Read this 5-heart review by Kimmers' Erotic Book Banter
Title: The Ballad of Crow and Sparrow
Author: V.L. Locey
Published: May 8, 2021
Cover Artist: Designs by Sloan
Genre: Historical Romance; Erotic Romance
Length: 227 Pages
Tags: Gay; M/M; Coming of Age; Disease: Asthma; Enemies to Lovers; Family Drama; First Time; Forbidden Love; Gang; Hurt/Comfort; Opposites Attract; Slow-Burn; Western/Cowboys; HEA
Sometimes a man’s biggest blunder can turn into his greatest triumph.
Orphaned at fourteen, Crow Poulin now has to hunt and trap the White Mountains of Arizona, as his father had taught him, all alone. It’s a lonely existence, until one morning, while checking his trap line, Crow finds more than a rabbit in a snare. He stumbles across the outlaw Jack Wittington lying half dead in the wilds. He takes the wanted man in, heals him, and in return for saving his life, the smooth-talking criminal invites Crow to join his family. Starved for human interaction and a father figure, Crow leaves the mountains behind for what he assumes will be a brighter future.
Six years pass. Crow is now a man, as well as a member of the Wittington Gang. He may be considered an outlaw, but his father’s morals are warring loudly with the lifestyle of his adopted family. When the gang decides to rob a train, Crow has no choice but to go along to keep a tight rein on the more bloodthirsty members. It doesn’t take long for the scheme to go horribly astray.
Instead of gold-filled coffers, the gang finds Spencer Haughton, son of cattle baron and railroad tycoon Woodford Haughton, cowering in the family’s opulent private car. The outlaws grab the sickly heir in hopes of ransoming him off. Things then go from bad to worse for them when the law rides down on the Wittington hideout and Crow is given Spencer to hide until the ransom is paid. The pretty young man is nothing at all like anyone Crow has ever met before. Delicate, refined, well-educated, and possessed of a singing voice to rival the songs of the birds in the trees, Crow slowly finds himself falling for the winsome rich boy. But can two such opposite souls find the love they’re both seeking in each other’s arms?
V.L. Locey spreads her wings in The Ballad of Crow and Sparrow, offering a dreamscape of human frailty and fortitude. Leaving her normal contemporary urban locales of prior books, Ms. Locey pens earnest heartache and hope in the deserts and high mountains of 1879-1880s Arizona.
Half Mohawk, half French Canadian, Crow is orphaned when his stern, but loving, God-fearing dad dies; his mom passed years earlier. He self-reflects, “I felt like a fourteen-year-old boy who was terrified of what the mountain would do to him.” Luckily, he’s a strapping teen, a sure-shot trapper, well-versed in survival, with a dog and horse to keep him company. And since he has an “unnatural” interest in men, he believes it might be God’s way to protect him from risk. His status as a “half-breed” endangers him sufficiently.
Then, at sixteen, Crow finds Jack “John”, head of an outlaw gang, bleeding out from a gunshot. When Crow saves John’s life, John offers a “family” of sorts, where lonely Crow resides for many years. His dad’s voice prevents him from joining their heists. Instead, he earns his keep by hunting and trapping for the crew, until they decide to pull a bloody train robbery. He agrees to go, but only to prevent excess death. When all goes badly, he’s left to tend a rich, sickly heir, Spencer, who should fetch a ransom.
V.L. Locey spreads her wings in ‘The Ballad of Crow and Sparrow’, offering a dreamscape of human frailty and fortitude.
Crow and Spencer (who Crow nicknames “Sparrow”) are instantly attracted. But how can there be freedom to love as equals when one is captor the other captive, much less rich and poor, entitled and reviled, or between men who believe their desires are unethical?
“‘And yet, knowing all of that, I find myself kissing you. Kissing you! And not against my will, either. I pick the flowers for our table, and I bathe frequently, for I love how you smell my hair when we’re lying together at night…But how can I long for that when you’re the one what has caged me so neatly?’” Sparrow asks of Crow.
This slow-burn tale seems like the real old West, more than many historical romances I’ve read. Grittiness, death, illness and misfortune are offset by the beauty of solitude and nature. In fact, nature and love meld. “‘Your voice is like morning, your song like a sage sparrow, your lips sweet as a honeycomb,’” Crow tells Sparrow. And Crow’s dreams are filled by the Corn Goddess, highlighting wisdom from First Nations’ cultures.
In this tale of bravery and conscience, choices and compromise, Ms. Locey explores the shackles of morality, and the pain of rationalization. Yet The Ballad of Crow and Sparrow avoids moralism, because its characters bounce between justifying their behaviors and harsh self-judgment. Like all of us, you can’t know which perspective is more accurate. My heart stuttered in identification.
‘The Ballad of Crow and Sparrow’ soars with sweetness despite its unsparing realism.
I especially enjoyed the ending which seemed more fitting and creative than any I’d imagined. What a treat to experience a terrific author try her hand at a new writing style, and to succeed brilliantly. The Ballad of Crow and Sparrow soars with sweetness despite its unsparing realism.
A copy of The Ballad of Crow and Sparrow was provided to Kimmers’ Erotic Book Banter, by V.L. Locey, at no cost and with no expectations in return. We offer our fair and honest opinion on behalf of our readers.