Reviewed by: Ulysses Dietz
Member of The Paranormal Guild Review Team
Cowboys are not normally my thing. I’m a city boy, and East Coast through-and-through. But I have some deep roots in the west, and specifically in the country where A Soft Place to Fall takes place. BA Tortuga knows it well, obviously. The land around Taos and Santa Fe is an important character in this novel; it sets the tone and provides the backdrop for this romantic drama in which there are only two other important characters.
Stetson Major is a cowboy tied to the land. Curtis Traynor is a cowboy tied to the rodeo circuit. Neither of them is thirty yet, but they’ve been on their own since they were eighteen. Their different natures and stubbornness drove them apart when they were still barely adults, but it’s their love – a love that never faded – that draws Curtis back to Taos.
A Soft Place to Fall seems to focus on the horror of losing a parent to early-onset Alzheimer’s disease, and for sure the rapid final decline of Betty Major is an awful thing. But, the real story hinges on the telephone call that Stetson makes to Curtis, pushed to the edge of despair, after eight years of silence. Curtis answers that call and says ‘yes’ when Stetson asks him to come see Betty in the hospital.
Curtis is a national rodeo celebrity, bruised and battered from eight years on the circuit. He is literally homeless, living out of hotels as he pursues his dream. Stetson is a quiet local hero, overwhelmed by debt and horror at his fierce widowed mother’s illness. He is trapped by his family’s land, which he still loves almost as much as he loves his horses, and all the other creatures that look to him for survival.
What follows is a surprisingly low-key pas-de-deux, as Curtis and Stetson rekindle the relationship that seemed impossible when they were younger. There is not a great deal of trauma beyond Betty Stetson’s failing health; it is all about the quiet awakening of a deep understanding that binds these two young men together.
If you think that sounds dull, you’d be wrong. Tortuga’s writing is wry and filled with local dialect. It is tender and poignant, digging into both men’s minds until we understand what makes them tick, together and apart.
A Soft Place to Fall is all about people unfamiliar to me and a place I know only at a distance; but it drew me in and kept me rapt until the very last page.