Review: Wild Trail (Clean Slate Ranch #1)

Author: AM Arthur

Publisher: Carina Press

Rating: 3 stars

Buy Links: Amazon

Type: Novel

Received from Publisher

 

Blurb: Welcome to Clean Slate Ranch: home of tight jeans, cowboy boots, and rough trails. For some men, it’s a fantasy come true.

Mack Garrett loves the rolling hills surrounding his Northern California dude ranch. Leading vacationers on horse trails with his two best friends is enough – romance is definitely not in the cards. When a sexy tourist shows up at Clean Slate, he’s as far from Mack’s type as can be. So why is the handsome city slicker so far under his skin in less than a day?

Roughing it in the middle of nowhere isn’t anywhere near Wes Bentley’s idea of fun. Then he lays eyes on the gruffest, hottest papa bear he’s ever seen. But Mack is as hard to pin down as he looks – distant, sharp-tongued, and in desperate need of a shave. Until a campout gone wrong strands both men in the mountains with nothing to do but get to know each other.

Mack intends to keep his closely guarded heart out of Wes’ very talented hands. But for a seven-day cowboy, Wes is packing some long-term possibility. The cold country air can do wonders for bringing bodies together – but it will take more than that to bridge the distance between two men whose lives are worlds apart.

 

Review: AM Arthur has written many books that have touched me quite profoundly. I looked forward to this first book in a new series from her, particularly because I love horses, cowboys and the west. However, this one failed to captivate me.

This story opens with main character Wes – an actor – accompanying his sister, her fiancé, and a group of their friends to a pre-wedding getaway at a dude ranch. Wes isn’t crazy about it but he is crazy about his sister, so he goes along with the flow. Plus, he figures, cowboy eye candy!

When Wes first sets eyes on strapping ranch hand, Mack, he starts to think this vacation just might have its merits after all. Mack is likewise attracted to Wes from first sight, even if Wes’s wiseass streak is a bit much. Plus, Mack has vowed to stay away from flings with ranch-guests, and from deeper relationships with anyone. Mack and Wes dance around each other for days before Mack finally invites Wes into his bed. Eventually, the two men discover each has qualities beyond what meets the eye, and more than a fierce sexual attraction develops between them. Yet, both men have been hurt by exes, and they are not quick to trust.

Unfortunately, neither Wes or Mack resonated with me, even though I did believe them with one another and I liked the opposites attract angle. Mack being the brawny, ex SWAT ranch hand/grandson of the ranch owner and Wes being the “has been” flirty actor. The alternating POVs used in the story is something I like, especially when actions, or lack of them, benefited from explanations from each guy’s inner thoughts. Although, Wes calling Mack “daddy” seemed to come from left field, and I never felt like it meshed with the guys or their dynamic. It felt a bit forced. Plenty of people enjoy being dominated yet don’t call their partner “daddy.”

There were some interesting subplots in the story which led to some mystery and action scenes. Frankly, these subplots about the ghost town, and the hints at secrets some of the supporting characters were keeping, held my interest better than the main romance. Yet even the ghost town gave me pause. The family had owned the land for generations and never knew it was there? Hmm. There’s obvious setup for future books featuring supporting characters coming down the line, and I believe the next one has been written. This story has a slight BDSM component, and it seems as though the next may have more. Not an issue for me, but I usually mention it.

Sometimes I wonder if spending so much time reading MM – even though I read a broad sampling of subgenres – makes me jaded, or simply tired of certain themes. In this story, the ongoing back and forth of “I shouldn’t sleep with him,” “Oh why not sleep with him, it’s just a fling” to “It’s just sex, there can’t be a future in it” etc. etc. was trying my patience. Especially when it was apparent fairly early on that Mack and Wes had an attraction that went beyond sex. The slow build to their acceptance of this just didn’t hold my interest. I imagine other readers won’t necessarily have the same response.

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