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    W_L
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WL's Mainstream Gay Book Reviews - 32. Born Again Sinner (Book 2 of Spruce Texas Series) by Daryl Banner

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/40245507-born-again-sinner

My reaction to this book: Dang, Cody has awakened a sexually repressed virgin twink, I hope he’s ready for all the emotions.

The second book in Daryl Banner’s Spruce Texas series is far more polished and well-thought out than book 1. It’s a different take on religious repression on a gay man, which is a novelty that I have not read in this corner of fiction, especially without tragedy or bigotry getting mixed in. There are also aspects of the story regarding PTSD and psychology that I personally find very appealing in stories. While not everyone enjoyed this novel as much as they did the lighter and fluffier Football Sundae, I personally appreciate it a lot more than his first novel, which I liked as well.

Length-wise, it is 337 pages long and 10 hours 2 minutes on audible. It’s a much heftier book, not quite light reading as the first book, but the story is fun if you like Hurt/Comfort romance among gay men.

Plot: Cody Davis is a veteran, who recently returned back to his hometown of Spruce after a bomb ended his military career in the US Army. He’s embittered and in pain constantly, he’s psychologically isolated, and most of the town’s people thought he was crazy even before he joined the US Army with salacious stories about his family. Trey Arnold is a nurse, who provides volunteer caregiver and medical assistance. He’s the openly gay son of Spruce, Texas’ preacher, who publicly is very welcoming of gay people and officiated the marriage of Tanner and Billy from the first book. Trey becomes Cody’s caregiver and an instant attraction begins between them, but Trey has been resisting his sexual urges for years despite coming out to his father. At first, Cody tries to intimidate and scare Trey away like he had done with other nurses, despite finding Trey sexually attractive. This moves backfires as Cody’s gruff nature actually intensifies Trey’s attraction to him, causing Trey to daydream about very carnal acts. After a time, Cody and Trey develop a grudging friendship, while Cody also realizes he’s attracted to Trey and wants him to accept him as a lover through a bit of seductive display, such as not wearing underwear with tight shorts. Caring for Cody, who is sexually trying to entice him into action, pushes Trey over the edge and headlong into love. Cody is discovering that he needs Trey in his life more and more each day, not just as a caregiver, but a real lover. They both care about each other deeply to the point of Trey accepting his desires fully, allowing Cody to perform full anal penetration without condoms. They face very mundane issues concerning gossip, appearances, and issues regarding Trey’s father, who maybe very open minded about homosexuality in others, but he is reserved towards Trey. The story culminates in a cathartic rain storm that sees Cody risking everything for the man he loves.

Review: As I said in book 1, Daryl Banner writes a wholesome story, which includes scenes of graphic gay sex, including a very hot scene involving Trey’s first anal finger probe. Gay sex is best enjoyed with a bit of slow build up, this story had a lot of build up to various stages of the main event. However, despite how scandalous some of the details may appear to Trey, the entire scenario is actually pretty wholesome and tame by most standards. Trey and Cody are never forced into sex against their will; though, both operate on a bit of sexual high half the time they are together, so implied consent is acknowledged.

Of the two, I think Trey’s character was the most emotionally complex. His relationship with his father isn’t the traditional gay son-religious father relationship that I’ve read in other gay fictions. Pastor Arnold is actually a very open-minded and inclusive religious leader. He strives to include the LGBT members of Spruce as part of his flock, seeing the need to extend Christian fellowship to everyone without regard to who they are. However, when it comes to Trey, his own son, he doesn’t know how to react or behave around him. He doesn’t hate Trey; he just doesn’t understand Trey being a gay man. It’s an interesting concept; perhaps one day religious leaders after ending centuries old bigoted views on homosexuality will progress to something like that, which by its nature is a resolvable perception gap. Pastor Arnold is willing to learn, when Trey is willing to open up about his true nature to himself first. In book 1, we saw a semblance of self-imposed gay repression in Tanner, but I think in Book 2, Trey Arnold explores this concept to its fullest degree. He’s not in the closet officially, but essentially, he’s still is by rejecting his own needs and nature. Shakespeare’s immortal words, “To thine own self be true”, are at the heart of the Trey and his father’s lesson in this book. It’s also why I enjoyed this novel.

Cody was a loner in most ways and his psychology is very interesting on why he joined the military. I can see where Daryl was heading by introducing that plot point about him seeking something to “belong to” and the US army became that surrogate for his father’s abandonment. It’s a good concept and one many people have seen before in other stories.

As for the bad stuff, I will admit there were some very deep issues in this book as well. While I love Trey’s story arc and his concept as a character, there were times when it fell flat for me. One of the problems is that Daryl Banner attempted to write a young 20-year-old guy, who is independent in many ways, but at times, he comes off like a high school teenage girl longing for his “bad boy” boyfriend. Trey even explicitly mentions that Cody is his “Bad boy” lover, so I know Daryl Banner did it intentionally. The age of the characters does not fit his emotional maturity at different points in the story and unlike a teen romance story, there are things that just stretches belief far too much. It’s not a deal breaker, but it just weakens a very strong character, especially the climax, when Trey runs away after having a fight with his religious dad (My head is playing the theme song to 7th Heaven, when I read this sequence).

My Review: 3.75 out of 5, I like it more than I did the first book. The story arc is far more complex and the relationship of characters beyond the couple are developed in interesting ways, like Trey and his father. I recommend it as a different kind of southern gay romance with some religious overtones that aren’t homophobic, but very inclusive and makes you yearn for a day when Christian leaders are closer to this ideal than they are in reality.

Copyright © 2021 W_L; All Rights Reserved.

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