I read the author’s recent Christmas story release and found her writing engaging and poignant. It was no hardship to take up this book- cowboys, rodeos, tough road to love? You won’t get a ‘no’ from me. And, that was before I heard Dorian Bane read me a story. I will definitely listen to more books narrated by him. The story, characters, and feel of this story had a strong impact on my emotions. These are real people who live and love, make mistakes, deal with complications, and ultimately find their way. This was a pain-filled coming out story and romance set against the rodeo world. I listened to it in one day. I couldn’t click it off aka unputdownable in the audio world.
The story opens with Marty Fairgrave seeing the man he loves in danger from the bull he is riding and come to the rescue by racing into action on his horse and picking up the bullrider before the bull can hurt him. Marty got busted up as did his horse, but that pain is nothing compared to the pain of seeing Tripp way back in the crowd of onlookers refusing to come to Marty even then. Tripp is so far in the closet and Marty has given him plenty of time to sort things out. Marty loves Tripp, but he can’t continue to be the man’s dirty little secret especially if seeing a lover injured is still not enough for even to make sure Marty is okay. Marty ends it with Tripp and heads back to the home ranch to recover.
Tripp Colby, champion bull rider on the pro circuit, has an image to keep up to keep the good opinion of his sponsors, his friends, and his fans. This image doesn’t include being gay or living openly with the man he loves. He only has to make it a couple more years and then he can be with Marty. But after letting his fear keep him back and letting his lover’s pain-filled eyes fill with betrayal and then knowledge of rejection, he knows he might have just lost the most precious thing in his eyes. Nothing short of stepping out into the open will get Marty back. And he is determined to do so, one painful step at a time.
Alright, so this was an emotional, angsty, yet powerfully engaging story. Normally, I am not one for the angst, but in this one, it was organic to the story. One guy is pained to be treated like he’s not good enough to be with openly and honestly though he loves the other so much and the other guy has been hog-tied by his past and fears and guilt so that he can’t see his way clear until he loses the only good thing in his life. Their road back isn’t easy. Each time I thought they had it all worked out, whoosh, big hairy ugly twist. I gulped back tears at one point. I liked both characters and liked them together. I really pulled hard for them to get their happiness.
The story is told in alternate points of view with Marty getting the lion’s share. Marty is a straight forward, hardworking guy who just wants to do what he loves and be with someone who loves him. He stands firm and talks straight up. I felt he gave Tripp every chance and then some. I enjoyed the scenes with Tripp and with his loyal group of friends.
Tripp is something of a mystery when this story starts. I resisted the urge to smack him in the head for breaking Marty’s heart and not even going to him in the guise of friend. Something told me things weren’t that simple with this one. And lordy how they weren’t. Yes, he needed to untangle things and deal, but man, what he faced when it came to demons wasn’t easy. He needed to lose Marty or the incentive to work through all that he need to wouldn’t have been enough.
The posse of Marty’s friends who worked the rodeo circuit with him and then back at the ranch with his family were the light elements that the story needed for layering and some easy relationships. Marty’s friends are a crack up and the camaraderie was fun and good. I so want to know what’s up with Bridge and Eric. And then there is Marty’s dad who could intimidate a grizzly beside his warm-hearted mother. Down home folks!
The romance is obviously a slow burn with the two being separate for most of the book. The author knows how to captivate and make the romance sizzle just with smoldering gazes, brief words, and the longing expressed by both. But when it finally got down to brass tacks, it was passionate and hot.
Now, the narration…I fell in love with a voice. I do that occasionally, but it’s been a while. Loved this story more because of the narration work. Dorian Bane was a new to me narrator, but I plan to look up more of his work. I remember thinking more than once that I was reading a pair of narrators because of the versatility of his voice. There was so much range from Bridge’s deep rumbling bear voice to Marty’s mom’s high soft one. Nice slow drawls of the ranch and rodeo folk to Eric’s New Yorker and a few lighter San Francisco accents. Inflection was good as was pacing. Natural storyteller.
This was the first book in the series and I will definitely be back for more. Bring on Bridge and Eric. Want that one.
All in all, this was a fantastic story with good storytelling. It twists the heart, but makes the HEA all the sweeter when it comes. Loved the story set against the backdrop of the rodeo circuit. I would recommend this one to m/m contemporary western romance fans who like slow-burn, poignant and passionate stories.
My thanks to Riptide for providing the book in exchange for an honest review.