Transformed by MARK OF CAIN

Hi there! Today I’m sharing a review for a fabulous contemporary M/M romance from Kate Sherwood. MARK OF CAIN is a moving story about prejudice and forgiveness.

Mark of CainAbout the book:
When a man is consumed by hatred, is there anything left to love?

After a tough day of counseling sessions, Anglican priest Mark Webber is looking forward to a relaxing dinner at a local restaurant. When he sees who’s bellied up to the bar, though, he reaches for his cell phone to call the police.

It’s Lucas Cain, the man who killed Mark’s brother three years ago. Apparently he’s out of jail and hanging out with his old crowd, which has to be a breach of parole, right?

Pulled over upon leaving the bar, Lucas blows a clean breathalyzer and hopes this isn’t a harbinger of things to come. He’s ready to build a sober, peaceful life. His friends aren’t ready to let him move on, though, and he ends up taking refuge in an Anglican half-way house.

Thrown together, Mark and Lucas find common ground in the struggle to help a young gay man come to terms with his sexuality—and the fight against homophobic townsfolk. As attraction grows, the past is the last stumbling block between them and a future filled with hope.
Warning: Bad boys being good, good boys being bad.

My Review:
Father Mark Webber is an out gay Anglican priest in Canada. He is struggling in his position at the church, and wishes to help move past the homophobia and into acceptance. He’s a godly man, but he’s also human–and he hates Lucas Cain, the newly-released convicted killer of his younger brother, Jimmy.

Lucas Cain is 22 and a closeted gay man who has struggled with his sexuality and close-up, violent homophobia and abandonment his whole life. He was released after three years of serving a 6-year sentence for manslaughter, due to his exceptionally good behavior in jail. Lucas cannot forgive himself for his drunken fight which killed Jimmy Webber, and his remorse is bone-deep.

Here’s the scene that sets this whole book in motion:

“They’re having a party,” Mark said. He shifted to the side, staring at the scene in front of him. Three or four long tables had been shoved together like the bar did when sports teams came in after their games, but on this night, no one was celebrating a great pitch or brutal body check. This night, the guest of honor was a blond kid with cold green eyes, sitting at the head of the table with his hand wrapped around a mug of beer. He was smiling at the woman next to him as if she were the most beautiful and charming thing he’d ever seen. The rest of the extended table was lined with laughing, celebrating drinkers welcoming home their prodigal son.

The man who had killed Mark’s baby brother was being treated like a hero.

This book is about the difference between appearance and reality. Mark believes that Lucas is out drinking and carousing. In reality, Lucas is grudgingly dragged to a celebratory outing, drinks a non-alcoholic brew, and constantly watches the clock so he that doesn’t stay out past his imposed curfew.

Father Mark is the main liaison for a halfway house where Lucas ends up when his best (and perhaps closeted) friend Seth kicks him out. Homeless and jobless, Lucas needs a place to stay, but Mark twists things in his own mind, creating more havoc for Lucas–out of his own prejudice and hate. It is Mark’s misspoken words that land Lucas in the hospital from a hate crime, in fact.

Mark begins to see the error of his ways, soon, and he asks both God and his boss at the church to intercede. At this point, I stopped hating Mark. See, as a reader who gets both sides of the story, I was REALLY mad with Mark’s lack of compassion, and, frankly, lack of honor. He knew he should have asked for help, or asked to be replaced, but he craved the ability to watch Lucas, and even to make life more difficult for him. To punish Lucas, as he should have been in jail. Even better, to send Lucas back to jail to serve out the rest of his sentence. But Mark turns his sinking ship of hate around and does the right thing, and for that I stopped hating him.

Over a few months, Lucas develops himself. He works hard and plays within all the rules. He commits to staying sober and free of fighting. Never misses a curfew, and makes a few new friends. He inadvertently lands in some trouble when a young boy takes a crush on him, but he does the right thing–because Lucas always does the right thing, even if he knows it could land him in trouble. And, Mark is able to see that more and more. It is Mark’s close scrutiny of Lucas that shows him that Lucas was simply caught in a bad moment, in that fight with Jimmy. Mark himself knows that Jimmy was a brawler, and clearly outweighed Lucas by a lot. This turning point allows Mark to see Lucas as a man, not a killer.

And, before Mark even realizes what’s happened, he’s forgiven Lucas for that ill-judged moment which killed Jimmy. What remains? A developing respect for the man Lucas is becoming. All of this unfolds over about six months of semi regular contact. Before long, Mark is finding attraction where he only had scorn. Lucas thinks Mark is crazy–for forgiving him just as much as for wanting him. How can a priest love a convict, anyway?

There is real emotion here. The slow burn from hatred to love is remarkably poignant. This is not an easy transition, and causes far more heartache than stomach butterflies. There are a few scenes of physical connection, but they are not the centerpiece of this story. The story here is in forgiveness, and grace, and love.

Interested? You can find MARK OF CAIN on Goodreads, Samhain Publishing, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and AllRomance. I received a review copy of this book via NetGalley.

About the Author:
Kate Sherwood started writing about the same time she got back on a horse after almost twenty years away from riding. She’d like to think she was too young for it to be a midlife crisis, but apparently she was ready for some changes!

Kate grew up near Toronto, Ontario (Canada) and went to school in Montreal, then Vancouver. But for the last decade or so she’s been a country girl. Sure, she misses some of the conveniences of the city, but living close to nature makes up for those lacks. She’s living in Ontario’s “cottage country”–other people save up their time and come to spend their vacations in her neighborhood, but she gets to live there all year round!

Since her first book was published in 2010, she’s kept herself busy with novels, novellas, and short stories in almost all the sub-genres of m/m romance. Contemporary, suspense, scifi or fantasy–the settings are just the backdrop for her characters to answer the important questions. How much can they share, and what do they need to keep? Can they bring themselves to trust someone, after being disappointed so many times? Are they brave enough to take a chance on love?

Kate’s books balance drama with humor, angst with optimism. They feature strong, damaged men who fight themselves harder than they fight anyone else. And, wherever possible, there are animals: horses, dogs, cats ferrets, squirrels… sometimes it’s easier to bond with a non-human, and most of Kate’s men need all the help they can get.

After five years of writing, Kate is still learning, still stretching herself, and still enjoying what she does. She’s looking forward to sharing a lot more stories in the future.

You can catch up with Kate online on her website, Facebook, and twitter.

Thanks for popping in, and keep reading my friends!