Dear Ms. Arend:
This is the first book in Six Pack Ranch series which, given that there are six boys in the Coleman family, means that each book will likely feature one of the Coleman brothers. The oldest brother is Blake and this story has a friends to lovers theme. While I liked the concept – young girl blossoms into a woman who knows her own mind and pursues the reluctant prey, err, man – much of the story involving the family seemed extraneous and strange.
Jaxi is a friend of the Coleman family. She grew up around the boys and is considered by many to be one of the family. Perhaps kissing cousin may be a better descriptor because at one point or another, all of the Coleman boys have kissed her or more. All except the one that she wants, Blake.
“You and Jesse kissed Jaxi? At the same time?” Blake was still reeling from the thought. “Was this before or after she went out with Travis?”
“Before.” Joel plopped on the bench next to Blake. “I still don’t understand why she ever dated him. I know he’s our brother and all, but sometimes he’s such an ass. Of all the guys she could have gone to Grad with, why’d she pick him?”
“I still don’t believe she kissed you and Jesse. Together.”
“Well, it wasn’t her idea, Blake. We were rather insistent. And she kissed us one at a time. It’s not as if I want my lips right next to Jesse’s. I’m not into that.”
Daniel sat across from them on a stool and joined in. “I kissed her once.” Blake barely stopped his jaw from hitting the floor. “Yup, only it was kiss her or kill her. She rode Thunder without permission, and when she managed to get him back into the barn without getting killed, I kind of lost my head.” Daniel winked at Joel. “You’re right, she is a sweet kisser.”
Joel poked at Blake. “You ever kiss her?”
“No! Course not. She’s just a little girl. I’m surprised at you, Daniel. She’s five years younger than you.”
“If I had been fifteen and her only ten, it would be have been a problem,” Daniel said. “She was old enough and she knew what we were doing. I didn’t give her much choice in the matter either. Looks like you’re the only Coleman boy she hasn’t kissed yet, Blake. Maybe we’d better set you up or something.”
“Oh, that. Matt kissed her when she was thirteen. She told me about it.” Joel shrugged. “We were all down at the swimming hole, and Travis was teasing her how she didn’t need to wear a girl’s swimsuit yet, that she could still join them like she had as a little tyke, shorts and nothing else. Matt stopped the ass from being himself, then escorted her home. Jaxi told me he talked about changes, and how she would be a beautiful woman and not to worry when and where things would grow. Then he kissed her. She didn’t remember exactly what he said because she’d been surprised but it was something about a kiss for the woman she was going to become.”
When mother of the Coleman brothers gets injured, Jaxi comes to the house to help with the household duties. While there, several of the Coleman boys flirt with her at nearly every encounter.
I struggled with all of the text around the romance between Jaxi and Blake. Why did the story start out with Jaxi fighting with Trevor Coleman? Why was she even dating him? She had purportedly known that she wanted Blake forever so why would she date his brother when she had no real interest in the brother? Her excuse was that she was trying to find someone her own age but why the brother? At one point, she even offers to give Trevor a blowjob just to get him alone. There are no other boys in the region? Some of her interactions with the Coleman brothers had an uncomfortable tinge of harassment in that they were constantly after her for some kind of sexual contact even though she wanted them to leave her alone.
After dinner Matt tugged her aside. “You want to go to the children’s summer theater performance at the community hall this Wednesday?”
She hesitated, panic flooding her. Not Matt too. Sweet, considerate, usually insightful Matt. He excited her about as much as a bouquet of dandelions. The expression on her face must have shown her fear because he chuckled and quickly reassured her. “I don’t mean with me, Jaxi. Hell if you need that kind of complication in your life right now. Not to mention you know Helen would have my balls if I stepped out on her.”
Her muscles unclenched slowly as he patted her shoulder. A pat from him felt proper, caring and supportive. It wasn’t a cop-out like the treatment from Blake the other day. If any of the Colemans was a big-brother figure to her, it would be Matt.
So what was the point of all the Coleman brothers panting after twenty one year old Jaxi? Was it to show how virile the Colemans were? How sexy and desirable Jaxi was? Did it show some kind of strange oversexed family dynamic?
Blake felt like he was far too old for Jaxi and despite the fact that he is intensely attracted to her resists because of their age differences. The conflict felt weak to me. Why was it that he felt too old for Jaxi? Why did he feel like it was wrong to be attracted to her or wrong for her to be attracted to him? After all, she clearly had kissed and felt her way around the Coleman brothers so surely she, like Goldilocks, figured out which bear was just right for her.
There was another romance that took place during the story between another brother Matt Coleman and his high school sweetheart, Helen. I hesitate to call it a secondary romance because it took up a large part of the story. Matt and Helen had never had another partner and Helen brought up the idea of a threesome. Matt really did not want to do this but he loved Helen and wanted to please her so he brought another man into their bedroom. Matt looks at it as if honoring this request was respecting Helen’s wishes but I wasn’t convinced. Matt really disliked the idea of having another man pleasuring Helen. While it may have been sexy, emotionally it was very trying for Matt. We had very little time spent in Helen’s head so I wasn’t entirely sure her motivations. This was unresolved at the end. The one sex scene that is included for Matt is a threesome and it felt very gratuitous as if there is some erotic romance checklist and we needed to have public sex, oral on a table, and menage. Check. Check. Check.
In the end, I felt like this was more family saga than romance. Yes, there were romances or at least emotional conflict leading to a satisfactory ending for one couple in this story, but the conflicts and focus were really on the family dynamics of the brothers and their unsatisfactory sexual relationships. Blake and Jaxi’s story resolves itself in the first third whereas the rest of the story is focused on the brothers. Travis was dealing with finding the right partner and exploring his desire for pain that wouldn’t leave lasting wounds. Jessie and Joel were brothers who wanted one girl to share. Daniel had just been dumped by a long time girlfriend after finding out that Daniel couldn’t have children. Matt and Helen had a complicated relationship. Those storylines were interesting but I wondered why I had to field all of them in this one book. I felt like this was a novella with a bunch of extraneous stuff, the oversexed Blake men seemed more comical than erotic, and the romance between Jaxi and Blake was simply not very interesting. C-