Being caught with another man sends Charlie Young fleeing his family to the forests of southwestern Australia to scrape together steamer-passage to the big smoke of London. But life as a timber faller isn't easy and it’s made worse when the men he works with are brash, bigoted, and often brutal. All except Jack Tapper, who’s the kind of gentle giant that sets Charlie’s heart racing.
While the other men head into town for Christmas, it’s just Charlie and Jack and acres of forest. But trees tell no tales and a few days alone is the perfect opportunity to indulge a bourgeoning passion. When the men return and find things not as they once were, Charlie and Jack have to make the hard decisions about whether to stay where they are or run for their lives.
It’s 1912 and Charlie Young is working as a timber faller in the forest of southwestern Australia trying to earn enough money to escape his family and get to London, England where he can start his life over again. He’s not working in the safest of places for a young man with his proclivities during the early 1900's…he’s working with men who are ‘brash, bigoted and brutal’… homophobic. But there’s one man among them who’s not like this…Jack Tapper isn’t like the other men…he’s quiet and keeps to himself, works hard, and Charlie sees a gentle side to him…a side that makes him wish…
Charlie chooses to remain behind at the camp for the holidays in the hope that he can maybe get some more logs cut earning him extra money and getting him to England as soon as possible. What Charlie doesn’t realize is that he’s not the only one staying behind in the camp…his gentle giant is also there.
It’s during these days alone that Charlie and Jack get to now each other and grow closer, leading their fledgling friendship to bloom all the deeper and stronger. It’s only too soon that the other men return to camp and bring with them mistrust and accusations.
What ‘The Faller’ wasn’t was a light and fluffy holiday story, but at the same time it was a well-crafted story that drew me in, giving me a setting in a time frame that I was easily able to visualize. The story is given entirely from Charlie’s perspective, and while it would have added to things to have some of Jack’s perspective given the length of the story, for me it would have felt a bit overwhelming to have to take in the perspective of two people during such a short read. Undoubtedly for me, my favorite part of the story were the few days that Charlie and Jack spent together alone in the camp getting to know each other…becoming friends and lovers. It was a sweet and poignant time made even more so by the cruel and harsh behaviour of men during that time and especially upon their return to the camp.
While the part that kept this from being a stronger read for me was the ending. I was left wondering exactly what became of Charlie and Jack; whether they remained in Australia or made their way to England. For me the ending was a possible HFN, and it’s a bit of a personal preference thing, but when it comes to story endings, I like something a bit more clear cut. I admit this is a holiday story so of course a nice happily ever after or a strong happy for now leaning towards an HEA would be my first choice, but in general I can even handle a ‘not so great’ ending as long as the big questions are dealt; the ending of this one just felt vague, and maybe an epilogue or some kind of 6 months or 1 year later type note would have felt better.
*************************An ARC of 'The Faller' was graciously provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest return.
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