Author: Catt Ford
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
Rating: 3 stars
Received from Publisher
Blurb: Bull rider Trey Stuart voluntarily ties himself onto the back of a 1,500-pound animal for fun and money. But however tough he is in the ring, Trey is too scared to take a chance on love, especially when the man he wants is star rider Smoke Carter. Trey and Smoke have been hooking up for years, but Trey denies there’s anything serious going on between them.
Joining them at the gay rodeo are their friends Dolly and Alex. Wanting the same happiness for their friends, the two women try to convince Trey that Smoke is just as interested in him. While Trey works to help Dolly succeed in covering her first bull, another man tries to come between him and Smoke. When Smoke challenges Trey to cowboy up, he has to decide if the ride is worth the risk.
Review: Trey Stuart has found some success as a bull rider in regional rodeos, and he’s been setting aside as much of his winnings over the years as he could in order to realise his dream of buying his own ranch. Fifteen years of living in a single-wide trailer and working as a ranch hand on the ranch his homophobic brother inherited from their equally homophobic parents has more than paid any familial dues Trey may have ever owed. After a run of mediocre rides, Trey hopes his luck will turn at the Gay Rodeo Association’s event in Oklahoma City. While he might not admit it, even to himself, Trey is also looking forward to running into his friend and sometimes bedmate, fellow rider Smoke Carter.
Joining them at the rodeo are girlfriends Alex and Dolly, who have been friends of Trey’s for years and aren’t afraid to call him on his fear of commitment and refusal to see how Smoke really feels about him.
This book started really slow for me. There were a lot of cliches and slang that came across as very over the top. Instead of establishing the characters it kept me from sinking into their story and had me skimming, trying to find the meat of the narrative. I was glad that they did end up easing off for the most part and I could just concentrate on the story and the characters.
I wasn’t particularly enamoured with any of the characters to begin with. It took me a fair while to warm up to either of the MCs, although they did end up growing on me to the degree that I liked them well enough to read to the end. I found Trey frustrating and irritatingly dense when it came to seeing how Smoke felt about him. As the narrator, Trey was constantly telling the reader that he believed Smoke would just take off at any moment to be with someone else. In one scene, they are right at their motel door, with every indication that Smoke very much wanted to be with Trey, and yet we’re still being told that Trey believed Smoke was just as likely to leave him there and take off on him. There was the frequent refrain of Smoke is too good for him, not that Trey wants him anyway because he doesn’t do relationships. In the end it just felt manufactured, an easy excuse used to keep the characters apart.
The romance, the characters and their background were not given much more than a surface treatment, and as a consequence the story didn’t feel as fleshed-out as it had the potential to be. As much as I don’t have all that much interest in bull riding and rodeos, I actually found it to be the most dynamic element of the story and I quite enjoyed reading about it.