Snakes Among Sweet Flowers by Jason Huffman-Black

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Alrighty, let’s settle in and talk about this book for a moment. I almost feel guilty for having not known who Jason Huffman-Black was. I really felt guilty over this one, because this book was soooo good that I had myself wondering HOW I didn’t know of this author.

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I pre-ordered this one on a whim. I didn’t like the synopsis, but the cover was pretty and, as an avid tattoo collector myself, I kind of have a thing for MC’s with tattoos. Camden Sanders was no exception. And holy hell, that name. I really don’t understand why Jackson wasn’t constantly saying his name, because I would never have been able to resist that kind of temptation.

Cam’s character was out-of-this-world complex. Right from the get-go the author made it clear that Cam wasn’t a good guy. He was gritty and scrappy, the kind of guy who would do anything to make a dime. But regardless of that fact, there was something about him that made me want to keep reading. For some reason, I found myself quickly wanting to know more about Camden Sanders.

Cam had always been in the scams for the money, not as some way to self-destruct, but he’d seen his fair share of those who chose each and every aspect of their lives as a way to destroy themselves.

In that moment, I didn’t care if Cam was on the right or left side of the law. All that mattered was that I got to experience it with him. I found myself, despite my first impression, falling in love with Cam as a character.

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I immediately got this sense that Cam had been through a lot and that, despite his initial shortcomings, there was some part of him that knew he wasn’t the guy everyone back home thought he was. And please, don’t get me started on the cat.

He’d read an article about how cats had domesticated themselves in order to take advantage of the perks related to being a pet. “The damn thing is running a scam and you are falling for it.”

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Oh Tomassina, if you only knew how you stole Cam’s heart. And Cam, whatever happened to the master not falling for his own tricks?

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He found Tom sitting there, as if waiting for him, and reached over to scratch behind his ear. “Man, I don’t know who you banged last night, but it must have been epic. I’ve never heard anybody that loud during sex. If you do that chick again, I suggest a ball gag or something. People are trying to sleep, you know?” Tom seemed unconcerned and gave a large yawn that showed sharp fangs to convey his sentiment. “Look, I feed you, asshole. At least act embarrassed that I had to be privy to your man-whorin’.”

Tell me you hate him. Really, I dare you. I don’t care if he’s the f*ing Grinch who stole Christmas, Cam Sanders is impossible to hate. Cam wears his heart on his sleeve, and maybe people (or animals) don’t get close often, but when they do, you can tell he has a hard time hiding that.

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Cam’s relationship with Jackson was such a slow-burn that I almost thought it wasn’t going to happen and I’d have to read a sequel to get the rest of the story (which I wouldn’t have minded… at all). Through the entire book we got to see Cam struggling with his feelings for Jackson, all the while never really admitting them (even to himself). Seeing how much Cam cares for Jackson requires a little bit of in-depth reading. While it’s impossible to completely overlook, it’s also very possible to miss some of the things that point it out the most.

It becomes painfully obvious just how much he actually cares for him when another officer drops the kids off at his front steps. He didn’t even entertain the thought of so much as calling Jackson before asking the kids if they wanted to go visit him to make sure he was okay, because in that moment, a phone call would not allow him to see that the man he loved was okay.

 

It felt weird but right. He’d never held hands with a man before. Cam would have thought it was too mushy before that minute. But this was different, right?

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“Come on,” Cam encouraged as he pulled Jackson toward the stairs that led to his bedroom. And this was another first. Cam had always imagined this decision as a hard one, one that took a bunch of deliberation, but in reality, it had been easy. It just felt right.

I still felt the unease and hesitation in their relationship at the end, even though both Cam and Jackson had made the decision to roll with it. Cam even professed that it “felt right,” but the ever present feeling of tension made them (as a couple) more believable, since it was the first serious relationship either of them had ever had. I got this feeling that Cam was diving head first into a whole new world, but that even if it completely tanked, he’d be happier where he landed than he was pre-Jackson.

And can you say HOT. HOT. HOT. Holy hot hades in a basket, Cam and Jackson had some fire burning.

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Despite the obvious fact that erotica was not a major theme in this novel, I found myself wanting more.

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I felt like a lot of the scenes were rushed through and simplified, but I really wanted to hear more of Cam’s dirty mouth.

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Cam’s sense of humor kept my nose buried between the pages from start to finish, with only a brief three hour nap in-between. With Cam’s growing fondness for the kids and his budding relationship with Jackson, I couldn’t be bothered to sleep too long. Not only was I falling in love with Cam, but I was falling in love with all of the other residents of the town too. I wanted to know their stories and I needed to know how Cam would fit into their lives as a resident of Hog Mountain.

And while I loved most of the characters, there were some that… I didn’t exactly feel anything positive for. Harold, for one, but I suppose that’s a given. Can anyone guess who #2 is?

Did he need to act like he tripped into Grant, then accidentally bend him over the kitchen table or something?

Yeah, Grant… not my favorite guy (Is he really anyone’s favorite though). The way he remained closeted despite the pain that it caused not only himself but his family and the people he interacted with just rubbed me the wrong way. I found myself disliking his character more and more as the book progressed, but he did make way for important bonding between Cam and Jackson (and lets not forget Cam’s humor).

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A major part of what really kept me pulled in and grinning like a fool was the town’s faith in Cam to be the good guy. Despite the fact that the only face Cam had ever shown around Hog Mountain was as a scam junkie, Ida, Charles, and Dotty still continued to have faith in him to come out of it all as a stronger and better person.

Sometimes you want to change long before you become who you want to be. But nobody can change if they aren’t allowed to, if everyone still expects you to be all the things you once was.

I feel like this book brought me back to life. This past week has really done me in. From the shooting of Christina Grimme (a girl I watched rise to fame since I was in middle school), to hearing about my brothers and sisters in Orlando who were murdered at the hands of a mentally unstable homophobe, and discovering that a close friend had committed suicide some time ago, I was down and out. I started this book in a state of grief and I was hoping and praying that I could find some distraction to pull me out of my own head. Needless to say, the church scene at the end really had me going.

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This book did it for me. You should read it.

 

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