blurb: Anders Blankenship never intended to hike the Appalachian Trail alone, but when his boyfriend cancels, Anders steels his courage, leaving the abusive relationship to tackle the long-distance hike. Though a hiking virgin, he’s glad he made the decision when he receives threatening messages from his ex. Luckily, Kevin, an experienced backpacker, takes him under his wing.
Kevin Winters isn’t looking for a hiking partner, let alone a fling with a cute man on the rebound. After learning he has the autoimmune disorder that killed his father, Kevin left his family to wander remote trails. Convinced his future holds only pain and death, Kevin refuses to get close to anyone. The family sourdough recipes he recreates over a campfire are his only solace.
In the wilderness, Anders and Kevin discover a lot of common ground. While the future holds uncertainties they may not be ready to deal with, it might also hold the chance for happiness.
Review: I like to use my privilege as a reviewer to try out new (to me or first-time) authors. You never know how it will turn out, as it’s kind of like a roll of the dice. This time I was most definitely a winner. A.J. Thomas has rolled “snake eyes” with Sex & Sourdough. This is Thomas’s second book, and I will definitely be reading the first, A Casual Weekend Thing, as soon as I can.
Anders and his boyfriend of several years plan to hike the Appalachian Trail together over the summer. Anders is being coerced by his family to attend law school in the fall, so this is his last hurrah before having to buckle down and study something in which he has no interest. At the last minute, Anders’s boyfriend cancels because of a prior commitment. Anders makes the decision to go ahead with the hike on his own. Having never hiked before, he has no idea what he is in for.
Kevin is an experienced hiker. He has been practically living on the trails since he found out he has the same disease that killed his father. He left his family and their business behind with no explanation and has been hiking as much as possible for years. He is not interested in a hiking partner. He is not looking for a relationship. Especially one with a man on the rebound from an abusive ex-boyfriend.
Along the way, it becomes apparent that Anders’s ex-boyfriend is stalking him. He catches up with him at one stop and demands that Anders come home with him. This is where Kevin realizes that the relationship is abusive. The close-knit group of hikers band together to make sure the ex isn’t able to find Anders. He won’t be dissuaded, though, and is seen many times over that summer at various places along the trail.
Kevin is convinced that he has a brief future and that it will be consumed by pain and illness caused by his disease. He doesn’t want to get close to anyone because he knows how much it hurts to lose someone you love to illness. The way he lost his father. The only tie to his family he allows himself is the sourdough bread he bakes over a camp fire at every stop along the hiking trail. He keeps the recipe alive and cultivates the “starter” in a jar which he carries with him in his pack. This has earned him the trail nickname “Sourdough”. All the regular hikers have trail names.
Kevin takes Anders under his wing and helps him out along the hike, even though it means cutting his own distance covered in half, which will keep him from reaching his goal before winter sets in. As they get to know each other, Kevin and Anders realize that they have a lot in common. They become friends and are quickly aware of their attraction to each other. Kevin is hesitant to act on his attraction due to his illness, and Anders thinks Kevin is straight. Once they do become romantically involved, there is no stopping them.
The group of hikers surrounding Kevin and Anders was a cast of supporting characters that were so enjoyable to read. They all had their own trail names and real names. Some were in relationships with one another, some not. They all seemed to meet up every few days at one of the many shelters set up along the Appalachian Trail to allow them to spend a night at a place with a few (and I’m not talking hotel quality here) amenities. This group of people bound together by their love of hiking had little to no contact with each other during the off season, but they banded together like family to keep Anders safe from his ex. They were fully developed supporting characters that actually provided support on a number of occasions. They were well-written and fully evolved.
When I met Anders and Kevin, my first instinct was to feel sorry for both of them. They were both in a bad place and using hiking to escape their situation and their own thoughts. I quickly realized that they didn’t need me to feel sorry for them. They were stronger than they first appeared. And together, they were exponentially stronger. I loved these characters. They were full-fledged, their personalities and pasts laid out for the reader (in this case, me) to see in all their glory and pain.
The lengths that they both went to for the other were sweet and loving and sacrificial. I wanted them to be together so badly. Despite the odds that they would have to overcome to find their way back to each other, I knew they had the fortitude to do it. I wanted them to have their happiness, regardless of how long Kevin thought it might last. I wanted to see them both at peace and reconciled with their families.
A.J. Thomas has done what most writers dream of when they are early into their published career: she wrote a great book that makes me want more. More from her amazing brain and equally amazing computer. If this story was in there, I can’t wait to see what else she has floating around in her head. Sex & Sourdough drew me in with the title (read the book to find out it’s meaning!) and kept my attention until way too late at night because I just HAD to finish it. Oh, yeah, you may need a tissue or two.
This is a must read.