Barbed Wire Cowboy is at once a gritty tale of living and working on a cattle ranch and a love story between two men who suck at communicating honestly and openly.
After coming out to his rancher father, Marc Poulson found himself kicked out, stripped of his family and alone, but in the years since found a place as foreman of the Double R Ranch. If it weren't for his feud with his ex-friend Casey, foreman at the neighboring Del Rio Ranch, life would be nearly perfect.
Marc doesn't understand why Casey would rather punch him than continue to be his friend - the reason for this change in status is not immediately clear to the reader, as neither Marc nor Casey provide any insight - but their continued fighting has now landed both of them in a jail cell.
Bailed out by their respective bosses, Marc and Casey are given an ultimatum - shape up or ship out. And learn to work together again.
Marc is happy to call a truce between them, but Casey isn't on board. When Marc saves Casey's ass from a rampant bull, the event proves to be somewhat of a turning point.
Except Casey continues to blow hot and cold, and refuses to tell Marc what demons are still haunting him. He makes mistake after mistake, driven by the terror of his past, until Marc has enough, and when provided with an unforeseen option, Marc is done with Casey's bullshit and leaves.
The author really brought the grittiness, long hours and hard work of the cattle ranches across, and the huge amount of physical labor that's involved. She also did a fine job with the characters - they are complex and complicated, and rough around the edges, like you'd expect cowboys to be - but also gave them individual pasts that continue to shape their actions and derail what might be. Neither knows how to really talk about their feelings, and Casey hiding a huge secret from his past that he refuses to address and would rather forget has a lot to do with his behavior - their actions and reactions made sense to me.
This is a rollercoaster ride as Marc and Casey go from enemies to lovers to heartbreak, full of anger and fear and hiding, with an overriding sense that love may not always be enough to keep a couple together unless they're willing to confront their differences and their pasts head-on to have a future.
Whether Casey and Marc overcome the odds - well, find out by reading this for yourself.
** I received a free copy of this book from the author in exchange for an honest and unbiased review. **