For this third installment of the Pickup Men series, I was on the edge of my seat with excitement. There are just some situations that lend themselves to be tension-packed and curious before a book is even opened or listened to such as when a writer takes a very unlikable characters and sets them up as the hero of the story. This book takes the story of angry, hating, and mean Scott Gillard from book one and sweet and gentle Cory from book two and makes a romance of it.
With that said, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that I recommend reading the books in order.
The book opens with a few years past the events of book one, Pick Up Men, and the very next rodeo season after book two, Let It Ride. Scott took time away from the rodeo to get his head on straight. What happened with Trip gave him a wake up call about where his hate, anger, and self-loathing took him. Trip’s career as a pro bull rider was over and he was partially responsible.
With the help of his best friend, Brandy, who is also a skilled therapist, he has come to terms with a few things and on his way to coming to terms with a few others. He is gay, even if he’s not ready to admit that to others. But as a first step toward the new life he is determined to have, he must approach Trip and Marty and apologize and ask for their forgiveness.
The meeting with Trip leads to a surprising result. Trip gave his forgiveness, but also offered Scott a change to get back doing something he loved though it will test him. Trip wants him to help with the clinics at the gay rodeo and the pro tour rodeo. This will not be easy both because it will be a step closer to coming out and to confronting all those who knew him as a Class A Jerk. Brandy and Trip both encourage him so despite his own inner dragons and the hostility of others, he ventures forth. And right away there is a bright, sunny cowboy who grabs his attention, but at the same time Scott knows he can’t be what Cory deserves or needs.
Cory Ackerson is taken with the big cowboy who shows up to help Trip and just can’t see the man that so many others watch warily or can’t stand. Scott can’t be gay of course and he’s the opposite of Cory’s open and obvious gay, but Cory still dreams. He doesn’t know Scott’s story and is willing to give him a chance even in the face of his brother and friends warning him to be cautious.
Scott becomes even more attractive to Cory especially when he gives indications that he is attracted to Cory as well. But that said, Scott is struggling and in the closet. Scott won’t acknowledge him and retreats quickly each time Cory advances. He wants to be patient with Scott, but how much hurt and rejection and hiding can he take before it’s too much?
As I mentioned, this story tackled a truly loathsome character from earlier in the series and turned him into hero material. Yes, there was a surprise twist and facts that were hitherto unknown that make all the difference in the world, but the author made it clear that there was still a vast deal of stuff that couldn’t be ignored and brushed under the rug. Change and growth had to happen. Some of it took place off scene before this book, but I was glad that much of this story was Scott in his final moments of transformation to the man he really was.
Scott had to overcome his issues with his own past, acceptance of himself and how that would change things. He is still working toward admitting to others that he is gay. And piled onto this, Scott’s challenge is even greater because he faces a new dynamic in that he is attracted to a man who is not only out, but a man who no one would mistake as anything, but gay. If he goes into a relationship with Cory, he is automatically out. It was a tough bit of added tension, but I liked this opposites attract piece.
And on Cory’s end, he has some stuff to work through as well. Of course he has to decide if he will give Scott a chance and just how long does he wait for Scott to get his ducks in a row. But Cory struggles with the difficulty of proving to others and sometimes himself that he may be flaming gay, but it doesn’t make him less of a man or any less capable. He has been the butt of people’s derision and discomfort his whole life and his brother has gotten overprotective as a result. Scott teaches Cory that it isn’t always that someone thinks he’s less when they come rushing to pull the bullies off, but that he is worth their love and care.
So as these two take turns trading the narrative voice and starting along a rough road toward love, it was sometimes sweet, tender, passionate, but also heartbreaking when there were false steps. The emotion was there, but it wasn’t over the top just as the conflict worked and felt right for the story. I totally bought into Scott’s change of heart and mind and to the relationship between him and Cory. I cheered them on.
The story is mostly focused on Scott’s internal conflict of coming out and turning his life around, but I loved that the author didn’t skimp on rodeo, the band of familiar cowboy faces from the series, and that added element of Scott reconnecting with his past.
The final epilogue scene left me smiling and so happy for Scott and Cory. I believe this is also the final story in the series and it was a great cap to an engaging series. Though…I would not say no to more rodeo cowboy lovin’.
As I’ve said throughout this series, Dorian Bane, is a fantastic match for these books. He gets the voices, the tone, the emotion, and the rhythm of the story spot on. I can’t imagine not having these stories without his voice bringing them to life.
In summary, this was another fantastic segment of the series and rivals the other two for me as each in their special ways has been an equal treasure. Loved how each couple came to love in their own ways set against the world of cowboys and rodeo. I can recommend this story for those who enjoy being there for a character to grow and triumph, for a hard won passionate romance, and the camaraderie of a great bunch of cowboys in an m/m contemporary romance.
My thanks to Riptide Publishing for the opportunity to listen to the story in exchange for an honest review.
Romance Roundabout #138 LGBT
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