Richard is worn out, used up, and just plain cynical. Son of a wealthy Bostonian banker, he came west to gamble and carouse when his life fell apart. Though a sensitive and moral man, he finds a reckless life easier to bear—since he has no one to care about and no real hopes for his future.
Brave, beautiful U.S. Marshall Wayne Sneddon wants to change all that. He enlists Richard to help him find and take down a bigwig out to get water rights for himself, regardless of the settlers in the way. In part, Wayne needs help, but more, he wants Richard’s company.
In between the shooting, fighting and intrigue, Richard comes to share Wayne’s feelings…but after he finds the courage to share Wayne’s bed, will he find the courage to share his feelings?
Sometimes just about anything is easier than Dealing Straight.
Review by Mark R Probst
Emily Veinglory’s Dealing Straight is a well-told, gritty Western novella that has a lot of respect for the Western mythos and also manages to skillfully weave in some tasteful erotic elements. Though I’m admittedly not a fan of erotica, my take on it is that if the writer can make the scenes essential and relevant to the story, then hurrah! But if a stockpile of torrid sex scenes is lazily strung together with a paper-thin plot, (as unfortunately most m/m erotic fiction is) then I’ll pass. There are only three sex scenes in the entire novella and they all felt natural and sexy as Veinglory resisted overdoing it with the clichéd porn-style language of modern erotica.
The story centers around Richard, a gambler who has come west for a drier climate to soothe his advancing tuberculosis. Richard has befriended a younger man, Wayne, who is the Marshall of the territory, and has even ridden with him on a few jobs. One night Richard intervenes and saves Wayne’s life when he’s about to be ambushed by a hired killer. Wayne has a good idea who is behind the ambush and asks Richard to be deputized and help him bring in the men responsible.
You might be thinking right now, wait a minute! I know this story. That sounds like Wyatt Earp and Doc Holliday! Well that’s where the similarity ends. In a flashback scene, Veinglory shows us how each of the two men began to suspect that they shared a certain inclination. They embark on a journey to a faraway town and Wayne fills Richard in on the details. Someone has been terrorizing small farm-owners and burning them out. Wayne believes that the man behind it is a rich rancher named MacWaugh and he also believes it is MacWaugh who hired the gun to kill him. While on the journey Wayne is so confident in his suspicion about Richard that he playfully seduces him. Richard, while swept up in the lust, is reticent to give away his heart because of his impending illness and he can’t for the life of him figure what the young handsome Wayne sees in a thin, older, dying drifter.
Naturally things get pretty hairy from there. MacWaugh, his lovely but brash daughter Melissa, and MacWaugh’s top ranch-hand, the über-villain Zack, all play parts that make for a very grisly showdown that will surely please fans of the genre.
What I like most about Dealing Straight was that it felt like a throwback to the classic Western. I think Emily Veinglory did a fine job in setting up the imagery – The saloon where Richard gambled, the dingy hotel rooms, the home-spun little farm where they drop by to visit Wayne’s brother and his family. It is all well-described with an economy of words. A full-length novel would probably delve deeper into descriptions, but that’s not necessary in this format. The language and dialog were pretty true to the time-period and I only noticed two very minor anachronisms that aren’t even worth mentioning as I’m sure most readers won’t even pick up on them. I also admired that Veinglory allowed her characters human fallibilities such as freezing up in terror and losing the opportunity to be heroic. John Wayne they’re not. I have to say that the writing style reminded me of the Dakota Taylor books by Cap Iversen, which in my mind are the quintessential gay Westerns.
I should also mention that it is interesting that these men faced no persecution in a time when sodomites would have been beaten to death on the spot. The reason is a good one – it is not that they live in the world of OK homo, but that these men were smart enough to be discreet so that no one suspected a thing. That, I think, makes it very realistic in that it demonstrates how survival was dependent upon absolute secrecy. And it was also nice to be able to avoid the whole persecution storyline which is so prevalent.
At a little more that 26,000 words, Dealing Straight makes for a pleasant diversion that can be read in one sitting and is certainly worth the price of the download.