BENEATH THE SURFACE by Kate Sherwood
Beneath the Surface by Kate Sherwood
Reviewed by Cassie
Caleb Sinclair is horrified when he learns a company is proposing to put their gravel quarry right by his farm. He loves the quiet peace of his land, and he’ll do anything to protect it, even band together with the homophobic neighbors who normally won’t give him the time of day. He doesn’t count on being attracted to the guy the company sends to convince the town the gravel pit won’t be a problem.
Lawyer Peter Carr loves his job, traveling and easing people’s concerns about his company’s projects. He thinks he’s more than prepared to handle the small town he’s been sent to, until he meets Caleb Sinclair. For the first time, he’s seeing one of the obstacles as a person rather than a concern to be allayed, and it’s wreaking havoc on his worldview.
Can two opposite men, meeting in terrible circumstances, become more than enemies?
I really enjoyed Beneath the Surface. One major reason was because of the characters. Caleb is a shy, quiet carpenter who tries not to make waves. Many people in his small town weren’t too happy to learn Caleb was gay, so he’s hesitant to make waves. Still, when his land is threatened he stands up to the company at a town meeting. Somehow, he ends up the unofficial leader for the town’s resistance to the company’s plans. For a guy as shy as Caleb, it’s an excruciating job, but he’s determined. Unfortunately, he also has his deadbeat, druggie brother to contend with, and an unwanted attraction to Peter Carr.
Peter Carr is a character who could easily have been a villain, if Kate Sherwood had written him differently. His sole purpose for being in Caleb’s hometown is to put in a quarry that most of the town is opposed to. He’s basically Caleb’s enemy, at least at first. Even so, it was easy to like Peter. He’s good at his job because he enjoys dealing with people. He’s not malicious in his dealings, or sneaky, but rather straightforward and genuine. He tells people the truth, albeit in a charming way to make them like it better. He’s no heartless corporate shill, despite his lack of understanding of Caleb’s feelings at first. It doesn’t take long before Peter starts to see Caleb, and the whole situation, in a different light. As a person who’s always been content with his job and his life, his sudden questioning is uncomfortable. Instead of running from it, he actively starts trying to figure out why this situation is so unlike anything else he’s faced. I liked the way Peter refuses to use underhanded methods to win against Caleb, even when Caleb’s horrible brother tries to enlist Peter’s help in forcing Caleb to sell. Despite his occupation, Peter is a good man, and I had no problem rooting for him.
Caleb and Peter find their way to each other in fits and starts, the quarry issue hanging over them the whole time. Both sides make moves in the chess game that is their battle over the land, and both sides make moves in their relationship as well (although Peter makes most of the first moves, because of Caleb’s shyness). The conflict of the quarry causes tension for both Caleb and Peter, but I liked the way they both tried to put it aside when they were together, to just get to know each other as two ordinary guys. Neither is always successful at putting their big problem aside, but they try. With the small amount of time they can carve out to be together, and their hesitance, their relationship grows slowly. When they finally come together, their chemistry is downright combustible, but Caleb is afraid it’s a mistake. It takes a terrible event to truly bring them together, and for Peter to really show his true colors as a caring and genuine man.
There’s not much sex in Beneath the Surface (barely any, actually), but that’s not a bad thing. In my opinion, Ms. Sherwood made the right choice for her characters. It was believable and sweet for Caleb and Peter to have a slow build in both the physical and emotional aspects of their relationship. The conflicts and secondary characters are believable as well. I particularly liked Peter’s work partner, engineer Riva. Her insight and friendship help Peter clarify several things in his own mind, and she seemed like a person I’d like to know in real life.
Anybody looking for a lot of hot sex scenes will not like Beneath the Surface, but if you’re looking for a realistic, emotional romance with wonderful characters and real heart, I recommend it.