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So before I go too far here, I will tell you that this is my first Did Not Finish review. In fact, this is the first DNF we have ever had here at Joyfully Jay. It is not that I have loved everything I have read, but more that I am one of those people who always wants to know what happens in the end (this is also the reason I am a sequel slut but that is another story). So I gave some thought to whether I should push through and finish the book and give it a rating. However, in the end, many of the issues I had with the book did not seem like ones that would resolve with further reading and I really was not enjoying the story, to the point where I was forcing myself through it. So I decided at about 25% that it was time to stop.
Ok, so let’s break this down, shall we? First off, since I didn’t read the whole book, I can’t summarize it all for you, so here is the blurb:
Dodge City bank clerk Gordon Howsley leads a life of quiet routine, each evening feasting on the sight of rugged men in the Long Branch Saloon before going home to wife and children. A welcome breach occurs when outlaw Tom Stoddard robs the bank and takes Howsley hostage. Holed up in a remote hideout, Stoddard discovers Howsley to be a most willing captive and the two embark on a sexual adventure in which Howsley sees his dreams of manly satisfaction fulfilled at last. But when the law intrudes and Stoddard is jailed, how far will Howsley go to be reunited with the man he loves?
So what drew me to this story was both the wild west historical setting and the idea of the captive falling in love with the kidnapper. I am always looking for historicals set beyond the typical regency era. And this story definitely delivers on that regard. I was also intrigued by the presumed Stockholm Syndrome situation, figuring we would see the men start out as enemies and slowly find common ground and then fall in love. Plus the book was billed as erotic and you all know I love my juicy sex. So I went into this really looking forward to the book.
Unfortunately, right off the bat there were some issues. The first being that the story is told in both first person and present tense. Now I actually enjoy first person POV and have read and loved many books written this way so that is not a big deal by itself. I have even read some present tense stories I liked, although those are much trickier. But both present tense and first person together is a really high writing bar. It is just incredibly difficult to write a story in this style and not make it sound like someone is narrating aloud the character’s actions. “John goes to the door and opens it. He looks outside.” It just can very easily make for choppy and awkward writing. In this case, I did feel like the story just didn’t flow well and I often hard a hard time following what was going on, especially at the beginning.
We first meet Gordon at the local saloon where he comes every day after work at the bank. He has a wife and kids at home, but his wife is not interested in sex and he only has eyes for men at this point anyway. As Gordon looks around the room, we jump into one of my personal pet peeves right away, which is imaginary/dream sex — basically where we get a detailed sex scene that isn’t real, it is all a fantasy or dream. To me this is often just an excuse by the author to get the MCs together before they are ready and get more sex into a book. It is not always bad, and it happens a lot, but in general I don’t like it (see this post if you want more musing on this subject). But in this case, Gordon isn’t fantasizing about a sex with the other MC, he just has detailed, imaginary sex in his mind about a random drover within like the second page of the book. The imaginary sex is so hot for him that he then has to rush off the privy to come, which is good since he notes “Because I’ve enjoyed release this night, I’m loving to Jane and kiddies…” when he gets home.
This is just one scene of many of Gordon’s near constant hard on. In the saloon, he says “…my free hand slides down to prod my stiff prick, and when a fellow accidentally jostles me, I nearly come in my pants.” The next day, Gordon is at work in the bank and hard again, this time while sitting behind the counter at work.
As I transact with customers, polite and efficient to a fault, I know that at noon, when I alone remain on duty, other employees gone to lunch, I will, during that quietest time of the day, leave off my sums to indulge in depraved thoughts. As I sit behind a counter, there’s no problem with my cock coming up hard, and I am free to drop a hand down to prod the thing, which I often do. Once, while transacting with an old woman, I kept on down there and enjoyed a prodigious come mere second after her departure.
So if I wasn’t turned off by him already, knowing he is creepily fondling himself while talking to old ladies and getting off on it would do the trick. After that, with Gordon still hard (or hard again), two masked men walk in and rob the bank. Gordon caught sight of one of them before he put his mask on and since the guy was cute, he stays hard right on through the robbery. Even when the robber murders both his partner and a rancher Gordon knows right in front of him and then kidnaps Gordon, he still “can’t help but thrill to the feel of him at my backside” when they are on the getaway horse together.
When the guys finally get away to the robber’s hideout (his name is Stoddard, FWIW), Gordon is pretty excited about the whole thing. I get that he has this crappy life with a wife he doesn’t love and this is an escape, especially because he has never gotten to be with a man. But the man robbed a bank and murdered two people in front of him and Gordon just thinks it is all one big adventure. Then he ogles Stoddard enough that the man notices and Gordon tells him he is into men. Again, this is a guy who just killed two people and it is in a time when being openly gay wasn’t exactly safe, but Gordon is comfortable just coming on to the guy. At which point, they launch into some sex with no lube or prep at all for Gordon. Stoddard tells him:
I’ll break you in, which will hurt like hell, but you won’t care because you’ll be lost to the fuck. I usually do my pard after a job, as the work gets heated, so you’ll take his place, which means I’ll ride hell out of you.
(This is the same partner, BTW, that he just shot and killed because the man was wounded and would slow down their escape.)
So after some sex that night and the next morning, the law catches up to them and arrests Stoddard. I will just point out that the blurb says the men “embark on a sexual adventure” but it is in reality that one less than 24-hour period with basically no “get to know you time” between meeting and having sex. No slow build of tension between captive and kidnapper where they get to know one another and eventually succumb. The blurb also makes it sound like the men are in love when Gordon tries to get Stoddard out of jail (and Gordon even mentions his heart is involved that first night) but again we are talking one day together.
So that is about where I stopped reading. I’ll be honest, it is not just the plot and the POV and tense issues I noted above. It was also the writing. It just felt so awkward and stilted, I could never get into the flow of things. I think that may have been in part the author’s effort to make the language sound of the time. But here is an example where Gordon is talking to Stoddard about getting to live out his sexual fantasies:
“It sounds so good I can hardly believe it’s real,” I gush. “Mere hours ago, I was nothing but a bank clerk dreaming of men. Now I’ve been fucked by a bank robber and am looking for more. I want to do it all Tom. May I call you that, seeing we’ve been intimate?”
And the last thing is that the sex just did nothing for me. It was cold and awkward and had none of the heat I wanted. Now I am girl who likes sex in her books, but basically Gordon is so led by his dick, hard all the time, that he has no judgement. Then the actual sex scenes were just not my thing at all. Not to mention that after he has anal for the first time (again with no lube, spit, or prep), Stoddard flips Gordon over and makes him suck his dirty cock that has just been up Gordon’s ass (with no condom obviously) as Gordon gags and recoils at the taste. Just not my thing at all.
So I don’t mean to pile on here, I really don’t. I just feel like I want to show you all that I didn’t just give up easily here. I really tried to give the book a chance and it didn’t work for me on any level and I didn’t see these issues suddenly changing. Now maybe this book just wasn’t for me and would work for you. Based on the blurb, the next part involves Gordon trying to get Stoddard out of jail and that has some potential. And if the things that bugged me don’t bother you, than this might be worth a shot. I just decided that I had enough and unfortunately could not finish this one. Sorry.