Title: How to Raise an Honest Rabbit (a Knitting novella)
Author: Amy Lane
Length: 45,277 words
Genre: m/m Contemporary Romance
Heat: 3 – Sexy & Mild
Sex Frequency: 2 – Few and Far Between
Keywords/Tags: Knitting, Con Men, Mafia, First Times
Rating: Loved It!
Everything about Jeremy has always been a lie—including his last name. When one grift too many ends in tragedy, Jeremy goes straight. But life’s hard for an ex-con, and Jeremy is down to panhandling and hope when Rance Crawford offers him work at a tiny alpaca farm and fiber mill. Jeremy takes him up on the job, thinking this could be his last chance to be a good man, and meets Aiden, who is growing into a better one. As Aiden comes of age, Jeremy finds himself desperate to grow up, too, because Aiden starts looking to him for things Jeremy doesn’t know how to give. Being honest is terrifying for a man who’s learned to rabbit at the first sign of conflict—more so when Aiden gives Jeremy a reason to stay that can’t be packed up and carried in a knapsack. When Jeremy’s past comes knocking at their door, can Jeremy trust enough in Aiden and his new home to answer bravely back?
If I had my way, Amy would keep writing this series FOREVER. I’m not kidding, sexy men who knit + Amy Lane’s writing sans angst = the best thing ever and totally meant just for me. That’s how I feel. I love this series because if you ask me, not nearly enough people knit, especially men. Reading about them, therefore, is like a fantasy come true. And I love these men. The first story, The Winter Courtship Rituals of Fur-Bearing Critters has always been one of my favorites of Amy’s shorts, but this sequel, where we get to know a lot more about Jeremy and Aiden though we met them in that first story, far surpasses it, In my opinion. I think because there’s a real history at play here and Jeremy is such a compelling character. I love him and seeing him really work for the life he wants to live and the relationship that he finally decides he deserves and can handle is really rewarding. Of course, Aiden is special in his own way as well.
All we knew about Jeremy from the first story was that Crawford had found him on the streets and offered him a job, and that he used to be a con man. There are two things in particular that make this story special, and they go hand in hand. First, Jeremy’s voice is (as I talked to Laura the other day) very Steinbeck-ian in diction and phrasing. He has a unique voice that shows his rather colorful past, yet neglected childhood and it really just made me want to cuddle him. Second, he spends the first third of the story, roughly, taking us back in time and giving his life story. It gives us quite a bit of time to see the backstory, not only of Jeremy’s childhood, but also of the history of the wool mill and the other characters. In a way it feels like a prequel, and that allows us to see much of what we witnessed in the first story (the relationship between Craw and Ben) through other, fresh eyes.
The heart of the story is really about Jeremy and his evolution into a productive member of society. Raised as a chameleon by his father with the only reputable goal money and winning, he has an ingrained and slightly skewed perception of the world around him. Getting put in jail after a rather close and terrible incident when he was younger sorted him out some, but the real work comes once he has a chance to prove himself. He has to hold a job, make money, and learn to be responsible to others. But, shedding his past is very difficult, no matter how much support he has in terms of his new family and Aidan, who represents everything good and pure in the world that Jer is afraid to touch in case he sullies it. Yet, like the yarn they cultivate, spin, dye and knit, each member of the motley family offers security and a slow-paced reassurance to Jeremy that allows him to take baby steps. This character progression is really what makes this book so wonderful. The story is full of little details that represent the big issues, showing Jeremy in a very clear light that in itself is poignant.
Everyone (it seems) knows about my aversion to angst, no matter how much I try to get through some books. And I admit freely that many of Amy’s books scare the fuckin daylights out of me, just because I hate putting myself through some of the shit she inflicts on her characters. But when he writes a sweet story, I am so there. The addition of knitting and yarn production (which I actually know a lot about, strangely) only made this book in particular totally wonderful to me. I absolutely cannot wait for the next story, Knitter in His Natural Habitat.