Book two in ‘The Barrenmoor Series’ of MM romance stories with a mountain rescue theme.
Liam has set himself a goal. To come out to his best friend, Casper, before his 18th birthday while hiking at Fellborough in the Yorkshire Dales.
Things don’t go according to plan, and when a violent storm hits, the camping trip takes a potentially fatal turn. Local mountaineers, John Hamilton and his husband Gary are called to help, but it soon becomes apparent that the rescue is more than physical. Liam and Casper both have secrets that when known, have the potential break or mend their hearts.
A mix of YA, romance and adventure, ‘The Students of Barrenmoor Ridge’ brings back popular characters from the first Barrenmoor book in a familiar setting with love, mountaineering and the dangers of both.
‘The Mentor of Barrenmoor Ridge’ is the first book in the Barrenmoor Series of MM romances with a mountain rescue theme. ‘The Students’ takes place two years later, and it is better, but not vital, to read the stories in order.
From the series reviews:
“No usual tried tropes here. Great story, natural dialogue, well-developed characters, and unpredictable plot.”
“I loved reading the entire “mentor” series. Such great escapism. I Love the Pacing of the story, the twist and turns, the suspense, conflict, romance. The whole series is wonderful to read.”
4✨s – The Students of Barrenmoor Ridge focuses on Liam and Casper, two teens on the cusp of turning eighteen with a strong friendship, plans for the future but secrets between them. Liam is hoping to use a trip Barrenmoor to share something with his best friend that he’s known for quite a while. Casper’s secret was not something I was expecting and brings a different element to their relationship and feelings at the time.
Things go wrong not long after they set off and tension mounts between them as a storm also rolls in leading to events that end with them being rescued by John and Gary, the main characters from book one who we actually get a couple of chapters from their POV in this book as well. I enjoyed that as we get to see how they’ve moved forward as a couple and individually as well as how they connect with these two lads who they feel a kinship to. I really enjoyed the mentorship that you feel between the older and younger men. Imparting wisdom that they learned for themselves in book one of the series that they can now impart. It’s a real growing moment for all men involved and lovely to read.
Both Liam and Casper are feeling adrift in their emotions at the moment and it takes events that happen throughout the story for them to think, discuss and connect with themselves and each other. Quite often there is a lot left unsaid or cut off of the conversation which became a little frustrating with how often it happened between them with resolution taking such a long time to reach.
There is a good amount going on in this book. We have the relationships between Liam and Casper, John and Gary, and then what they build between them together as well as the drama of getting caught in the storm on Barrenmoor and then an enemy from book one brings his own dose of trouble to the MC’s. A lot to hold your interest and entertained as we move through the events and interactions between everyone. The pacing is good, flowing well without becoming stagnant in the smaller moments. Character and relationship development feels natural even though the story only takes place over a few days.
Again, the writing is beautifully descriptive of the locations vistas that the characters visit. There are such stunning places to visit around England and Jackson really shows that off in this series whilst also bringing awareness to the dangers of extreme weather. Whilst wild and magnificent, it needs to be understood on how to be safe in it.
I actually enjoyed this book slightly more than book one though I still recommend reading them both, especially as it helps you know John and Gary before meeting them in this book. There’s more that happens here, and the thoughts and emotions of the young men keep you on your toes.
Gary was curled up behind him, spooned in with one arm across John’s chest. The bedroom was warm, Gary’s presence warmer, and the pillows were soft. There was no reason sleep shouldn’t come, they were safe from the battering, cocooned in the perfect shelter of each other’s arms, and yet…
The scream of the wind as it charged them from the summit of Lhotse, the vibrations of the ground when an avalanche fell, the hiss of snow stinging the tent, and the mountain’s roar, all sounds he heard through the inconsequential force six doing its best to rattle the house. The bitter bite of memory gnawed at his mind for sure, but the main reason his thoughts leapt from the anesthetising approach of sleep to the worst conditions in the world had nothing to do with the past.
There were people out there now, at Everest, yes, but also on the fells. The team were over at Northpeak and they’d picked a fine night for training, but closer to home, there were hikers and climbers huddled beneath inadequate canvas hoping their pegging was sound and wishing the night would end. Daylight might bring security, but it didn’t guarantee good weather, and it was still hours away. A lot could happen. The storm had worsened to a frightening zenith before the thunder abated slightly, but still he couldn’t sleep. The lessening conditions meant the eye of the storm was overhead, and there would be more, possibly worse, to follow.
He pictured the fell from above, seeing through the agitated clouds to the swamped ground a mile below. Lit by lightning bursts, he imagined it as waves frozen in mid-roll with Fellborough peak a crest and the lower terrain its ripples. Peppered around it were insignificant dots of inappropriate colour, the shop-bought, budget tents of the unwary trembling against the elements.
He had pictured the scene on many nights as he lay listening to the conditions and wating for the MRT radio to spark into life, or for his pager to double-beep the call sign, but tonight he was seeing it more clearly, as if it was unfolding on a widescreen television in high definition. Unaffected by the storm, he floated above it, watching over its potential victims, safe at his altitude and apart. The unhinged tempest beneath blasted from one insane thought to another, swiping at anything in its path, but John was safe, hovering on a warm updraft that dulled him towards the soft paws of sleep.
Until he fell.
Security gone. No handholds, no rope, only the empty space between him and the life-taking certainty of rock.
Gasping, he opened his eyes as his body jerked. The clock glowed one-forty-seven, and Gary had rolled away leaving him exposed and vulnerable. The pager was silent, and John was safe in his bed, but a few miles away, people might be battling for their lives, and all he could do was wait.
The rain no longer stung when it swiped Liam’s face, his flesh was too numb to register the pain. The torch beam was nothing more than a thread through barely penetrable blackness, but it showed him the ground a few steps at a time.
That was all he needed to do, take it slowly using common sense and exercising caution. The tent had been facing west, and he found the way down from the ledge between two large boulders with no trouble. Straight on to the south, he met the path. Over to his left, the lightning was now on the horizon, and the wind was swooping down from the fell on his right. If the storm didn’t change direction, it would keep him on course, and the path, now more like a stream, was marked here and there by cairns. With the wind to one side and the dying lightning to the other, he only needed to keep going downhill until he met the riverbed. If it was flooded, he’d wade straight through to if he had to.
It was his fault that Casper was in trouble. Whatever had made him go out unprotected in the storm, and whatever had happened next didn’t matter. There was nothing that could be done to change that, all that mattered now was finding someone who could save him. Repercussions of a bad decision would come, and Liam would deserve them – unprepared, inexperienced, thinking he knew what he was doing… Why hadn’t he just taken Casper down to the beach at home to tell him? Why drag him halfway up the country and make him climb a hill to ruin their friendship? He could have done that weeks ago had he not been such a ridiculous romantic. There was nothing romantic about destroying their friendship and leaving his best friend shivering to death on…
He yelled at himself to stop. Beating himself up wouldn’t do any good. He had to concentrate on his footing, and pretend he knew what he was doing. Casper needed him to be strong, to be wise, to take only a course of action that would lead to rescue, everything else had to wait.
Not knowing how far he had descended, he stopped and took out his phone. Sheltering it as best he could against his chest, he switched it on only to find no signal and the battery bar now glowing red. The phone back in his pocket, the torch aimed at the path, his head down, he continued.
The rain was easing off, that was a blessing, but the gale roared in his ears, low and booming one moment, high-pitched the next. As uncoordinated as his frozen feet, as wild as the anger he turned in on himself, it would not leave him alone. It taunted and jabbed as it bullied, and in the cacophony, he imagined laughter, spiteful and insulting, but deserved.
Another sound grew closer on a rumbling vibration beneath his feet, and a few paces further, he came to the edge of the riverbed.
Except now there was no bed, only river as thousands of gallons of water teamed from the blackness on his right to vanish back into the night on his left. The torch lit foam spewing around rocks in untamed channels that bubbled wildly and fast across his path. There was no way to judge the depth, and no way of knowing if the rocks that stood above the surface were stable, but equally, there was no time to think about it. Squinting through dripping eyelashes and aiming his light, it was impossible to see how wide it was either, but he knew for certain that there was no way to go up and around. Downhill, it could flow east for miles and take him off his path. The only way was through, and he knew he might not survive.
Jackson has a background of theatre, cabaret and music and yet holds a social policy degree. He was born on the Romney Marshes in Kent, UK, but now lives on a mountainous Greek island. During the 1980s in London he campaigned for gay rights and performed political satire cabaret, writing song and reviews, appearing at Pride events, national venues and on television.
He moved to Greece in 2002 and married his partner there in 2017. He has won awards for his gay erotic writing, and in 2007, won a European-wide award for short stories. In 2017, he won awards for his screenplay writing.
Jackson is the author of ‘The Clearwater Mysteries’, and also writes fiction under the name James Collins.
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