“The only difference between saints and sinners is that every saint has a past while every sinner has a future.” – Oscar Wilde
Title: Between Sinners and Saints
Author: Marie Sexton
Publisher: Amber Allure
Pages/Word Count: 282 Pages
Rating: 4.5 Stars
Blurb: Levi Binder is a Miami bartender who cares about only two things: sex and surfing. Ostracized by his Mormon family for his homosexuality, Levi is determined to live his life his own way, but everything changes when he meets massage therapist Jaime Marshall.
Jaime is used to being alone. Haunted by the horrors of his past, his only friend is his faithful dog, Dolly. He has no idea how to handle somebody as gorgeous and vibrant as Levi.
Complete opposites on the surface, Levi and Jaime both long for something that they can only find together. Through love and the therapeutic power of touch, they’ll find a way to heal each other, and they’ll learn to live as sinners in a family of saints.
Review: Man, I keep falling more in love with Marie Sexton all the time. Er… her books, I mean. ;) Having previously read, and loved, Promises, Family Man (co-written with Heidi Cullinan), and then most recently, Release (written as A.M. Sexton), I was eager to read more of her work. So, when Between Sinners and Saints was suggested to me, I jumped on it.
I truly loved this story. First of all, it was so different from anything I had previously read. I haven’t read many stories with such a strong religious component – especially where complete rebellion against the faith wasn’t involved – and I found I really enjoyed it. The religious aspects may have been tedious for some, but that was not the case for me. I definitely enjoyed how strong the family’s faith was, and how much of that faith Levi retained in spite of how betrayed he felt by his family and the church. It was wonderful to see how much he appreciated his upbringing in the church, and actually missed it, rather than becoming one of those bitter ‘former Mormons’ or ‘reformed Catholics’ we all hear about.
Levi…I looooved Levi. He is such a good person, which shows in basically all of his thoughts and actions; he is definitely a natural caretaker. In spite of his promiscuous behavior at the club where he works, he really is very pure of heart. He has so much love for his family, and never completely gives up on them, even though they let him down time and time again with their inflexibility and failure to stand by him. And he completely falls in love with Jaime before he even knows what hit him.
Jaime – so sweet, and broken, but much stronger than he realizes. As the blurb suggests, Jaime lived through an unimaginable ordeal in his childhood, which has kept him from leading a fulfilling life as an adult. He has so much doubt, and fear, and insecurity that when he is alone in his home he is crippled by it all, to the point of not sleeping most nights. But, when he meets Levi that all begins to change. Levi sees Jaime’s strength, and helps bring it out of him. I loved how Levi never questioned anything about being with Jaime, whether it’s letting Jaime sleep over at his place, or surfing lessons, or taking him home to meet his family…he just takes everything in stride.
The scenes with the Binder family are fantastic. The characters are so real, and wonderfully diverse, every scene feels like what a large family get-together should be. Levi is pretty tight with his sister Ruth, and misses the closeness he used to feel with his brothers, but basically just tolerates his younger sister, Rachel. His father is very stoic, and VERY set in the doctrine of the Mormon Church. For him there is no gray area when it comes to discussing Levi’s “lifestyle”, and what the church’s, and therefore the family’s, position is on it. Levi’s mother, on the other hand, is more ready to come to some sort of compromise in order to get her son back.
As the story moves on, in fact, several members of the family start to come around as far as accepting Levi’s homosexuality, and it’s in large part due to Jaime and the positive changes they see in Levi as a result of their relationship. There is a great moment with Rachel, where she gives some statistics of LGBT youth in homeless shelters, followed by a heartfelt plea that she’d rather accept her brother than lose him. I also thought the discussion of ‘levels of sin’ was so interesting – comparing the ‘sin’ of Levi’s lifestyle with some of the sins of the rest of the family, and wondering why it was ok to overlook those sins but not Levi’s. And, there is a scene toward the end of the book involving Levi’s father which will likely move you to tears. So. Good.
Throughout the book, the author weaves in themes of family, acceptance, faith, and overcoming our past. And we also see surfing and massage therapy used throughout, I think, as symbols of release, and renewal. Between Sinners and Saints is beautifully written. I thoroughly enjoyed this one. If you haven’t read it, you should definitely check it out!!
You can buy Between Sinners and Saints here: