“Once you realize you deserve better, letting go will be the best decision ever.” ~ unknown
After the trauma Ross endured in his last undercover operation with the London police department, he decides to leave everyone and everything behind him. Ross thinks if he runs far enough, the issues that he can't yet admit to himself will dissolve. But Ross can't get away from them regardless of how hard he tries to ignore or deny them. They haunt him day and night until Ross finally gives up and admits he's going to have to deal with each one if he is going to put them to rest and move on.
As Ross stands at the end of the road, staring at the huge ranch out in the middle of nowhere, he begins to doubt his decision to come here, but that thought is quickly dismissed by remembering what he left behind. Ross tells himself he's here to find a bed partner, but it's far from the truth. He tells himself he's come to the ranch to learn about horses, regardless of the fact that he's scared of horses. This should tell him how ludicrous his decision is, but he tries to stick to it anyway. Ross expects things to be different here, but he soon realizes it's not so different after all. As he approaches the ranch, Ross can practically hear the skeletons rattling in their closets; the more he learns, the more Ross wonders what he's gotten himself into. When the cook outs Ross by telling Joe: “Our little English boy is as gay as you are, so quit imagining things that aren’t there.” he wants to fall through the floor. So much for keeping his preference to himself! Knowing Joe is gay as well makes him uncomfortable because there's no denying the spark between them. When Joe cuts his hand and needs stitches, Ross steps up to help him, earning respect from Joe who thought he had Ross all figured out.
Once they come to an understanding, it makes it even harder for Joe to stay away from Ross and, despite the negative consequences it may bring, they have an explosive sexual encounter which completely changes Ross's opinion of Joe. He's not the sardonic, loathsome bastard everyone, including himself at times, thinks he is. Joe begins to confide in Ross about his family and how he's been forced into the role of scapegoat. Ross is furious. Why Joe stays there is beyond Ross, but to Joe family, good or bad, has to be protected. As Joe and Ross become closer, things are heating up even more on the ranch. There's another tragedy and Ross is afraid they will try to pin the blame on Joe. Joe and Ross have formulated a plan to leave town, knowing neither of them will ever be happy there.
This book is actually two stories, one expertly nested in the other. First, there's the story of Ross, coming to the ranch, meeting Joe, falling in love, and everything else that happens around them. The other story is in Ross's head, as he battles his fear, seeking some kind of closure. As Ross experiences triggers brought on by his PTSD, he is thrust back into his past. These episodes are expressed in clearly defined dream sequences, moments of reflection, and in confiding in Joe about his deepest, darkest fears; they are very effective in demonstrating Ross's feelings and character growth.
The story is much more than a cowboy love story. It's an exceptional one which I enjoyed more than I expected. If you enjoy reading about cowboys, gay men, hot sex, intrigue, family skeletons, a very dysfunctional family, and two men finding each other against all odds, you may like this story. Thank you, Sarah, for bringing two outcasts together and giving them a happy ending.