Crossing Borders by Z.A. Maxfield

Tristan’s got issues; he knows he does. So when his most recent girlfriend dumps him but he’s preoccupied with the fact that he can’t stop staring at, and lusting after her brother Tristan figures it’s about time he make some changes and take the plunge into something he’s been wanting to do for a while – have sex with a man. Tristan’s got a plan. He sets up shop at his local Borders bookstore, collects a pile of gay lit titles as bait, sits himself down in the bookstore’s coffee bar and waits for a hook-up, someone who can show him what he’s been missing — Until who should crash his little stake-out but none other than Officer Michael Truax, a.k.a. Officer Helmet, the man who’s been a persistent pain in his skate boarding butt, dogging him with expensive tickets for not wearing a helmet.

Michael has been trying to catch Tristan for years…to give him a second ticket, or so that’s what he tells himself. Suddenly he’s faced with his ‘Sparky’, all grown up — and looking to get laid. The habit of protecting him isn’t gone completely, but the opportunity is too much to resist. He figures the kid must know what he’s getting into, so he takes him home. There, they carry on a cautious affair, only to find out that neither is what the other expected at all.

I know a story is really working for me when I start reading at say about 9:00 pm and wild horses couldn’t drag me from the book. Well it was about 1:00 am this morning when I finished Crossing Borders. What can I say I devoured this read and absolutely loved it.

Maxfield’s writing is clean, crisp, urbane and sophisticated with an equal strength in her characters and their dialogue. In Tristan she has created an incredibly intelligent, articulate, bold and witty character that practically steals the story. Tristan is one of those characters that you do not easily forget. He is younger than Michael by about ten years, yet he holds his own and then some. In Michael we get a very sympathetic, easy-going and confident character that on the surface appears to be uncomplicated. But, as the story progresses we discover that there is much more to Michael than meets the eye. I think the best part of the story for me was the dynamic between Tristan and Michael throughout the book. The very first scene in the Borders bookstore where Michael crashes Tristan’s “get-laid” party has to be one of the most intelligent, incredibly clever, thoroughly entertaining, funny, and verbally sexually charged exchanges between two characters that I have read in a long, long time. The scene is one of my favourites in the book.

Tristan and Michael do get together and when they do – look out! The sex in this book sizzles and scorches. Maxfield carries this urbane sophistication into the bedroom. What I found to be a breath of fresh air was Tristan’s outright ownership of his sexuality. Even though he has no previous experience in being with a man and essentially comes out to, and with, the first man he sleeps with – Michael, we don’t get this angst-ridden, hand-wringing that one usually has come to expect of these circumstances in gay romance. What we do get is an incredible level of maturity in Tristan’s exploration and acceptance of his sexuality. Equally, Maxfield does not succumb to the usual m/m stereotypes of tops and bottoms, alphas, betas or twinks, or the fall-back of the oft used pederast relationship scenario of the older man and the younger boy-man. There are no labels, borders or fences imposed upon Michael and Tristan’s sexual and indeed overall relationship in this respect. Sometimes it’s Tristan who takes the lead in aspects of the relationship and sometimes it’s Michael.

There is angst though and it comes in the form of Tristan’s turmoil surrounding: “Am I too young to be this in love? Can I handle loving a cop and all the while worry that he’s going to get hurt or killed in the line of duty? Do I even want to be in a relationship where this can happen? Is this it? Is Michael the only man I will ever be with, will ever love? Am I ready for this?” It also comes in the form of Michael’s: “I am so much in love, I’m terrified that I’m going to get burned.” The metal in Tristan and Michael’s relationship is tested in this story and yes, through some not so happy and even scary events, but in the end there is a happily ever after.

Although many have, I wouldn’t characterize Crossing Borders as a coming of age story because frankly speaking Tristan is an old soul. What I would call it is a thoroughly refreshing and delightful read that sets the bar high and left me with a huge smile on my face and really good feeling inside.

I’ll be exhausted at work today because of a lack of sleep, but it was oh so worth it.

Crossing Borders by Z.A. Maxfield is available at Loose Id.

Music: Concerto for Two Violins in D Minor – J.S. Bach

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