In 1910, Charles Smythe inherits a ranch from his late uncle. With some misgivings about leaving his life in England, he finally arrives in Arizona Territory only to meet one of his employees, an experienced hired hand named Sombra. In Sombra, Charles finds not only the perfect man to teach him all he needs to know about ranching, but also the masterful lover he has always craved.(59 pages)
Review by Erastes
Set in 1910, this short story has a strong, familiar beginning to it. A man arrives in the middle of nowhere, dropped off by the railroad in a dusty town and met by a laconic stranger. I was amused by the title, as Charles is English so that worked well.
I was jarred with the mention that Charles lived in Lancastershire, however. Where the hell is that?
Despite not being very knowledgeable with the era, I liked the feel of the story as Charles found his feet in his new command–it reminded me a little of “The Big Country”: A man out of his own environment. Charles dons his Norfolk jacket for his first day on the ranch. Incongruous attire to his hands, but perfectly normal for Charles. It was a nice touch.
When in Charles’ point of view, it wasn’t English enough, though, that was my main problem, and the author tried too hard to make him so at times:
When Chaz realized he was pacing, he stalked back to the den and planted his bum in the massive leather chair
Such as, an English man wouldn’t think “cinch” he’d think “girth” nor “college” but “university,”- and I’m afraid “gotten” crept into the English POV too. The story could have done with an English eye over it before publication.
But what I did like about the story is that, even within 12k words, there is a story, even though we know that we are going to get a few sex scenes along the way, this is plot with sex rather than the other way around. The sex was in the right places, not just peppersprayed throughout, and doesn’t have the reader rolling his eyes and saying “oh gawd not again.” What BDSM is there is more like a game than the heavy handed action we too often see, and the reader will enjoy it as much as the protagonists.
The author obviously knows her subject, she was raised on a ranch, so she should, and it shows in the descriptions of the daily life, and the changeable weather, the needs for a different horse for different tasks, all that kind of thing.
There’s a lot backstory too, which intrigues and makes the characters believable, I liked that a lot. Sombra is a man with a past which he, characteristically, doesn’t reveal that that’s exactly right.
A good little story and well worth checking out.