Title: The Parable of the Mustard Seed
Author: Lisa Henry
Release Date: 3 April 2020
Heat Level: 3 – Some Sex
Length: 79 000 words
The past never stays buried forever.
John Faimu is an Australian-Samoan police officer who deals with hurt kids every day. He loves what he does, but he’s tired of the grind of shift work, and of trying to find a balance between his job, his family, and the young man who straddles the increasingly blurry line between both.
Caleb Fletcher was the teenager John saved from a cult eight long years ago, and he’s now the young man John wants in ways that neither of them should risk.
Eight years after his rescue, Caleb is still struggling with PTSD and self-harm. John has always been his rock, but now Caleb wants more. Can he convince John to cross a line and love him the way they both crave? And when the monsters from Caleb’s past come back seeking to silence him for good, will John’s love be enough to save him?
The Parable of the Mustard Seed is an mm gay romance featuring hurt/comfort, first times, found family, and angst with a happy ending.
John scrubbed his knuckles over his scalp. He felt more tired now than he had for a long time, and it wasn’t just the shift work. It was Caleb, and this place, and the knowledge that they’d been here before and they would be here again. Different hospitals, different beds, different scratchy blankets and too-cold air conditioning, but all of them stuck in the same old cycle.
Eight years of this.
It wasn’t always this dramatic. Most of the time it didn’t end in a hospital. Most of the time it was increasingly erratic behaviour. It was risk-taking. It was subtle and pervasive, but John knew how to read the signs. He’d talked Caleb down from plenty of metaphorical high places before. Enough to wonder every time if he was only delaying the inevitable. If Darren was, and the psychiatrists and psychologists were, and the pharmacists.
Of course it felt hopeless. It was almost three in the morning and he was sitting in a fucking hospital. Shit always felt dire in the middle of the night.
John reached out and brushed his fingertips against the back of Caleb’s right hand. His skin was cold to the touch, his fingers white and bloodless. Several of his knuckles were grazed. The wounds weren’t fresh.
Darren had said last week that Caleb had punched a wall. Out of nowhere. No warnings signs, no meltdown, just a sudden, furious burst of anger that had broken over him. And afterward, Darren said, when Caleb was sitting on the floor nursing an icepack, he’d refused to talk about it.
Sometimes even Caleb didn’t know what the fuck was happening in his head.
John’s fingertips brushed the wrinkled edge of the tape that held the canula in the back of Caleb’s hand. The plastic tape was dry and rough.
“I bleed and you’re here.”
John straightened and turned his face toward Caleb’s. His face was pale, his lips colourless. Dark circles carved out hollows under his eyes.
“Your dad called me,” John said. “He’s on his way.”
Caleb’s gaze dropped away.
John leaned closer and frowned. “What the fuck are you doing, mate?”
“Bad night.” Caleb pressed his lips into a thin white line.
“Were you clubbing?” John gestured at his clothes: dark jeans, a tight shirt, and—what were the kids calling them these days?—expensive kicks.
Caleb inspected the bandages on his arm. “Yeah.”
“Don’t bullshit me, Caleb.” John was always there to pick up the pieces, but he didn’t coddle Caleb. He never had, not even at the start. “You think I drove all the way here to listen to you lie to me?”
“I was with a guy.” Caleb flinched as he said it.
“Were you safe?”
Caleb’s gaze faltered. “I was with a guy.”
“So you said.” John wondered what reaction Caleb had been expecting. “Were you safe?”
Caleb nodded, turning his face away.
John studied him for a moment, unsure how to react. A part of him was afraid to react at all in case any reaction was an overreaction. Caleb wasn’t coming out as gay—he’d done that at nineteen—but by admitting to a sexual encounter he was coming out in another way: Caleb was coming out as human being who wanted to be touched. A human being with sexual needs. This was a big step. The biggest in a long time. Nobody had expected him to remain celibate forever; nobody thought that was remotely healthy. But fuck, this big step had turned into a hell of a stumble, hadn’t it? Caleb was in freefall.
John reached out and squeezed Caleb’s shoulder. “Did this guy try something? Something you didn’t want to do?”
“No.” Caleb shifted. His worried gaze found John again. “No, it was me, not him.”
“We went to a hotel.” Caleb’s gaze slipped away again. “He said I was a slut.” His voice hitched. “Said I was bad.”
John moved his hand from Caleb’s shoulder to his cheek. Caleb was still so cold. “If you tell me he was being a prick, I’ll track the fucker down.”
“The way he said it, I was supposed to like it. Wasn’t his fault.” Caleb closed his eyes. “I didn’t even mind, not much, not when he was there.”
John sighed. “What happened when he left?”
Caleb shuddered. “When he left, all I could hear in my head was Ethan.”
John tensed, and tried not to let Caleb feel it.
“So loud,” Caleb sighed.
John withdrew his hand. “Look at me.”
Caleb opened his eyes.
“Next time you hear Ethan Gray in your head, you don’t listen to him.” John shook his head. “You call you dad, or your doctor, or you call me, doesn’t matter what time, you call me and I will be there. You understand me?”
Caleb jerked his chin in a nod.
“You don’t cut yourself, Caleb.” John frowned. “You understand me?”
“Okay,” Caleb murmured.
The worst part, John knew, was that Caleb meant it, and would go on meaning it right up until the next time he was holding a blade against his wrists.
You’ll break my heart one day, Caleb Fletcher, I know you will.
John forced a smile. “Okay.”
Caleb sighed and closed his eyes.
John watched him until he fell asleep, then got up and hunted down a blanket.
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”People would get it, if he’d lost a limb or something. But when it’s mental health, they think it’s imaginary, or something he should just get over. But it can still be bad, you know.”
“But the point is, when you love someone like that, they’re not difficult, or a burden, or you don’t deserve brownie points for treating them how you’d like to be treated. You love ‘em and you count your blessings, and that’s it.”
I considered this book taking on difficult issue, yet somehow Lisa Henry delivers it in a way that wasn’t too tummy-twisted (for me) to read. Something I thought as Henry’s specialty ever since I read her book “The Island” years ago.
THE PARABLE OF THE MUSTARD SEED is a heartbreaking and emotionally stirring age-gap, slow-burn, hurt/comfort romance with a twist of (unsolved) murder mystery set in contemporary Australia. It is told from sole POV of John Faimu in flashbacks and present time. John was a Senior Constable with Child Protection unit who saved bloodied and broken Caleb – née Jason – Fletcher from a cult a few years ago. Years nourished the attachment John and Caleb felt toward each other, though John’s conscience held him from acknowledging it.
John portrayed a heroic character with a bit of martyr complex and Caleb the forever scarred young man. I felt so helpless reading this book; feeling for Caleb and the traumatic ordeal he experienced, John’s dilemma with his feeling and his friendship with Darren, Caleb’s father. It was all recipe for disaster that bound to hurt someone. Other than John and Caleb, I loved most of the protagonists, such as John’s partner Liz, Darren, John’s family (well, most of them anyway) and colleagues. The dynamics of their back and forth were a balm to the (often more) depressing exchange from John and Caleb. Naturally, I despised the heck out of the antagonists – for the brief appearance (and mentioning) they had in the story. Altogether this made an empathically real piece and some of the disturbing story that was hard to swallow. My regret was the way the mystery solved mostly through telling (instead of showing) and the issue with John’s teenage sibling (I guess I had no patience for sulkiness nowadays). But all in all it’s a rather well written and harrowing drama. Just pay close attention to the CW and think if (the book) is up your alley.
Copy of this book is kindly given by the author in exchange for an honest review.
Meet the Author
Lisa likes to tell stories, mostly with hot guys and happily ever afters.
Lisa lives in tropical North Queensland, Australia. She doesn’t know why, because she hates the heat, but she suspects she’s too lazy to move. She spends half her time slaving away as a government minion, and the other half plotting her escape.
She attended university at sixteen, not because she was a child prodigy or anything, but because of a mix-up between international school systems early in life. She studied History and English, neither of them very thoroughly.
She shares her house with too many cats, a dog, a green tree frog that swims in the toilet, and as many possums as can break in every night. This is not how she imagined life as a grown-up.
Lisa has been published since 2012, and was a LAMBDA finalist for her quirky, awkward coming-of-age romance Adulting 101, and a Rainbow Awards finalist for 2019’s Anhaga.