The Convenient Husband by J.L. Langley
When I started this book, I had the feeling to read one of my favorite old sweet romance. I confess, I was an avid reader of those old Harlequin Present series, above all the Long Tall Texan series by Diana Palmer. In those romance, the hero was always an handsome and wealthy Long Tall Texan rancher and the heroine was always some sweet virgin, and often it was some family friend's daughter, or a neighbor, or the foster child hosted on the ranch. A bit of age difference was requested, but not so much to be insurmountable. Usually the two lovers were aware of their feelings soon enough, but the wiser and older hero was reluctant to take advantage of someone he considered under his protection.
The Convenient Husband is all of this. Tucker is the oldest son of a Texan rancher; he built his life far from the ranch, but often he was come back home to visit, at least until Micah reached his 18 years old. Micah was the nephew of the ranch's foreman, and he has always lived on the ranch since 4 years old. And he was always the shadow of Tucker. But on his 18 years old birthday Micah was suddenly the forbidden fruit and Tucker surrendered to temptation. It was only a kiss, but it was enough to make Tucker run away. Four years later Micah needs Tucker to come back home: Tucker's grandfather is dying and he wants his nephew near him; plus the old man's will states that he will leave the ranch to the first of his nephews to marry... even if it's not a legal marriage in Texas. Being both Tucker than Micah gay, the obvious solution is for Tucker to marry Micah, so the young man will be able to remain forever on the ranch, and this time even as a real family member... But once Tucker tastes for real the forbidden fruit, will he be able to walk away from him again?
The story is mostly funny and it doesn't last long in the life of the two main characters, only few days. It also avoids almost all the angst usually linked to a gay relationship in a "unwelcoming" setting, only one man has something to say against Tucker and Micah's relationship, and inside all the other people around are supporting and happy, like it was the only thing they were expecting. So there is no really trouble among Tucker and Micah, if not only a bit of stubbornness from both side, exactly like on those old sweet romance I loved so many years ago. The Convenient Husband is a modern tale with an old sweet feeling.
Seeing You by Dakota Flint
The feeling of this second story is quite different. It's always about a ranch and two cowboy but the ranch is in Montana and the two cowboys are grieving for the loss of the same man. Simon was Dylan's brother and Wade's lover; it was Dylan who presented Simon to Wade and doing that it made of Wade an happy man and of himself a desperate one. Dylan was in love with Wade but Wade never seen him as nothing more than a friend. And when Wade found his happiness with Simon, Dylan was able to accept it since he loved Simon as much as he loved Wade if not more. But than Simon died in a car accident while driving with Dylan, and Dylan had not the courage to stay and see the sorrow in Wade's eyes, he dreaded the question, why Simon died and not you? To not loose also the best friend after the brother, he severed the contact, loosing in this way also his family.
Years later Dylan is called back home: Wade's ranch is decaying as it's doing his owner. Without his lover by his side, and having lost also his best friend, Wade was unable to cope and let it everything go waste. Dylan knows that he can let it happen and he decides to be again Wade's best friend. But when Wade is asking for more, Dylan has to understand if the man is searching a substitute for his lost lover, or if he is ready to love again.
As the previous story, even if more sad, also this one is almost a sweet romance. Again there is more speaking of feelings than sexy scenes. The mood is definitely less light, but the story is not less romantic. And again there is this undisputed acceptance of Wade and Dylan's, and Simon's, sexuality, without trouble, with only love. This time there is not even a lonely opponent. The problem between Wade and Dylan are of different nature, it's a question of too much unsaid questions. The strange thing is that I really think that Simon's death is the only reason why Wade and Dylan have a chance to be happy together, and it's not so obvious; Wade was really in love with Simon and I don't think he would have been the same with Dylan before. Wade and Dylan are too similar, they would have been probably shifted in an ordinary and boring life together, and sooner or later they would have split. Simon is the glue that stick them together now. With Simon Wade had the chance to taste what is a passionate love; without Simon, Dylan had the chance to live outside the ranch. Now both Wade than Dylan know what they want to be happy, and they know that they can have it together.
Side note: Dakota Flint paid an homage to James Buchanan, a supporting character on the novel was reading The Good Thief and was enthralled by the story.
Judas Steer by Kiernan Kelly
Judas Steer is on the same mood of the previous historical western romance by Kiernan Kelly, In Bear Country. As in that one, it's the romance between a young and inexperienced (at least of the cowboy's life) young man and an older and somewhat bitter cowboy. Granger is a cattle driver and he likes that life. Never staying long enough in a town suits him, since in this way he can indulge in his taste, that is more for men than women. And during the long night out herding the cattle, it's easier to find a friendly soul. But this time Granger has his eyes not on a weathered cowboy like himself, but on Billy, a young boy that seems out of place among them. It comes out that Billy is the owner's son, sent out with the men to learn the job. Granger feels pity for the young man, and also a lot of lust, and decides to take him under his shadow, teaching him the job and also something else.
The story is a mix of sex and adventure. While Granger is teaching to Billy what happens at night between men, there are enemies outside that are planning to take their revenge on both Granger than Billy, for different reason. Of the two villains of the story, I'm quite of Sinopa, I have always had a soft spot for Native Americans, but truth be told, Sinopa is not the best example. Probably the most interesting thing of all the story is Granger: he is the good hero, but, all in all, he is also a seducer, I have no doubt that he took advantage of Billy's innocence and that he is full aware of it. But he did it in a way that Billy was not forced, he went willing: Granger presented himself like a full main course to a starving man, and Billy dipped with gusto... and "technically" speaking, it was Billy who "did" Granger. Buy Here
Forgotten Favor by Angela Fiddler
If you are wondering why an author like Angela Fiddler is in a western romance anthology... well, stop to wonder and read the story. I don't want to spoil it, enough to say that as usual she adds something "special" to the story, even if it doesn't make it so unbelievable, it makes it only more... gothic? weird? spooky? I don't know, odd maybe. Anyway the story is pretty classic, Mark is the second and spoiled son of a wealthy Canadian rancher. His father his more used to money than cows, and so Mark has not the best of the relationship with him and grew pretty much alone. He went into the rodeo circuit and met Jake; glances, innuendo and Mark was ready to jump the fence with the more experienced man, but that same day, Mark's brother died in a riding accident and Mark's father made him swear that he will never see again Jake. And so it was, but then Mark had an accident himself, he went into rehab and his father sold his beloved horse... you can do everything to a man, but not selling his horse. Jake is the one who rescued Butter, Mark's horse, and now he is also willing to give shelter also to Mark. And to start again from where they were interrupted years before.
As I said the story would have been pretty simple, if not for that spin that links Mark's brother's death and the resolving point of the story: it's almost like the fate was in debt with Mark, and it decides to pay him back allowing him a late happily ever after. And a big one, with all of them happy together and without financial issue. Actually someone could even question Jake's real reason for being so gentle and caring with Mark, but then, they are so good in bed that you can forget that. Buy Herehttp://www.mlrbooks.com/ShowBook.php?book=STUDSPUR
Amazon: Studs & Spurs
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