Dear Ms. James:
Angela James (no relation, I assume), Editor Extraordinaire at Samhain, has been Twittering about your book for weeks as she edited it, saying how good it is. She then had a Twitter competition to give away five review copies of the book and while I missed out on that, she sent me a copy anyway (because she’s such a sweetie!). My Twittered response the next morning.
Trevor and Chassie Glanzer are happily married Wyoming ranchers, trying to make ends meet as they work hard on their small family ranch. Edgard Mancuso, hot Brazilian cowboy and Trevor’s old roping partner on the rodeo circuit, shows up one day and Chassie invites him to stay for a while. Problem is, Edgard is gay, Trevor’s former lover, and still in love with Trevor. His own life has fallen apart (although you don’t find out about that until the end of the book) and he’s come to visit Trevor to see if there’s anything salvageable of their old relationship. Three and a half years ago, he left Trevor because Trevor refused to give him anything other than secret fucking — Trevor wouldn’t give him the everyday touches and acknowledgments of a long-term relationship (they were, after all, part of the rodeo circuit, not the most gay-friendly of venues), and Edgard didn’t want to be anyone’s dirty secret anymore.
Chassie is, of course, horrified when she catches Edgard and Trevor kissing in frustration and desperation. She leaves, but listens to the wise words of her cousin who calls her on it when she says that she’d do anything to save her relationship with Trevor:
"I mean would you really do whatever it takes to keep Trevor happy and with you? Even if the option he chooses isn’t the easiest one for you? Or Edgard? Even if the solution is the best one for Trevor? Even if it’s an unconventional solution? [ . . . ] Stranger things have happened in the name of love, Chass. And you already told me you’d do anything. If you are serious then you’d better not discount the possibility because that is a reasonable, fair and possible solution." (86)
Chass goes for it and the three of them basically fuck their way to a solution, taking advantage (har har) of all possible sexual permutations of a triad relationship. In great, glorious, and extremely HOTT detail.
This facile description shouldn’t detract from how good this novel is. It’s a wonderful romance that lives up to its title. All three characters are indeed Rough, Raw, and Ready and the novel is too. As they work through their issues, as we get to watch the pure joy between Trevor and Chassie, as we get to see Trevor and Edgard renew their emotional connection, as we get to watch Edgard and Chassie slowly but definitely fall in love with each other through their mutual love for Trevor, as we watch them fuck each other six ways to Sunday, the emotional journey for characters and readers is front and center. If you like your ROMANCE hot but sweet, this is the perfect book for you.
For example, the whole conflict between Edgard and Trevor is that Trevor refused to give Edgard any physical expression of affection in their relationship, and of course, the tension between Trevor and Chassie is the relationship between the men. But after the sexual encounter between the men, initiated by Chassie so she could watch them together, Edgard sacrifices himself:
Trevor pushed to his feet. Edgard expected him to back away, so it shocked the hell out of him when Trevor circled his arms around him and buried his damp face in Edgard’s neck. His admission, "Jesus, I missed you," was nearly inaudible.
But it was loud enough to lodge in Edgard’s heart and his soul.
As much as he craved the affectionate side of this man, Edgard lifted Trevor’s face and pecked him on the mouth. "Same goes. But Chassie needs you. Go to her now." (134)
I definitely felt the melting feeling deep in my gut that is the hallmark of any good romance for me. That scene alone would be enough to sell me on this book (and the blowjob that preceded it certainly doesn’t hurt, that’s for sure!).
Additionally, the dialogue is truly fabulous–very Brokeback Mountain cowboy twang, complete with grammar and lost terminal “g”s. But it didn’t remind me of Sarah Palin (thank God) and felt incredibly authentic to the characters and to the setting. Then again, I’m a Yankee living in North Carolina, so what do I know? The closest I’ve been to Wyoming is Colorado Springs for three days. But it felt right to me. I’d be interested in the response from a Wyom….ah, someone from Wyoming. (Wyomian? Wyomingian? Wyoman?–hehehe! Wyomanite? Like dynamite?)
It is not all unalloyed joy, of course. The picky things: There’s some unfortunate “As you know, Bob” internal info-dumping reflection as the characters flashes through the backstory of their relationships with each other. It’s necessary and as engagingly written as it can be, but a little long and unrealistic. Additionally, the names of most of the secondary characters all seem to start with “C”–they’re all related to Chassie and to each other, so I’m sure that the family has something about “C”s, but it’s very difficult to keep them all apart when you read quickly. Finally, some conversations between secondary characters obviously catch the reader up on characters from the previous four books in the series, or sets up the next book or two. Again, it’s well done, and you can absolutely read the book without having read the previous four (I did, after all), but there’s just a bit too much of it.
Oh, and Trevor chews tobacco. Realistic, maybe, for a Wyomininja, but seriously? Ew. Been around too many artillery men who do it to find it anything other than truly, disgustingly gross.
Picky things aside, there were two major problems I had, although neither were enough to come close to dampening my joy for and enjoyment in this book.
First was the construction of the conflict(s) at the end of the novel. I don’t think I’m giving anything away (it’s a romance, after all) to say that Chassie, Trevor, and Edgard work out their relationship. But they do it successfully about two-thirds of the way through the novel. Which leaves a third of the novel to continue apparently tensionless. In order to provide further plot, each character deals with their dysfunctional family separately and the tension over a parcel of land for sale that Chassie and Trevor need but can’t afford to buy gets resolved in an innovative way. But all true relationship tension was over by two-thirds of the way through the novel. The sex is still good, but it was slightly anti-climactic. I couldn’t figure out what was left and why I was still reading.
The second issue is one larger than this particular novel. The phrase “We’re not gay, we just love each other” refers to the homophobic tendency of some slash fandom to pair two men but insist in the narrative that their relationship doesn’t actually make them gay. I found Trevor’s insistence that his relationship with Edgard didn’t make him gay or even bisexual, because he’s only been with or wanted to be with Edgard slightly grating:
A million questions tumbled in Chassie’s head but one pushed front and center. "Are you gay?"
"Did I not just see you in a lip lock with your former male ropin’ partner?"
"Yes. Before you ask, I ain’t bi either. It’s just-" He gestured helplessly. "It’s just Edgard." (62)
But then, to be fair, Edgard says the same thing about Chassie, because he’s constructed as completely gay. So at least it’s a fair representation of WNGWJLEO. Having had a friend tell me that they went through this themselves, I know now that it’s not just a construct of slash culture, but I personally don’t understand the need for it. Why couldn’t Trevor have been sexually adventurous with more men than Edgard, or at least aware of a slight sexual attraction to men, even if no one really tempted him to act on it before Edgard?
Would it have changed their emotional connection so much if Edgard hadn’t been Trevor’s first and only male attraction, let alone lover? I’m not sure, but I would find it more realistic that way, and in a book so grounded in reality (cf: tobacco chewing!), Trevor’s insistence he wasn’t gay pulled me out of the narrative.
But as I said, although these problems made themselves known, they weren’t enough for me not to thoroughly enjoy this strong, heart-warming, stomach-churning romance. I’m very much looking forward to more m/m or m/m/f books from you. Grade: B
And can I just say, “Yay! Boxer briefs!” I’ve NEVER understood boxers–they’re very American and, to me, completely unsexy. And briefs are just…well, not sexy either. But boxer briefs…oh yum. I really think Trevor is the first hero I’ve encountered that wears them. More boxer briefs, authors! More!
This book can be purchased in ebook format from Samhain Publishing on November 4.