Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Hidden Truths by Jae

Book:  Hidden Truths
Author:  Jae
Publisher: L-Book ePublisher

Every one of us has experienced insight that has altered some prior perception.

For instance, pleasure and happiness may very well result from the organic satisfaction that often accompanies base knowledge. Conversely, angst and fear may then result from a disturbing realization:  If what I once believed to be true now proves false, then it stands that other beliefs may prove to be false as well. It follows, therefore, that if this new insight involves self-understanding, then accepting the new information would obviously entail altering self-perception.

Sis boom bang!
Kind of like what happens when you cross the hot wire with the neutral…

Every day, we are flooded with information that challenges our self-image, and in an effort to avoid damaging it, we often deceive others and ourselves.

Consider, for just a moment, some of the great characters in literature who have practiced self-deception, along with various forms of external deception, as a means of maintaining some sort of tenuous control.

Jean-Baptiste, the main character in Camus’ The Fall, serves as one example of an individual practicing self-deception. The story describes Jean-Baptiste’s confession to a man in a bar, and throughout, he emphasizes his extraordinary ability to forget: “To be sure, I knew my failings and regretted them. Yet I continued to forget them with a rather meritorious obstinacy."

In Melville’s novella, Billy Budd, Sailor, the simple story of a conflict between shipmates plays a subservient role to the discussion of self-deception. At the center of this discussion is Captain Edward Vere.  There is a constant struggle between Vere’s morality, and the naval laws he must uphold as captain. In deceiving himself, Vere is able to justify his actions and resolve the struggle.

And in an act of ultimate deception, Billy Budd, Sailor has come to be known as Billy Budd, Foretopman in certain spurious literary circles, and you know who you are...

1st Edition
Paperback Cover
Vonnegut begins Mother Night with a moral to the tale: “We are what we pretend to be, so we must be careful about what we pretend to be."  His characterization of Howard Campbell, a well-known American born playwright living in Germany during the Nazi's ascent to power, illustrates a classic account of self-deception. Campbell relays secret messages to Allied Forces, but because they are embedded in enemy propaganda and delivered so persuasively, he inspires the Nazis.  In the end, the reader is left asking: “Whom is Campbell really helping?” The answer to that question portends the very question of identity:

Will the real Howard Campbell come on down?

In late 2007, author Jae released Backwards to Oregon, the award-winning tale of Luke Hamilton, a woman living as a man, and Nora Macauley, a young mother escaping the brothels of Independence, who undertake a two thousand mile journey along the Oregon trail and into a life of love and mutual acceptance they never dreamed they could have.  Hidden Truths, the much-awaited sequel, finds Luke, Nora, and their two daughters, Amy and Nattie, living on a thriving horse ranch seventeen years later. 

Luke, his foreman Phin, and another ranch hand head off to Fort Boise to deliver horses to the U.S. Cavalry.  Luke has left oldest daughter, Amy behind and in charge of the ranch.  Amy is young, tough, and female, qualities that do not sit well with one of the ranch hands. In fact, only three people know that Luke is a woman, and that short list does not include either of her two daughters. Amy takes after Luke in so many ways, and feels a driving compulsion to prove her ranch management skills worthy of Luke's trust.  As the men and the horses head off to Fort Boise, Hendrika (Rika) Aaldenberg, posing as Phin’s mail order bride, arrives in Oregon.  Her recently deceased friend, Jo Bruggeman, was really Phin’s paramour, and Hendrika took her place, hoping only for a chance at a better life. 

Things immediately heat up; Amy begins fighting feelings for Hendrika, Luke and the boys encounter Indians and demented Cavalry men, the angry ranch hand takes justice into his grimy paws, and Nora’s old friend Tess and her confounding cousin show up. Rika proves herself worthy of needed ranch chores, and begins to see Amy in a different light.  However, Amy is twisted and torn for her feelings for women, and this torment causes Luke and Nora to consider risking their home and their lives to give Amy the chance at happiness. Along the way, secrets are exposed, trust is earned, and honesty changes the lives of everyone at the Hamilton Ranch.

The author Jae chose an apropos title for this long awaited sequel to Backwards to Oregon, since every character is hiding something that could destroy them and the people they love.  Luke is hiding that she’s a woman, and Nora is hiding that she worked in a brothel.  Luke and Nora are hiding that Amy and Nattie are not the product of their marriage.  Amy is hiding her feelings for women, and Rika is hiding her true identity.  Phin and Nattie are furtively falling in love.  Tess and Frankie aren’t really kissing cousins.

And, I honestly suspect that Hunter the Dog secretly has a taste for chicken Carpaccio.

Jae is a strong writer, with a special talent for telling an epic tale.  Her characters exhibit depth, personality, and individuality.  They are both strong and honestly flawed, and the big bad always gets his comeuppance in the end.  Her story telling is sound and well conceived, and her books are hard to put down.  In Hidden Truths, she has excelled at telling a complicated story of interwoven secrets, in which the exposure of any one of them threatens to bring the walls tumbling down on everyone.  This takes exceptional vision, planning, and patience; and is a skill lacking in a great number of lesfic writers.

I appreciate the careful thought that went into making the reader believe that Luke Hamilton is a man, husband, and father.  At times, it is almost disconcerting to see Luke living in both worlds as a man and a woman, and this mental juxtaposition fits perfectly with the feelings the daughters and Rika experience and come to terms with as they learn the secrets Luke and Nora have been hiding for almost twenty years.   Jae constructed this tricky element of the story with grace and compassion.

Hidden Truths is an entertaining and engaging story, even though a few elements of the construction took a hard left turn into the land of questionable necessity and plausibility.  Namely, the clichéd coincidence that Rika’s evil boss in Boston is Nora’s long lost brother, which adds nothing to the overall story; and that Baker Prairie should henceforth be dubbed by The Michelin Guide as The Lesbian Mecca of the West, especially since Bernice, Hannah, and Nattie are the only women in town that weren’t card carrying Lesbyterians by 1871.

Minor flaws aside, Hidden Truths is a fun read and a worthy follow up to big sister, Backwards to Oregon.  Jae’s characters have a way of tunneling deep inside the reader and setting up residence.  I’m giving this historical lesbian tale of sex, lies, and saddle soap a solid 4.9 out of 6 on the Rainbow Scale. 


  1. Now the Rainbow Reader is not only entertaining but educational and credit worthy. Do you offer CEU's? that would really help.
    Jae's a wonderful and prolific writer as well as a terrific writer's resource. It's always nice to see such a thorough review of a real epic romance. Especially in the Old West. Kudos.

  2. Barrett, thanks for stopping by. I had fun putting on my literary beanie cap and looking at some of my favorite books as I "considered" the ideas Jae was examining in her story. It was a blast. I just hope I did the topic justice! I've had quite a few emails from girls who wanted to grow up to be cowboys, so this book has definately found a happy and satisfied following.