Mabe Crasson has her sights set on Big Basin Ranch, and she thinks she knows how to get it. The owner, Trix Stubben, is a widow who lost her husband John last year. She is dating Chris Ramsey and things look like they may be getting serious. But if Mabe’s handsome older son, Eric, can win Trix over, the Crassons may be able to actually be something in the little town of Clyde’s Corner, Montana. The only catch is that Mabe needs her younger son, Jeremy, to attract Chris’ attention and free Trix up for Eric.
Jeremy can’t believe his mother’s crazy plan, but he can’t say he completely hates the idea either. Jeremy is shy and has never dated and Chris is gorgeous. Jeremy isn’t even sure Chris is gay though, but Mabe is convinced it is worth a shot. And Jeremy can’t resist the chance to finally date and break out of his shell.
Between being poor and having their father sent to jail, the Crassons have had a hard time in town, especially since Eric is such a slacker. But to Jeremy’s surprise, Eric turns himself around, gets hired at Big Basin, and seems to be working hard for the first time in his life. And Jeremy makes friends with Chris, and there is clearly an attraction growing. Jeremy is thrilled when Chris acts on the connection between them and they begin a tentative relationship, but Chris is still also kind of dating Trix and rumor has it they may be getting married.
Chris realizes he has fallen for Jeremy, but he still feels an obligation to Trix and her young daughter. His desire to marry Trix came mostly out of loyalty to her former husband and Chris’ desire to settle down with a family, and Chris knows he doesn’t love Trix the way he should. And it doesn’t appear that Trix really loves him either. As he falls harder for Jeremy, Chris now needs to decide if he is going to take a chance with the man he is growing to love.
The Stolen Suitor is a new book in Dreamspinner Press’ Dreamspun Desires line. I will admit that I was never a category romance reader, though I know many romance fans started with those Harlequin stories. So I was quite intrigued to see Dreamspinner give the genre a m/m facelift with this new line and I found this story an enjoyable read. Despite the kind of crazy set up, the book doesn’t end up being too soapy or over the top. Yes, we have have a meddling mom and brothers trying to break into a relationship, not to mention a few other crazy happenings along the way. But for the most part this reads like a fairly standard contemporary, so it was a nice balance for me of the category style with a more standard contemporary romance.
We get a nice sense of Jeremy here as this shy, sweet guy who has mostly just kept his head down in town. It is a small little place with not much of a gay population and he has never had the chance to date. The Crassons always had a bad reputation, between his father going to jail, a mother who is considered “loose,” and a slacker brother who can’t keep a job and spends most of his time drinking and being wild with friends. So Jeremy hasn’t had much of a chance to come out of his shell and it is lovely to see him find happiness with Chris, who is just a good solid guy. The pair are likable together, sexy and fun, and I liked seeing Jeremy experience love and sex and real happiness. Chris encourages Jeremy in his writing and is just overall supportive.
Eric and Trix’s storyline is a major part of the book, and though I wouldn’t consider them main characters, they are a significant part of the plot as we watch Eric try to woo Trix. We get their POVs at different points in the story and I thought it was a nice balance with Jeremy and Chris’ storyline. I did feel like I needed to understand Eric better however. He hasn’t had a steady job in 7 years, he spends all his time drinking and carousing, and is basically good looking but mostly a slacker. Then one word from Mabe and Eric gives up smoking and drinking immediately. He gets a job at the ranch and becomes the model employee and turns his life totally around. I needed to understand him better, to get how he is suddenly able to make this transformation. Yes, ultimately it is because he has fallen for Trix and wants to be a good man for her, but much of this happens earlier with no real explanation for how Eric manages to turn things around so fast.
Overall I found this an enjoyable story and a nice introduction to the new Dreamspun Desires line. This story has a nice balance, and despite the kind of crazy set up, it doesn’t go too far in the hijinks to be a believable romance. I wish that more had been developed with Eric, as he and Trix play a big role in the book. But The Stolen Suitor is an entertaining read and I think fans of the category style, as well as those who like ranch and cowboy stories, will particularly enjoy it.
A review copy of this book was provided by Dreamspinner Press.