This is a review for the 2nd edition of this shortish novella, which was expanded prior to re-release.
I read this for the first time quite a while back, shortly after reading Double Blind, because I simply had to know how Randy and Ethan would handle their first Christmas in Vegas together.
Ethan now owns and runs the Herod Casino, and Randy still works the floor, and bakes cookies. They both miss spending time with Mitch and Sam, and are preparing for the Christmas shenanigans at the casino.
In previous years, pre-Ethan, Randy used to be the life of the party, the highlight of the entertainment, which, if you've read Double Blind, you'll know, served basically to hide his longing for something permanent, someone that was his alone.
Ethan hasn't got that memo. He's still hung up on the fact that all the tales around the Christmas shenanigans of years prior kind of involved Crabtree a lot, and it doesn't help his jealousy that a) Crabtree still hangs around the casino all the time, and b) Crabtree and Randy did the dirty quite a few times before Ethan even came to Vegas. Of which Crabtree only happily reminds him every chance he gets.
So Ethan is struggling - on one hand he wants Randy to feel free to do as he pleases, and on the other hand, he doesn't want to let Crabtree fuck with his peace of mind.
The story is both kinky fun and emotionally tugging on your heart strings. You can't help but feel for Ethan's struggles, even though you know that his jealousy is unfounded. And Randy, heart of gold Randy, is unwilling to risk the amazing relationship he's built with Ethan and thus becomes almost a pawn in the power play between Ethan and Crabtree.
You can feel the wave building and you know it'll crash and drown them both, but then... well, you read this for yourself.
There's a scene toward the very end - gah. I had tears in my eyes, even the second time around, even when I knew what was coming, because, damn, this author just delivers the goods in such a beautiful way.
I have a real soft spot for Randy. While he and Ethan aren't my favorite couple from this series (that honor goes to Mitch and Sam), Randy is my favorite character. There are layers upon layers to him, and only a very select few ever get to see the real him, the boy who was kicked out at home for being gay, who climbed his way out of the gutter by the skin of his teeth, who learned to hide his pain behind an easy smile and a lot of snark - that boy just wants to be loved and wanted and belong to Ethan.
Anyway, before I turn you off with my gushing about Randy - read this book. It fits neatly between book 2 and 3, as intended, and gives us a good look at their happy ever after.
** I received a free copy of this book from its author upon re-release in exchange for an honest and unbiased review. **
I read this once before, a long while back, shortly after I read Special Delivery and Double Blind, because Mitch & Sam finally get their wedding in this novella.
There's some angst, because at the time when this story takes place, Iowa had marriage equality but lots of people in Sam's home town are still not on board with two men getting married and Mitch's heart breaks when he sees Sam get less and less enthusiastic about their wedding, and there's a lot of really kinky sex, which is ever so deliciously filthy, because Mitch still likes to watch, and Sam still likes the shame of being so very slutty for Mitch.
And there's Randy, possibly the best friend anyone could ever have, because despite his smooth and snarky exterior, Randy has a heart of gold and would do anything for his friends, and he needs Mitch and Sam more than they could ever know.
Or do they?
I adored this. It's full of Heidi's special kind of magic, because no matter how kinky the fucking gets, it is always, ALWAYS clear that the emotions between these men are strong enough to withstand anything and everything.
** I received a free copy of this book for review as part of the re-release for an honest and unbiased review. **
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. **
As the blurb will tell you, this book is sort of a continuation of A Cop For Christmas, but focuses on Sam. It can be read as a standalone - I had no issues not having read the first one. The author did a fine job weaving in the important background information as to why Sam is terrified of snowstorms.
Sam still lives with his grandfather on their farm, but has taken a trip around the world with Aunt Jackie (I want one just like her, please), and their last stop is Iceland, where Jackie's good friend lives with her son, Arnar. Iceland. In the winter, a week before Christmas. Iceland. Apparently, Aunt Jackie didn't get the memo about Sam panicking in snow storms.
Sam is looking forward to getting back home - he misses his Grampy, and he's worried, though he knows Mason and Steve are taking good care of him.
Arnar, who's about Sam's age, is initially not impressed upon meeting Sam, though attraction for them both is pretty much instant. But Arnar just got out of a relationship, he's still nursing a bit of a broken heart, and who would want to get involved with a tourist who's going to leave in a few short days, amirite?
So, Arnar is a bit grumpy and standoffish.
I loved how descriptive the author was when talking about the scenery and the historical sites in Iceland as Sam and Arnar, thrown together by Aunt Jackie's scheming, make their way around the island. Vivid and rich descriptions of lava fields covered in snow, the rugged landscape - I felt as if I was right there with Sam and Arnar. We also get a bit of a culture lesson, which really made the people on this island come to life for me.
This is a sweet, easy read, with just a bit of relationship angst - what with Sam going home to New Hampshire, and Arnar presumably staying in Iceland - so they both realize, reluctantly, that what they'll have will be nothing more than a holiday fling. Even if the emotions they both have for the other could and might have become so much more. Their occasional squabbles were relatable, and the two men felt real to me. I thought that the author did a really fine job developing both characters and give them distinct personalities with some obvious and some not so obvious traits. Arnar is not a morning person, not by a long shot, but Sam quickly figured out how to work that, and Arnar caught on how to anticipate and work around Sam's fear of snow storms.
Hot-tubbing, hair-braiding, mud baths, sharing a double bed, language barriers, and ignorant tourists all play a role in their adventures.
I would definitely recommend this book, even if you, like me, haven't read the first one. We get a big surprise at the end, and a lovely epilogue that leaves them both in a really good place.
** I was given a free copy of this book by its author in exchange for an honest and unbiased review. **