Jesse McCray ekes out a hard living cutting cattle from the local beef baron of Defiance, Texas. He’s known for his quick draw and his steady aim; no one outguns him. Whenever he and his ragtag group of friends known as the Rustlers ride into town, the local cowboys hold their breaths, waiting for the men to ride through. But one evening, while playing faro at Billy’s Saloon, Jesse’s attention is drawn to a new face in the crowd.
Ethan Phillips is an idealistic tenderfoot from back East, passing through Defiance on his way to the California coast. He’s heard tales of the gold that enriches the west coast, and he’s looking for a way to make his dreams come true. When his horse pulls up lame, he offers to sing for the cowboys of Billy’s Saloon to earn a few coins, but the men jeer at his song until a man in black quiets them. With one look into Jesse’s dark eyes, Ethan finds himself falling for the man.
Ethan’s horse heals, but he stays in Defiance, enamored by his outlaw lover. But the cattle baron has a grudge against one of Jesse’s outlaw friends, and a gunfight in Billy’s Saloon puts a price on the Rustlers’ heads.
Review by Erastes
I have to say that I was really drawn into the beginning of the book. The description is pure western gold, four men, all different, all hard as nails and Really Bad Eggs™ ride into town and the author paints a little picture of them all before they pull up at the saloon and start to do things that cowboys do.
I’ll say right now that I have little in-depth knowledge of the cowboy era, my knowledge is highly flavoured by Hollywood, so any things that western purists might find eye-rollingly dreadful I certainly won’t spot. This certainly has a lot that feels very familiar to watchers of Hollywood westerns. Men in black hats (yes, really), corrupt sheriffs, cattle rustlers and cattle barons. The bar with no-one wanting to annoy the Rustlers, the honky-tonk piano, the tart with a heart, rund0wn hotel, the dirt sidewalks. So, yes. It’s a western.
It’s a shame, therefore, that after all this delightful cinematic build up that the relationship between Jesse and Ethan rushes ahead so fast that I didn’t even see it happening. It’s obvious that they fancy each other and that Jesse picks up boys from time to time, but I’d like to have seen more than a few fingers brushing each other, some veiled “dating” which involves riding out to Make Out Point (my name, not Snyder’s) and then culmination in the sex scene.
What’s odd, too, is the OKHomo. Granted, all the members of the Rustlers are Jesse’s friends and have been for years, and they are all accepting of his homosexuality. They rib him about liking ’em pretty and how he picks up guys but no-one bats an eyelid in the bar about their behaviour, almost holding hands and they saunter off to the hotel and have mad noisy monkey sex (remember the buildings would all be wood) and no-one cares about that either. I chose to think it was because everyone was scared to death of Jesse and his gang and so let him get away with anything he wanted, but there’s a scene in the book towards the end which makes me think that there’s another reason for this over-accepting feel throughout the book. Ethan has a bath in the creek and:
On their own accord, his fingers paused to press against the soft flesh of his pubic mound.His eyes closed as a shiver ran through him which had nothing to do with the cool water.
Um. Men don’t actually have pubic mounds… So I wonder if the book was actually a m/f once upon a time and has been converted. This would explain why everyone turns a blind eye to Ethan and Jesse (and explains why one of the other cowboys makes a very loud and obvious pass at Jesse in public too and no-one cares)
The only other thing that grated on my nerves was the constant reference to horses as “steeds,” but that’s just a personal quibble and won’t bother anyone else and nor should it.
However, despite this is a short book – about 80 pages and there’s two sex scenes it’s pretty rounded with characterisation, a good adventurous plot and a nice romance, even if that aspect is a bit rushed. I enjoyed, read it in one sitting and was genuinely worried that things might all go very wrong.
Anyone who likes westerns with a real cinematic feel will really enjoy this, I think.
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