Hi there! Today I’m sharing a review for a contemporary M/M cowboy romance from AM Arthur. HARD RIDE is the fifth book in her Clean Slate Ranch series that features cowboys, cooks and city slickers–not to mention some actors, finding love with one another. I’ve enjoyed several books from Ms. Arthur, including SAVED, HERE FOR US, THE WORLD AS HE SEES IT, FINDING THEIR WAY, and recently reviewed ROPED IN so I was eager to read on in this series. Turns out, it’s a perfect way to continue Dad Week.
About the book:
Five Weddings and a Fake Boyfriend
City slicker Derrick Massey has always had a thing for cowboys. So a roll in the hay with Kendall “Slater” Stamos during a rustic weekend wedding is more than A-OK. But when Slater’s forced to hang up his saddle for the season, Derrick surprises even himself with his proposition: be my fake boyfriend and get my family off my back about finding a permanent partner.
Though unexpected, the arrangement is a win-win. Derrick gets a plus-one for a slew of summer weddings and Slater gets a place to stay while he recuperates…with lots of casual fun in between. Which is just how the sexy cowboy likes it: casual. Yet it’s obvious the chemistry between them is anything but.
With the countdown to their “breakup” on, the more time the two men spend together. And the more it becomes clear that what they have could be real, if only they let it be.
This is the fifth book in a series, and is probably best enjoyed when read in order but is still enjoyable on its own.
Derrick Massey is a young urban professional running a non-profit business that assists families and ex-convicts trying to rebuild their lives. He’s in his late 20s and a suave black man. His brother Conrad is married to Sophie Bentley–Wes Bentley’s younger sister. Wes is married to Mack Garrett who runs the Bentley Ghost Town attraction, and his grandfather owns Clean Slate Ranch. Derrick likes the ranch, but mostly he likes the cowboys. While mooning over his single state in the wake of the two weddings he’d attended the day before, Derrick runs into Slater, a ranch hand, in the small gym at the ranch. And boy do they hook up. It’s perfect, and over too quick for Derrick’s taste.
Not long after, Slater is running an overnight camping ride with a bunch of dude ranch guests. One of the children wanders off and Slater falls off a cliff trying to save the boy. The injuries which could have been life-threatening amount to a leg surgery that keeps Slater in a cast for what looks to be months. And, that means he can’t work as a cowboy until he’s healed. He’s sure down on his luck and won’t be able to send much money back to his parents who barely get by and are currently raising Slater’s teenaged daughter, Rachel. What few people know about Slater–including his actual name–is he’s an ex-con who’d served time for aggravated battery. He’s a super private guy, and still ashamed of his time in prison.
Derrick has a slew of weddings to attend in the summer season, and desperately wants a date. Slater’s out of work and his bunk at remote Clean Slate is not amenable to recovery or making regular therapy appointments. So Derrick makes a fake-boyfriend pact with Slater–in exchange for living at Derrick’s city apartment and getting rides to therapy and doctor appointments, Slater will come to the weddings with Derrick as his plus-one. Slater agrees, reluctantly, and adds his own caveat: Derrick needs to drive him up to his parents home one specific week. Derrick later learns this trip is to see Rachel’s high school graduation.
I always enjoy a good fake boyfriend story, and this one is really sweet. Derrick’s home is a bit spare, but he makes it as comfy as he can. We get neighbor drama and new friendships which all support Slater’s growth from isolated ex-con into friendly entrepreneur. The chemistry between the men is high, and they eventually decide some sexual benefits can come from their arrangement. They learn a lot about one another, and their vulnerable moments strengthen their growing bond. As the days and weeks pass, both Derrick and Slater come to appreciate the general kindness the other has. They genuinely like each other and it doesn’t take long before the “fake” part of the arrangement is starting to look less and less real.
Naturally, there is a bit of separation in play, to create the climactic tension, but it does get resolved without too much stress. Derrick and Slater lean on their best friends/confidantes to help guide their way back to one another. It’s a sweet reunion, and I wonder if we don’t have a spin-off story that features Derrick and Slater’s twin neighbors. O.O
About the Author:
A.M. Arthur was born and raised in the same kind of small town that she likes to write about, a stone’s throw from both beach resorts and generational farmland. She’s been creating stories in her head since she was a child and scribbling them down nearly as long, in a losing battle to make the fictional voices stop. She credits an early fascination with male friendships (bromance hadn’t been coined yet back then) with her later discovery of and subsequent love affair with m/m romance stories. A.M. Arthur’s work is available from Samhain Publishing, Carina Press, Dreamspinner Press, and SMP Swerve.
When not exorcising the voices in her head, she toils away in a retail job that tests her patience and gives her lots of story fodder. She can also be found in her kitchen, pretending she’s an amateur chef and trying to not poison herself or others with her cuisine experiments.
Thanks for popping in and keep reading my friends!