Stones in the Road, by NIck Wilgus

Title: Stones in the Road

Series: Shake the Sugar Tree, Book 2

Author: Nick Wilgus

Length: 350 Pages (Novel)

Publisher: Dreamspinner Press

 When his snobbish future in-laws travel all the way from Boston to visit, wise-cracking Southerner Wiley Cantrell learns that gay marriage is not without its disadvantages. Occupied by concerns over the health of his special needs son Noah, a meth baby who was not expected to live and who is now on the cusp of puberty, the antics of Wiley's outrageous would-be mother-in-law and severely conservative father-in-law strain his relationship with Jackson Ledbetter, a pediatric nurse who poses problems of his own. As their respective families meet and greet, each just as meddlesome and inflexible as the other, North meets South and the fireworks and cultural misunderstandings are plenty.

A tornado blows through the small Mississippi town where Wiley's mother lives, wrecking his mother's house and leaving their lives in disarray. Then Jackson's secret drug addiction comes to light, and Wiley and Noah are devastated. With so many stones in the road, Wiley and Jackson find their dream of becoming a real family falling apart. Though Wiley relies on humor to cope, he'll need something more to keep his happily ever after from slipping away.

 Stones in the Road, by Nick Wilgus, is the second installment of the Sugar Tree Series. First things first…I loved this book. I went through so many emotions reading this story. Mostly, I laughed, but there were quite a few moments that I sat with my mouth hanging open or tears running down my face. Being the second book into the series I was already familiar with the author’s writing style and that allowed me to fall right in and just absorb everything that was happening.

I would definitely encourage you to read the first book, Shaking the Sugar Tree, first because there is so much relevant history and information you need. We have already embraced Wiley, Noah, and Jackson, and fell in love with them. Now, we get the opportunity to meet Jackson’s parents and WOW…is this a crazy ride.

Here is where the first of my emotions started to show. I was appalled, I was fit to be tied, and I was ready to open a can of whoop ass. All of those emotions because of one woman, Jackson’s mother. Bill, Wiley’s brother, is a piece of cake compared to this woman. What I didn’t expect, however, was by the end of the book, I really, really liked this woman. I know… it’s crazy.

Wiley has to deal with so many problems. He seems to never catch a break, but really, its life. One of the many things I love about this series is I can relate to so many things.
It’s real life situations that happen and real life bumps in the road that most encounter at some point. Unfortunately, for Wiley and Noah, they seem to have more than their share of ups and downs.

Now that the future in-laws have perched themselves into the middle of Wiley and Jackson’s life, for the next month, Wiley will be lucky if he makes it through. He’s basically blind-sided about everything in Jackson’s past. Seeing as Jackson has kept a lot of stuff from him, and I mean a lot, his mother feels the need to fill Wiley in on all of it. If that wasn’t enough to deal with, Wiley also has the DHS breathing down his neck about Noah and his well-being.

 Wiley has no filter on what he says or does. He is who he is, like it or be on your way. Sometimes he is joking and sometimes he’s not. I was kind of caught off guard in the first book with Wiley’s personality. With this book, I felt I had a pretty good handle on it and could read him much better. Wiley tries to be on his best behavior toward Jackson’s mother but it’s really hard because she doesn’t seem to have a filter either. And they butt heads, all of them, all the time.

   Mrs. Ledbetter looked at me sharply, offering an uncertain smile. “When you don’t know where you’re going, Willis, any road will take you there.”
     “Are you suggesting my life has no direction?” I asked.
     “So you’re not completely stupid,” she said, peering above her menu. “But don’t worry. If jellyfish can survive for six hundred and fifty million years without brains, I’m sure you’ll do just fine.”

And then Wiley comes back with this and I literally was laughing aloud and cheering him on.

     “You know,” I said, “there is one aspect about conservative Christianity that I quite agree with. A woman, according to St. Paul in the Bible, is supposed to keep her mouth shut. Unless, of course, a man needs somewhere to put his dick.”

The author’s originality and creativity is brilliant and pulls the reader right into the guts of the story. You will be connected to these characters. You care what happens to them and what obstacles they have to overcome. They could easily be your next door neighbor, or your own long lost relative. Nick Wilgus doesn’t hold anything back and it is very refreshing. It doesn’t matter if it’s politics, religion, or sexuality. Nothing is left out and everything is subject to conversation, or ridicule.

At its core, this is a love story. But, it’s not the conventional kind that you may expect. It’s love between a father and his son, and as a parent, you do whatever you have too to provide the best you can. Noah is the constant denominator that binds everyone together, or in some cases, apart. Noah may be deaf but he knows with his heart when something is wrong. He’s scared to death of losing the people he loves, specifically his daddy. It broke my heart when he has to face the consequences of Jackson’s mistakes because he takes on so much blame to be such a little guy. He has a lot of hurdles to get over but I have no doubt that with the people he has on his side that he will make it and be that much stronger.

Jackson also has a lot of healing and recovery to go through. He’s made mistakes, he has kept secrets, and he has done the most damaging thing he could ever have done to wreck his trust and relationship with Wiley. When faced with the aftermath of his actions, he knows what he has to do to start rebuilding what he broke.

And Wiley, what an amazing character he is. If he can finally forgive himself for things that were out of his control he may start to really see things in a different light. If he can trust in the love that he has for Jackson and for his son that will take him a long way towards redemption.

The author’s ingenuity and resourcefulness with storytelling is brilliant. He has developed characters with vitality and has given them strong personalities that complement each other. Well…some of them. This story has a lot of funny moments but it also has heartbreaking moments that left me crying or more than one occasion. But, it’s not all heartbreaking, trust me.

 You will find yourself smiling from ear to ear, and laughing loud enough that people around you want to know what is so funny. I highly recommend this to everyone. There is humor, suspense, angst, and love. So much love. And if for no other reason you must meet The Ledbetter’s.  I can’t wait to see what happens next in Book 3.

* I received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review through *