Tuesday, July 19, 2011

REVIEW: "Between Sinners and Saints" by Marie Sexton

Levi Binder is a Miami bartender who cares about only two things: sex and surfing. Ostracized by his Mormon family for his homosexuality, Levi is determined to live his life his own way, but everything changes when he meets massage therapist Jaime Marshall.

Jaime is used to being alone. Haunted by the horrors of his past, his only friend is his faithful dog, Dolly. He has no idea how to handle somebody as gorgeous and vibrant as Levi.

Complete opposites on the surface, Levi and Jaime both long for something that they can only find together. Through love and the therapeutic power of touch, they’ll find a way to heal each other, and they’ll learn to live as sinners in a family of saints.

Genre: Contemporary Romance, Male-Male
Setting: Present-day Miami, Florida
Hero: Levi Binder
Hero: Jaime Marshall
Sensuality Rating: Hot

Overall Ranking: 5+ out of 5 Stars

I have only just started reading male/male romances this year.  I was inspired by Suzanne Brockmann's wonderful secondary couple Robin and Jules to try out others in this genre.  Marie Sexton's newest release "Between Sinners and Saints" is probably my favorite male/male romance so far.  To me, everything about this book worked from the fully developed characters to the complex relationship within the Binder family.

Levi Binder, as mentioned in the summary, is a bartender who is rebelling against his Mormon upbringing by sleeping with any guy who smiles at him.  It is pretty obvious to the reader that this one night stand pattern is taking its toll physically and emotionally on Levi.  He is searching for something in all these encounters, but is blind to this desire.  As a character, Levi is confident and self-serving while still having a hint of vulnerability from his family's treatment of him and his lifestyle 

Jaime Marshall is a massage therapist who Levi hires in response to some pain in his lower back and legs.  Jaime, unlike Levi, is a very contained character.  He is the victim of childhood sexual abuse and it has scarred him in many ways which are revealed throughout the story.  Jaime is attracted to Levi from the beginning, as Levi is to him, but is unwilling and unable to go through with his desires due to his fear.  He believes he is too damaged to have a successful relationship especially with someone as seemingly perfect as Levi. 

What the reader sees in "Between Sinners and Saints" is how these two men who could not be more different learn to accept each other and themselves.  Both Levi and Jaime need something which the other can provide.  Jaime desires a family while Levi desires acceptance.  Through their relationship, they get what they most need and desire.  I liked how Sexton does not hasten the relationship between Levi and Jaime.  Jaime is tramatized by his childhood and Levi understands this very quickly.  He falls in love with Jaime pretty early on and is determined to help him in any way possible.  The growth of friendship and then romance, to me, is very realistic in this book.  They have squabbles and misunderstandings along the way, but eventually realize that they need each other to be complete.

I also liked the depiction of Levi's family.  The Binders are Mormon and most are devoted to their religion.  It could have been easy for the author to use them as 'villains' that look down on Levi and Jaime.  But, Sexton uses these characters to explain where Levi is coming from.  Levi's parents and siblings love him and care deeply about what happens to him.  His lifestyle is a conflict that they struggle with throughout the book.  I am not Mormon, but I feel the family is very realistic.  They love each other and believe family is the most important thing.  Yes, many of them feel like homosexuality is a sin, but they are not cruel about it.  They truly believe they can help Levi and only want him to be happy.  Their journey to accepting Levi is sometimes just as poignant as the Levi/Jaime romance.

All in all, I loved every minute of reading this book.  The characters were not stereotypical and all of them had a journey to make in this story.  To me, the true theme of this book is love and acceptance and I feel this is shown in many different ways.  Even if you are new to the male/male romance genre, I highly recommend this story about the healing power of love and the importance of family.

Favorite Quote: "I think you want very much to make this black and white--to make us all out to be sinners or saints.  But its just not that simple.  I think what you need to accept is that, just maybe, we're all something else.  Maybe we're all something in between."--Jaime Marshall (Between Sinners and Saints)

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