Author: Brandon Witt
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
Rating: 4.5 stars
Type: Novel in a Series
Received from Publisher
Blurb: A Rocky Mountain Boys Novel
Estes Park native Todd Fleece works hard to honor his obligations to family and the businesses he inherited, but only his friends and the horses at his ranch brighten Todd’s life. In fighting his attraction to his best friend’s ex-boyfriend, Todd has focused solely on his work, leaving little room in his life for finding love.
Matt Abel’s reckless youth put him on a path to a self-destructive life—his most painful failure was being a horrible father. He excels at extreme sports and living on the edge. Now back in Estes Park and teaching white-water rafting, Matt tries to reconnect with his mother and his grown daughter. When he runs into his ex’s friend Todd, Matt longs for more than a fling.
But achieving happiness isn’t simple, not with Todd’s family conflicts and Matt struggling not to slide back into alcoholism. With hurdles threatening to drive them apart, Todd and Matt try to find the courage to brave the rapids and face a future together….
Review: Braving the Rapids is the second book in the Rocky Mountain Boys series. It can be read easily as a stand-alone although there are recurring characters.
Matt Abel had come to Estes Park with a heartfelt wish to reconnect with his daughter, Jordan, and make amends to her for the pain his past actions had caused her. Matt is realistic enough to know that will take time, if Jordan was ever even going to accept Matt into her life at all. So, spending summers in Estes Park leading whitewater rafting expeditions, Matt is as content with his life as he feels he has any right to be, given the mess he’d made of it in the past.
Todd has grown up in Estes Park, inheriting two tourism based businesses from his father, something his step-mother resents him for. Well, that and the fact that he’s gay is a complete affront to the ultra-religious Joanne. Even given her propensity to make his life difficult from time to time, she still was a mother to him as he was growing up and those memories won’t allow him to write her off. Besides, overall, life is pretty good for Todd these days. He loves his horse trail-riding business and although the theme park that was his father’s idea is less appealing, both businesses are thriving, and he has the Gay Boy Christmas Dinner group, close friends that meet regularly for monthly dinners, lending each other support and a sense of being family. Todd may have been nursing a secret attraction to his best friend Steve’s boyfriend last summer, but Steve and Matt’s relationship – the longest Steve had ever had, lasting a couple of months rather than the usual couple of weeks – had faded with summer and Matt had disappeared before winter had started.
So when summer rolled around again, and word was that Matt had arrived back in town with it, Todd is determined to not give in to the feelings he apparently still harboured for the man. Only problem with that plan was that Matt had apparently also felt the attraction between them, an attraction they both now found impossible to ignore. But after finally getting the courage to leave an abusive relationship he’d stayed in for a decade, when Matt opens up about who he used to be Todd can’t help but see Matt’s past choices as red flags. Now it’s up to Matt to show two of the people he loves most in his life that he’s no longer the self-centred, irresponsible person he once was.
I loved both of these characters. Their romance was quite gentle and lovely and they felt very genuine, both in themselves and their interactions with each other. Even when the story’s conflict had them separating, it didn’t come across as a contrived plot point made unnecessarily dramatic. I could understand why Todd would see some things as red flags with him, but my heart kind of broke for Matt. There is no doubt he had made some terrible, destructive choices, and he puts his foot in his mouth more often than not, but he was obviously trying so hard to make amends for the person he was. He deserved a chance.
Braving the Rapids was a really lovely read with more than one gorgeous turn of phrase. Matt was also finding a little more of himself while he was finding love with Todd, especially in regards to trying to navigate re-building his relationship with Jordan, and I found that journey just as satisfying as the romance. I loved that Matt and Todd’s romance had a gentle journey with only a couple of rocks to ripple the water and make them realise what they had, without being angst-filled. The secondary characters were also well-developed and I especially enjoyed the humour the unabashedly forthright Rosalind Abel brought to the story. As Matt’s mother, she made me both laugh out loud and cringe, often at the same time. I thoroughly enjoyed this book and all its characters and look forward to the next in the series.