Some minor spoilers and some personal talk ahead, so be warned.
I'm just going to be upfront about this: I have extremely complicated and mixed feelings about this book. I was raised Mormon, so that's always going to color my views and interpretations of characters who are also Mormon. I also have very complicated and mixed feelings when it comes to my church (though not my faith), so that also factors into all this. I'm also extremely tired of the "bigoted religious people" trope that's used way too often in MM. Need a character who hates the gays? Make them ultra conservative religious! *yawn* It's boring, it's cliched, it's annoying. Stop it, writers. Or at least, balance it out with some open-minded conservative religious characters, because you know what? They exist too.
And that is ultimately what this book does. Joe is, in many ways, my alter ego. If I were a deputy and could rock climb. ;) I connected with Joe in a way I've never connected with another character before. It was like, finally, here's a character I can understand inside and out (or very nearly understand, I'll get to that in a minute), who shares my views and my hopes and disappointments with my church, who can be both true to his faith and himself at the same time. Yes, he meets resistance with the bishop, who is not a mustache-twirling villain but who actually thinks he's trying to help Joe in the way the church ordains it. He also meets with support and affirmation. So I liked all that. Actually, I loved all that.
I also liked the murder mystery. It's pretty standard as far as murder mysteries go, but the location makes it unique and you can tell the author either did an extreme amount of research or has lived in the area and participated in rock climbing himself. It's authentic and genuine, and the locales and characters we meet along the way just jump off the page. It's very rare for an author to do that.
Sadly, he lost me with the BDSM. The way it was introduced here just did not work for me at all. Joe basically comes across as an abusive asshole who just happens to have a boyfriend who's into BDSM and that's reason enough to not have a problem with the way Joe treats him. This was also one of the first books I read with BDSM in it, and it was already a genre I wasn't sure I would like. This certainly did not help matters. It made me extremely uncomfortable and I ended up hating this aspect of Joe and I just could not get into the relationship.
So, there it is. I loved so much about this book, but the BDSM ruined it for me. Without that, I would've gobbled up these books in a week and hailed Deputy Joe as the greatest character ever. But since I've been warned the BDSM continues into the following books and gets more graphic still, I will not be continuing this series, as much as it saddens me to say that. It was like finding a long-lost best friend just to wake up and find out it was a dream. :(