JOINT REVIEW: Crushing on the Cowboy by Sarah M. Anderson
As The Heartbreak Kid, Mitch Jenner is known as the biggest womanizer of all the rodeo cowboys—but it’s just an act to keep himself safe. In fact, Mitch is so afraid of coming out that he’s opted to stay single—and a virgin. He’s fine with being alone…until he meets the mysterious Paulo.
Paulo Bernardes is here to learn the American style of bull riding well enough to teach it back home in Brazil. A namorado—a boyfriend—will distract him from his goal, but he’s captivated by Mitch, who understands him even when they don’t speak the same language. In return, Paulo wants Mitch to accept himself—and their relationship.
In private, Mitch yields to his attraction to Paulo and is rewarded with a heat and tenderness he comes to crave. But he still fears exposing their relationship. And as they grow closer, Paulo wonders how he’ll live without Mitch once their time together is up—how he’ll pick up the pieces of his heart when it’s time to say goodbye.
After seeing them as secondary characters in Anderson’s previous Superromance rodeo books, I was looking forward to Mitch and Paulo’s story. It’s been a while since I read any m/m books and I’ve not read them as extensively as you have so I’m curious about how well Anderson handled an m/m story. Since she has mainly written f/m books, did she avoid standard m/m tropes?
As I’ve mentioned before in DA discussions, thanks to yourself and other fellow DA reviewers, in the last few years I have found some m/f romances I enjoyed, and the first two books in these series are amongst those. But yes, where romance is concerned I still read primarily m/m. I don’t think she avoided the standard m/m tropes at all – the closeted virgin is alive and well in so many stories. I don’t think that writing a trope in itself is bad writing – to me the important issue is what the writer can do with it. Unfortunately in this case my answer is not very much.
So what other ones did she use? Virgin card, Mitch being cute about his cluelessness, knowing he was different – he thought he’s Gay but wasn’t totally sure … How about Paulo – dealing with past relationship pain and the rape issue for men. Is having his family’s support unusual?
I think she did try to portray Mitch as a real person rather than just writing him within the constraints of the trope – but I just always have trouble buying young guys in mm who are virgins. If the characterization is that the guy does not *like* sex, that’s one thing. But if the author is trying to convince me that a teenage boy (of any sexual orientation really) who likes sex ( I have not noticed anything about Mitch which pointed to him not liking sex) went without it till he was 21 she would have to work hard to convince me that this was believable.
Again, I am not talking about Mitch being in the closet – as far as I am concerned no gay person ever needs to justify hiding their sexual orientation until our society completely ends discrimination against them. And even then, obviously it should be up to them. I am just saying that societal discrimination is enough of a reason for me. So the additional reasons that were given for Mitch to be in the closet were unnecessary for me. I am strictly talking about the fact that after he started going to rodeos, after he left high school he did not have any sexual encounters with men, anonymous, one night stands, etc.
The only other trope that jumped out to me was Paolo dealing with past trauma, and while I may not be the best person to judge (not being a gay man), I actually thought this was handled pretty well. He understandably had some lingering consequences to deal with, but it was stressed over and over that Mitch was not saving him – they were just falling in love and dealing with other things in each other’s life.
I agree that Mitch can be closeted or not for any reason he wants but not having had any sex at all, ever was a stretch. Sure his reasons for not initially coming out to the rodeo crowd make sense but a 21 year old who’s never attempted any hook up was a bit much to believe.
That brings me to my other dissatisfaction with this story. I did not list Insta! Love as one of the tropes used here and that is surely not unique to m/m, because of course fast crush does not equal love and they say I love you – what, a couple months after they met? But when I was reading it felt very fast for me. It probably has something to do with the fact that this is a novella (40000 words?). Novella or not, I wanted more fleshing out of the characters. It felt to me that all they were doing were having sex. I keep complaining about it in many m/m stories, so I want to stress again – I enjoy good sex scene as much as any other reader. But I want to get to know them as people. I understand that the story is a prequel , but in the first book of this series, where I met them for the first time, they just seemed so *interesting* to me. I was not sure anymore after I finished this one.
Paulo is Brazilian which makes sense given how many rodeo riders in the US are originally from Brazil. I’m looking at him from my US perspective but did he seem authentic as an immigrant? One thing I personally didn’t care for is that Anderson does the “foreign word/English equivalent” thing – at least at first though this seemed to decrease as the story went on.
I am not Brazilian and Paolo did not come running from his country’s regime so it is hard for me to figure out if he felt authentic or not. I did not care for the simultaneous translation either, and I was kind of wondering about the plot device which made Paolo almost not able to talk at first. I get that this was to show that they communicated with their bodies and their hearts, but I just don’t know if it worked for me.
I had thought Paulo’s silence mainly due to not speaking English well but I can see it also being used as you mentioned. Since it’s a novella – was there enough length to do characters and relationship justice? What did you think of the pacing?
How about the sex scenes? Mitch seems to have at least watched a lot of Gay porn but he still seemed a little clueless. Is his desire for a little romance in this relationship believable that early?
No no no! I really think full length novel would have worked better here. We do meet Mitch and Paulo in the first book and I was interested and wanted to get to know them better. Here, though, it feels as if all I learned is that they have good sex together. I mean I know that is not all it was, we learn about Paulo’s past and Mitch being in the closet , but that’s how it felt to me.
I know it is partially about the fact that I usually run away screaming from stories like this one in m/m, but please don’t laugh at me? When I finished this book I was so disappointed I almost wanted to cry. I was so pleased about m/m romance being present in a Harlequin m/f romance which actually engaged me. It was technically well written, no doubt about that, but it was the same old same old, lets make them sexual beings first and nothing else is nearly as important. Oh and of course the sex is not good enough till they engage in anal sex.
I actually forgot that I had not read the second book in the series before I read this one, so I tore through the second one right after I finished Mitch and Paulo’s story. What a difference between the second and this one!
The characters have sexual chemistry, absolutely! And the sex scenes were lovely. But in that book they both felt real and alive, people who have passions and dreams. What do Mitch and Paulo want besides being together? Maybe the author thought that showing them riding in the first book was enough? But for me it certainly was not. At least show Paulo in his school in the epilogue. I was disappointed.
That’s an excellent point about m/m being in a Harlequin novel, even if it is a secondary relationship. You’re right about the emphasis on the sex. I wanted a lot more rodeo action than we got. The novella really doesn’t stand on its on in that regard.
I was also disappointed in how the major roadblocks got skimmed over. Anderson did raise issues faced by Gays and referenced the Matthew Shepard murder. It might be easier in come areas of the country but not in others and on the rodeo circuit, Mitch fears at the least being beaten if he comes out. There is also his religious mother who is convinced that Gays are living in sin and damned to hell. But we never actually see any of these issues finally laid to rest – there’s just a quick skip to a four years later epilogue with a happy mom proudly watching their marriage and being told that Mitch and Paulo are both out in the rodeo community. Yes, it’s a novella but I felt a little cheated.
No it does not stand on its own, I absolutely agree. I usually never make an argument by comparing a book to another one – I think the grade should be for the merits of this specific book, but I want to make an exception and again briefly compare and contrast to the characters of the second book – it is the same series after all and Mitch and Paolo appear as secondary characters in both books so I hope I can be forgiven this one time. Lace wanted to succeed in business, and we saw how much she cared about her bulls and her ranch. And we saw all of that clearly while she was figuring out her relationship. What did Mitch want in this story besides being with Paolo? What did Paolo want besides being with Mitch? I mean, yes, we are told that he wants to have a school back in Brazil and teach, but his passion really did not come through for me in this one. I thought making it a prequel was an odd choice in the first place, and then as you say, at the end we get an epilogue set four years – very frustrating, I felt like a lot of potentially interesting stuff got skipped.
Re: major road blocks, I actually liked how Mitch’s being in the closet was dealt with in the sense that while Paolo did not like it he did not pressure him and it was up to Mitch to figure it out. Although a bit more internal thoughts from Mitch would have been nice. I so agree about Mitch’s mom though. She is so upset and then she is not? Not that I wanted to see her turn into a harpy mind you but yes, felt like it was skipped over.
Oh, I’m glad his mother wasn’t turned into a harpy, too. I definitely wanted more about Paolo’s plans for his school. I’ve watched some bull riding because of past books I’ve read but I’m not sure what the difference is between the “American style” and the “Brazilian style” of riding and considering it’s so important to Paulo that he makes the effort to come to the US on his own to learn it, a bit of explanation would have been nice.
Paulo is incredibly patient with waiting for Mitch to make up his mind about how public to take their relationship.
Same here – I mean I never watched bull riding but I now want to after first two books :) and yes, I would have liked some explanation of the differences between the two styles.
Paolo is patient and both guys seem very kind and I liked that, however overall I can’t grade this book higher than between C and C-. What is your grade Jayne?
My grade would be exactly what yours is. Probably a C and that might be a little generous but I’m not jaded by the m/m tropes quite as much.