Hi there! Today I’m sharing a review and giveaway for a contemporary M/M interracial romance from Lisa Henry. THE PARABLE OF THE MUSTARD SEED is a standalone romance featuring a Samoan detective who’s relationship to a youth he once saved has matured into a deep love over the years.
John Faimu is an Australian-Samoan police officer who deals with hurt kids every day. He loves what he does, but he’s tired of the grind of shift work, and of trying to find a balance between his job, his family, and the young man who straddles the increasingly blurry line between both.
Caleb Fletcher was the teenager John saved from a cult eight long years ago, and he’s now the young man John wants in ways that neither of them should risk.
Eight years after his rescue, Caleb is still struggling with PTSD and self-harm. John has always been his rock, but now Caleb wants more. Can he convince John to cross a line and love him the way they both crave? And when the monsters from Caleb’s past come back seeking to silence him for good, will John’s love be enough to save him?
The Parable of the Mustard Seed is a M/M gay romance featuring hurt/comfort, first times, found family, and angst with a happy ending.
How about a taste?
John scrubbed his knuckles over his scalp. He felt more tired now than he had for a long time, and it wasn’t just the shift work. It was Caleb, and this place, and the knowledge that they’d been here before and they would be here again. Different hospitals, different beds, different scratchy blankets and too-cold air conditioning, but all of them stuck in the same old cycle.
Eight years of this.
It wasn’t always this dramatic. Most of the time it didn’t end in a hospital. Most of the time it was increasingly erratic behaviour. It was risk-taking. It was subtle and pervasive, but John knew how to read the signs. He’d talked Caleb down from plenty of metaphorical high places before. Enough to wonder every time if he was only delaying the inevitable. If Darren was, and the psychiatrists and psychologists were, and the pharmacists.
Of course it felt hopeless. It was almost three in the morning and he was sitting in a fucking hospital. Shit always felt dire in the middle of the night.
John reached out and brushed his fingertips against the back of Caleb’s right hand. His skin was cold to the touch, his fingers white and bloodless. Several of his knuckles were grazed. The wounds weren’t fresh.
Darren had said last week that Caleb had punched a wall. Out of nowhere. No warnings signs, no meltdown, just a sudden, furious burst of anger that had broken over him. And afterward, Darren said, when Caleb was sitting on the floor nursing an icepack, he’d refused to talk about it.
Sometimes even Caleb didn’t know what the fuck was happening in his head.
John’s fingertips brushed the wrinkled edge of the tape that held the canula in the back of Caleb’s hand. The plastic tape was dry and rough.
“I bleed and you’re here.”
John straightened and turned his face toward Caleb’s. His face was pale, his lips colourless. Dark circles carved out hollows under his eyes.
“Your dad called me,” John said. “He’s on his way.”
Caleb’s gaze dropped away.
John leaned closer and frowned. “What the fuck are you doing, mate?”
“Bad night.” Caleb pressed his lips into a thin white line.
“Were you clubbing?” John gestured at his clothes: dark jeans, a tight shirt, and—what were the kids calling them these days?—expensive kicks.
Caleb inspected the bandages on his arm. “Yeah.”
“Don’t bullshit me, Caleb.” John was always there to pick up the pieces, but he didn’t coddle Caleb. He never had, not even at the start. “You think I drove all the way here to listen to you lie to me?”
“I was with a guy.” Caleb flinched as he said it.
“Were you safe?”
Caleb’s gaze faltered. “I was with a guy.”
“So you said.” John wondered what reaction Caleb had been expecting. “Were you safe?”
Caleb nodded, turning his face away.
John studied him for a moment, unsure how to react. A part of him was afraid to react at all in case any reaction was an overreaction. Caleb wasn’t coming out as gay—he’d done that at nineteen—but by admitting to a sexual encounter he was coming out in another way: Caleb was coming out as human being who wanted to be touched. A human being with sexual needs. This was a big step. The biggest in a long time. Nobody had expected him to remain celibate forever; nobody thought that was remotely healthy. But fuck, this big step had turned into a hell of a stumble, hadn’t it? Caleb was in freefall.
John reached out and squeezed Caleb’s shoulder. “Did this guy try something? Something you didn’t want to do?”
“No.” Caleb shifted. His worried gaze found John again. “No, it was me, not him.”
“We went to a hotel.” Caleb’s gaze slipped away again. “He said I was a slut.” His voice hitched. “Said I was bad.”
John moved his hand from Caleb’s shoulder to his cheek. Caleb was still so cold. “If you tell me he was being a prick, I’ll track the fucker down.”
“The way he said it, I was supposed to like it. Wasn’t his fault.” Caleb closed his eyes. “I didn’t even mind, not much, not when he was there.”
John sighed. “What happened when he left?”
Caleb shuddered. “When he left, all I could hear in my head was Ethan.”
John tensed, and tried not to let Caleb feel it.
“So loud,” Caleb sighed.
John withdrew his hand. “Look at me.”
Caleb opened his eyes.
“Next time you hear Ethan Gray in your head, you don’t listen to him.” John shook his head. “You call you dad, or your doctor, or you call me, doesn’t matter what time, you call me and I will be there. You understand me?”
Caleb jerked his chin in a nod.
“You don’t cut yourself, Caleb.” John frowned. “You understand me?”
“Okay,” Caleb murmured.
The worst part, John knew, was that Caleb meant it, and would go on meaning it right up until the next time he was holding a blade against his wrists.
You’ll break my heart one day, Caleb Fletcher, I know you will.
John forced a smile. “Okay.”
Caleb sighed and closed his eyes.
John watched him until he fell asleep, then got up and hunted down a blanket.
John Faimu is a gay, Australian-Samoan police officer who has kept a long-standing friendship with a man he rescued eight years ago. At fifteen, Caleb Fletcher was beaten half-dead and left to die in a locked shed in a religious commune. The police were there to investigate claims of children going uneducated, and found a hellscape of true believers and their unclaimed children barely surviving the Children of Galilee’s cult leader’s directives. Caleb had been kidnapped by his mother, a cult member, when he was only 4, and he didn’t even remember his true father, let alone his birth name. He did remember watching one of the cult enforcers beat his dear friend Simon to death in the punishment shed. All because Simon and Caleb held hands and kissed where someone could see.
The perpetrators went to jail–including Caleb’s mother–but not for Simon’s murder, because no one could find the body, and there were no missing persons notices outstanding for the boy. Though Caleb and another girl from the cult knew he’d been taken to the punishment shed, they were too unreliable to provide testimony to murder without a body for evidence. Caleb was returned to his father’s care, where he had years of medications, therapy and counseling to treat his PTSD, anxiety and depression. He has a reasonable aversion for christianity, as it triggers his memories of time with the cult. John was asked by Caleb’s father, Darren, to continue coming by and checking in on Caleb. They boy had made a bond with his rescuer, and John was happy to oblige; he was single and compassionate with time on his hands, after all.
Fast forward eight years, and Caleb’s a fully-grown, out-gay man. He’s not able to live alone, and struggles with self-harm when the depression gets too great. His med mix is in constant flux, but he’s trying hard to not be that broken boy John peeled off a shed floor. Caleb has been attracted to John since…ever. And as an adult he feels that John and he are well-suited, if only John wouldn’t make such an issue out of it. They are friends–they could be lovers, right? And, John’s afraid that he’ll hurt Caleb in any way that could trigger his self-harm. It’s entirely possible, but it’s also true that these men have had a lot of love for one another since their fateful meeting.
Bigger problem, the parole board has just released the offenders from Children of Galilee, and they are barred from seeking contact with each other, Caleb, or any of the other cult members that weren’t in jail. And, and the body of an unknown child was just uncovered near a creek bed in an area that had been bushland at the time of Caleb’s rescue, but now is a developed community. It’s a long shot, but if they can tie the DNA from the body to anyone from Children of Galilee those folks are heading back into the clink for murder. That is, if they don’t erase the witnesses before identity can be determined.
Caleb and John are such awesome characters. I loved learning about John’s Samoan heritage through this story. The inclusion of his family–struggling since his father’s recent death–helped round out the story. Glimpses of Samoan culture through foods, sayings, and vignettes were intriguing, and gave me insight I appreciated. Caleb’s story is heart-breaking, and his determination to be as functional as possible in his adult life was commendable and endearing. He’s so gone for John, and his desire to upgrade their relationship from caretaker to lover is poignant. It was super brave of Caleb to state his desires so plainly, and John–who knew years ago that Caleb would break his heart–finally relents believing that he could care for Caleb better than any other stranger. And they are good together, mush to Darren’s chagrin. (Well, he’s struggling with secrets more than sense.) It’s a little tricky at work for John, what with this investigation into the unidentified body and possibly leading back to Caleb, who is still a key witness in Simon’s death.
There ends up being some high-stakes situations in the end, related to the cold case of Simon’s murder. It’s in the moments when John fears losing Caleb forever that he knows he won’t ever let that man slip through his fingers again. I was turning that pages super quick, and fearing it was all going to go really, really bad before the climax. The story is told through John’s POV so there was a lot of fear, adrenaline, anxiety and grief running through those last few chapters–which translated well to me, even knowing it was a romance and we’d all get the HEA. I really liked this interracial, police romance, and the cop-witness dynamic was as intriguing as the older-younger dynamic, virgin hero situation and Aussie setting. Just a great read.
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Good luck and keep reading my friends.
About the Author:
Lisa likes to tell stories, mostly with hot guys and happily ever afters. Lisa lives in tropical North Queensland, Australia. She doesn’t know why, because she hates the heat, but she suspects she’s too lazy to move. She spends half her time slaving away as a government minion, and the other half plotting her escape.
She attended university at sixteen, not because she was a child prodigy or anything, but because of a mix-up between international school systems early in life. She studied History and English, neither of them very thoroughly.
She shares her house with too many cats, a dog, a green tree frog that swims in the toilet, and as many possums as can break in every night. This is not how she imagined life as a grown-up.
Lisa has been published since 2012, and was a LAMBDA finalist for her quirky, awkward coming-of-age romance Adulting 101, and a Rainbow Awards finalist for 2019’s Anhaga.