They say a man can always come home. So after doing hard time, Sage Redding heads to his family’s northeast Texas ranch to help his ailing daddy with the cutting horses.Adam (Win) Winchester is a county deputy and the cousin of one of the men killed in the incident that sent Sage to prison for almost a decade. While Win’s uncles, Jim and Teddy, are determined to make Sage and the entire Redding family pay for their loss, Win just figures Sage has paid his dues and maybe needs a friend. Maybe he needs more than a friend. In fact, Win’s counting on it.
No one’s denying Sage is an ex-con who went to prison for manslaughter. Regardless of the love he has for his father, he’s returned knowing things will likely go badly for him. Maybe a man can always come home, but he may not be able to stay.
I ADORE Sage Redding. As his story unfolded over the course of the book, my heart broke for him time and time again and yes, I even cried once or twice. But the tragedies and injustices that Sage deals with makes the happiness he finds with Adam that much more poignant.
The Terms of Release opens with Sage getting a phone call from his momma asking him to come home to Texas because his father needs help on the ranch. We quickly learn that Sage’s reluctance to return to Texas has nothing to do with the parents he loves dearly or the ranch he grew up on, but rather the persecution he will face upon his arrival and it begins immediately upon him stepping off of the bus. Fortunately, Sage has a small but loving support system that has his back and after a brief encounter at the feedstore, he finds an ally in the last place he ever expected – among the family of the man he went to jail for supposedly murdering. Being ex-military, Adam understands that Sage faces a major adjustment when leaving a world in which you answer to someone else about every one of your actions and joining a world in which you don’t. What I really enjoyed about Adam’s behavior toward Sage was that as a police officer, he firmly believed that Sage had paid his debt to society and that he should be allowed to live his life without fear of reprisal from Adam’s Cousin Angel’s family. Even better was that Adam set out to befriend Sage regardless of what his family might say and when he discovered that he was attracted to Sage, he still didn’t let his family’s objections deter him. This turns out to be a really good thing because the relationship between the two is sweet, supportive, and HOT!!!
Ms. Tortuga does a wonderful job of infusing realistic situations into Sage’s plight, both good ones and bad. They not only served to enrich the story, but also gave readers a chance to take the measure of the man and understand that despite his time in prison, Sage is a good man with a good heart. In all actuality, once the details regarding Angel’s death were revealed, I wanted to throttle Angel’s self-righteous father. Talk about a case of being in the wrong place at the wrong time! I found myself just as baffled as Adam with Sage’s seeming acceptance of how his life turned out, while at the same time admiring Sage’s ability to focus on the here and now instead of a past he could not change. Even though life isn’t fair (nor does he lament this fact), Sage discovers who the important people in his life are and who really cares about him when tragedy strikes. The Terms of Release was a wonderfully moving tale and I look forward to reading more of the Ms. Tortuga’s work.