Rating: 4 stars
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Graham has been a successful rodeo cowboy for years, along with his good friend and rodeo partner Jackson. But Graham is starting to realize he is losing interest in the sport and the time may be coming soon to move on. Things aren’t helped by the tension between him and Jackson from last year when a drunken attempt to pursue the attraction between them went badly, leaving the men feeling awkward around each other.
Graham also finds himself frustrated by the animal rights activists who are protesting at the rodeo. Their shouting and picketing is doing more to scare the horses than the rodeo ever could. When Graham confronts one of the activists, suggesting that they just take some time to talk instead of all the yelling, he is surprised when the man agrees.
Graham will admit that part of the reason he engaged Kaz is because he finds the man incredibly attractive. But not only has Graham never fully accepted being gay, he also hasn’t ever been able to have a successful sexual encounter with a man. Graham gets panicked and freaks out every time, and he has no reason to think things will be any different with Kaz. But when Kaz jokes about tying him up, Graham suddenly realizes that may be just what he needs. The men begin to explore bondage play, and for the first time, Graham can really let go and enjoy himself. But although the men are compatible sexually, they are still on totally opposite sides of the rodeo issue. Even though the men are a perfect fit in the bedroom, they must figure out if they can ever make a real relationship work between them.
I always love a good enemies to lovers story, and one by two of my favorite authors was impossible to resist. I really enjoyed the set up here, which focuses on two main issues. The first we encounter is Graham and his friend Jackson and the tension between them. Graham had feelings more than friendship for Jackson for years, but when they finally got together one drunken night, Graham’s anxieties sent him running and ever since then, things have been tense between them. I liked the way at first Jackson seems like a total jerk, but soon we see how hurt and bewildered he is by what happened between them. The men had been dancing around each other for a while, and when they finally got together, Graham ran and Jackson has no idea why. Neither man ever discussed what happened, they just have this awkwardness hanging between them.
So I enjoyed seeing how this played out, and how Graham begins to figure out what he really wants, and why he can’t have it with Jackson. I will admit feeling bad for Jackson here. He really cares for Graham and it is hard for him to understand why things can work between Graham and Kaz and not between the two of them. Jackson and Graham have been friends and loved each other a long time, but they are not compatible sexually. On the other hand, Graham and Kaz are total opposites but are on fire in bed together. It was an interesting dynamic the way the two relationships contrast, but I do feel like poor Jackson got the short straw (is it bad I kind of wanted all three of them together?). I have no idea of the authors have more planned here, but I’d love to see an HEA for Jackson at some point.
The other focus of the story is Graham and Kaz. They start out at odds, but both men are willing to take a step back from the fighting and at least talk to one another. And while they are very different in personality and in lifestyle, they are perfect for one another in bed. With Kaz, Graham realizes what he has been needing all this time. The bondage and submission takes away all his anxiety because all the choices and decisions are removed. He just has to do what Kaz asks and enjoy himself. I loved seeing that sense of liberation as finally Graham can open himself up and just have fun. (FWIW, we are talking very mild bondage play here, nothing too extreme.)
I did feel like I’d have liked to see this dynamic explored a bit more here though. We see how Graham responds to Kaz, and it is clear that this sexual dynamic works for him. But several times Graham thinks how he really needs to take time to understand it all, why it affects him this way, why it works, but we never see that happen. I wanted to see Graham have that time to understand himself and what he wants, especially since he is choosing this relationship over the one with his long time friend and partner. It just felt a little unexplored.
The story ends somewhere between an HEA and an HFN. The guys are on fire in the bedroom, but still not quite settled anywhere else. Both men have reached a point where they are making some changes in their lives that will make it easier for them to be together, and we definitely end with the expectation that there is a future for them, but we don’t see much of them together beyond sex. In fact, they don’t have much interaction with each other at all other than the times they are sleeping together. That isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but most of the growth and change happens individually with the idea that this will make them more compatible as a couple, but we don’t quite get that far in the story.
I’ll also point out that if you are a horse fan, there is lots to enjoy here, as we spend a good deal of time with Graham and the horses. The authors give us a lot of detail on their care and upkeep that shows either research or personal knowledge, and it makes the story feel very grounded in real life.
So overall I thought this was a fun story. Graham and Kaz are smoking hot in the bedroom, and I enjoyed the way being together really opens Graham up for the first time. The conflicts both with Jackson and from the MCs opposite natures made for an interesting story and I think it is enjoyable and well done.