The setting is modern-day Salem, Massachusetts the New England coastal town famous for its witch trials of 1692. For centuries Salem has been trying to erase the horrible images of its past of witch hunting and twenty-first century Salem is nothing like the town immortalized in Arthur Miller’s “Crucible.” In a complete turnaround, the town began welcoming all witches, and today, one in four Salem residents either claims to be, or to know, a witch. There are other beings that have also made Salem their home – demons, angels, vampires and were creatures. Most of Salem’s residents both earthly and otherworldly try to live as peaceably as possible with one another. But dark forces hover and they are not always found amongst the seemingly obvious.
Teddy has worked on the Lawson ranch and sheep farm going on four years now, since the age of sixteen. Roy is the ranch foreman and quite a despicable man who abuses Teddy. For all of his twenty years on this earth, Teddy hasn’t had an easy life and doesn’t ask for much. Teddy feels that all things considered, his life could have been worse and at least he has a job and isn’t alone. One stormy night, Roy sends Teddy to the airport to pick-up the new ranch hand – Marco Belini. Marco becomes Teddy’s bunk-mate, and in getting to know him, Teddy finds a kindred spirit when it comes to gentling horses. In Marco, he also finds a friend and eventually a lover.
Josh Kemsley is mourning the death of his partner Sam. He goes to work, but doesn’t really speak to anyone about how he feels. Sam was his and even in death he doesn’t want to share him with anyone. No one really knows what to say to Josh anyway. After all, it wasn’t like losing a wife. Was it? The cell phone no longer buzzes with messages. There are no more soggy Post-It Notes in his tuna fish sandwich or emailed exploding balloons on his computer screen. Josh embraces the cold numbness that has enveloped him. He prays to the Snow Queen for snow and his prayers are answered. While walking in Regent’s Park the morning of London’s first snowfall, Josh meets Sean and his young daughter Bess. Josh and Sean get acquainted over a warming cup of coffee at the park’s café, later meet for drinks and then arrange a date for dinner. Although both Josh and Sean are in different places in their respective lives, they are both reticent to walk back into life’s fire.
Desert Sons by author Mark Kendrick traces the evolution of the relationship between Scott Faraday and Ryan St. Charles all the while exploring a gamut of realities and experiences, both good and bad, that gay adolescence faces in contemporary America: the fear of coming out and the reaction of family and friends; feelings of insecurity and alienation; the issue of suicide; the thrill of first-time sex and the coming into one’s own sexuality; the utter elation and euphoria of first love and the inevitable confusion of emotions that a love relationship brings with it.
Scott Faraday is sixteen and lives with his parents in Yucca Valley, California, where he attends high school and works part time at his family’s restaurant. His two passions in life are rappelling (rock climbing with extreme descent) and music. He rappels every chance he gets and is the sound man and sometimes lyricist and flute player for a local rock band – Centauri. Scott is gay and out only to his mom and aunt. Being gay is not an issue for him although he is cautious about whom he tells what with living in a small town and having to deal with small town minds. He wishes he were out to, and closer with, his dad and that his dad understood his need to study music and not business. Despite this, Scott’s life is pretty good, but it would be perfect if he could have sex and find himself a boyfriend.
Ryan St. Charles is a brash seventeen year old that has seen his share of life’s darker side. Both his parents died when he was ten and he and his younger brother Chris went to live with their grandmother in northern California. Ryan had a very difficult childhood and an equally troubled adolescence. He has many secrets. At sixteen, he became involved in an unhealthy relationship with an older man, even though he considers himself straight. Ryan has attempted suicide on several occasions. His latest attempt resulted in a totalled car and landed Ryan in the hospital. Not knowing what more to do, Ryan’s grandmother sends him to live with his uncle in Yucca Valley.
Scott and Ryan meet at Scott’s family restaurant and form a tentative friendship. Ryan is moody and abrasive, completely opposite Scott’s easygoing and friendly nature. Scott can’t quite figure Ryan out. As their friendship develops, Scott begins to suspect that Ryan might be hiding that he’s gay. Scott is sure Ryan has no idea that Scott is gay, so he comes out to him. Scott’s coming out to Ryan completely transforms their friendship into their first real love relationship. But Ryan’s hidden past eventually catches up with them. Scott is not at all prepared to deal with Ryan’s past and issues. Nonetheless, Scott stands by Ryan, and despite their differences, he learns more about himself and relationships he ever thought possible. Ryan in turn slowly begins to trust again and to believe that maybe, just maybe happiness is possible in his life. And over the course of a summer Scott and Ryan are forever changed.
Mr. Kendrick continues Scott and Ryan’s story in the sequel Into This World We’re Thrown. No title is more befitting this sequel because in it both Scott and Ryan are thrust headlong into the world, into life. In Dessert Sons the boys spend almost all of their summer alone together as they explore each other and their relationship. They are very much cocooned in their own world. In the sequel their relationship becomes more public, there are lingering tensions as a result of their coming out, new challenges to face and some very difficult obstacles to overcome.
It’s Scott’s senior year of high school. His father is having difficulty accepting Scott is gay and continues to pressure him to study business in college. But all Scott can think about is being with Ryan, his love of music and the fact that his band may be breaking-up. To make matters worse the older man from Ryan’s past resurfaces in his life. But when Ryan’s grandmother dies it sends him spiralling into deep depression and he begins to question everything, including his relationship with Scott. At the same time that Scott is trying to deal with the possibility that his relationship with Ryan may be over, he learns of a very determined secret admirer at school who inevitably gets his attention and turns Scott’s head.
Where Desert Sons is focused on the coming together of Scott and Ryan as friends and then as lovers and the difficult process of their coming out, Into This World We’re Thrown more deeply tackles the stuff of real life, love and relationships that Scott and Ryan face as a result of their particular circumstances – depression, suicide, jealousy, infidelity, anger, resentment, hurt, faith, hope, commitment and love.