Series: Executioners #1
Publisher: Hostile Whispers Press LLC
Publication date: July 18, 2017
Length: 157 pages
Reviewed by Meredith
Gideon Jane earned the name Ghost for his reclusive nature when he joined a group of guys in Powers, Georgia in a band called Executioners. It had been his way of settling into small town life after living in New York for the past twenty years. He loved the band and his small organic farm. What he didn’t love was being single, but it appeared it was his new reality. He didn’t want his ex back, although he did want something. What that was eluded him until the evening he walked into Nightingale’s Books.
Small town girl Harper Sage knew pain, and she’d lived with it—she had the scars both mental and physical to prove it. It would’ve been easier to hop in her car to find safety and anonymity, but Harper stayed to prove she was stronger than hurled fists and bruising prejudice. She found herself within the safety of a close-knit group of rough bikers and bar bouncers. That didn’t mean it was all perfect.
What’s a girl to do when she craves normalcy and acceptance: she just smiles. Choices are made, some with dire consequences and others that bring her closer to her dream. Will she make the right decision or finally discover escape is her best option?
Who is Harper? Without giving away the plot. She is a trans woman. Her whole life she longed for peace within herself. She accepts the wrongs that are done to her by others. She needs to be rescued not only from an abusive relationship but from herself. Enter Ghost. Now, it takes a unique person to love and heal another. Ghost does this almost effortlessly for her. He makes her love herself.
There's a point in the book where she looks at herself in the mirror, naked, for the first time in forever. She says words that show her appreciation for all her parts. It's this moment in the book that even I, as a reader, felt the vulnerability and yet strength of Harper the person.
Even though this book is serious, dark at times, and emotional the author adds levity. She adds humor to tense situations and showers Harper with the love she so much deserves. If you knew of her before you too have longed for her happy ending. If you are just joining that's fine too. The author takes the first chapter and brings you into the life she lives. You see her struggles, her pain, and the prison that is her life.
I commend the author for tackling so many hard issues in this book. Self-harm, depression, suicide attempts, and cheating (this is a past conversation BTW don't freak out). The author gave the transgender community and the LGBTQA community an amazing book written with so much respect and justice. I've read transgender books in the past and often times I feel that I'm just not in the character's head. I can't understand. I didn't feel that way with Harper. I cried with her, laughed with her, I felt the moment the cloud of suffocation lifted and life was breathable again.
I've said this many times, this is my favorite JM Dabney book to date and I can't recommend it enough!
“Why are you out of bed?”
She squeaked as she turned to find Gideon standing in the doorway.
“I told you to call me if you needed anything.”
“You’re working. I didn’t want to—”
“If you say you didn’t want to bother me, we’re going to have another disagreement.”
“If I’d known you were a dictator I would’ve gone back to my place.”
“No, you wouldn’t have, because I said you were coming to stay with me. And I assure you I’m nowhere near dictator status.”
“I beg to differ.”
“You’re not going to change the subject, you should be resting.”
“I’ve been resting for almost two weeks, and I’m tired of it, I’m fine. My stitches are out. The bruises are fading, I’m sure I can go home.”
They’d kept her in the hospital for almost a week before they’d freed her to return home. Gideon’s house wasn’t where she’d expected him to take her. At first, it was odd to take up residence, even temporarily, on the farm, but she had to admit the last five days were amazing. It felt like home there, yet she didn’t want to admit it.
“Until they find Bill, you’re staying here. Now, since that’s over—”
“It’s not over.”
“Yes, it is. Now come out on the porch, I have a present for you.”
“Pre…present?” No one ever got her a present before except for Kyle, Clora, and a few members of the Crews. Gideon had given her flowers.
He turned, bowed and motioned toward the door.
She closed the fridge and hugged the sports bottle to her chest—her steps hesitant.
“Come on, honey, I’m sure you’ll like your surprise. You want me to go first?”
“Don’t apologize, I’ll do this as fast or as slow as you need, I want your trust and I know I haven’t earned it yet.”
“Quit saying you’re sorry, there’s nothing for you to apologize for.” Gideon stepped outside. “I had a friend call me this morning while I was in the fields and asked me a favor.”
“You can pick one.”
“Pick one, what—”
Gideon moved to the side, and her eyes widened at the cardboard box filled with the tiniest puppies she’d ever seen. There were only two, and each looked like it would fit perfectly in the palms of her hands. She barely noticed when he took her drink, and she eased down to kneel beside the box. She started to reach for them but hesitated.
“Go on, you can pick them up. They’ll need to be bottle fed for another month.”
“The local vet and his husband run a rescue, they shut down a puppy mill. These were the only two that weren’t ready to be put up for adoption. Jared thought since I run my own business I’d have the time for them. So I agreed to foster them.”
She glanced at him as he sat on the porch beside her.
“I saw them and thought you might want one.”
“Can’t I have them both,” she asked and cringed.
“If that’s what you want. I’ll let him know. He brought everything we’ll need. He said they’re some kind of teacup Yorkie/Maltese mix. Specially bred to be tiny. The rest of their litter mates didn’t make it. The mother appeared too young and exhausted, it didn’t look like she was nursing them. The condition the kennels were in was the worst he’d ever seen. They’ve been in the clinic for about a week.”
“So they won’t get much bigger?”
They were so cute and tiny, she rubbed the tops of their heads with her fingertips. She refused to look at Gideon as she tried to blink away tears.
“Harper,” he softly said her name, then his fingers stroked her scarred cheek, and his thumb traced the fringe of her wet lashes.
“I want Joker to have one of them.”
“Really, I don’t know if a micro dog is exactly Joker’s style.”
She snorted at the amusement in his voice. It probably wasn’t, but her friend was way too reclusive. He needed something of his own. Something to focus on other than his demons.
“I have a key to his place, we’ll leave it, her, him?”
“Her, they’re both girls.”
“We’ll sneak her in and leave her with a bow.”
She gently reached into the box and lifted both brown and black puppies, cradling them to her chest.
“I don’t know, I’ve never gotten to name anything before.”
“No hurry, you’ll figure something out.”
“Why are you so nice to me?”
“That’s a question I’m only going to answer once, come here.”
She nearly dropped her presents when he patted his lap. Did she even dare?
“Do you trust me,” Gideon asked. “Even a little?”
“Then come sit on my lap, I won’t hold you, you’re free to get up at any time. I just want you close while I answer why I’m nice to you. You can even hold on to your new babies.”
She nodded as she carefully got to her knees and moved close to Gideon until she could sit sideways on his lap. She buried her face in soft fur and waited. Gideon’s stomach was soft against her ribs and hip. His scent was rich earth, sweat, and the incense he always seemed to burn. His beard strangely soft against her neck.
He kept his word, he didn’t trap her in his arms. Instead, his right arm laid casually over her thighs and his left loosely wrapped around her. Gideon’s large hand rested on her left hip.
“Now, you wanted to know why I’m being nice to you.”
She nodded causing his mustache and firm, yet soft lips to brush the still tender scar on her cheek. Harper forced herself not to shy away from the caress. It seemed an inadvertent act. She’d come to rely on her gut instinct when it came to situations where it might prove dangerous for her, but in that instance, she didn’t feel the need to flee. She oddly wanted to get closer like she had the day they’d napped, and he’d held her.
“I think I’ve mentioned it before, I’d like to take you on a date. Get to know you. You’re beautiful and sweet, even when you’re being stubborn.”
“I’m not stubborn.”
“We’ll leave that as another point of contention.”
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