Rancher Creston Grant lost his lover in a tragic accident and hasn’t been the same since. Cres keeps mostly to himself and is still in mourning. When his brother drags Creston to a party celebrating the opening of a new rodeo training center, Cres reluctantly agrees, mostly because many of his family members are involved in the endeavor.
Breck Christianson was a champion rodeo cowboy until a forced outing left him blackballed from the sport. The whole experience was horrible and left physical and emotional scars. Now Breck has taken a short-term job teaching rodeo, but he plans to move on when his contract is over.
The two men had a fiery, week-long fling years ago, and when they see each other again, the sparks reignite. Neither man is looking for anything long term, but they decide to enjoy their time together and reconnect. But what was supposed to be some no-strings sex begins to turn into more as the guys spend more time together, both in and out of bed. Both Cres and Breck are realizing they want more that they had originally thought, but neither one thinks he has a chance in making the relationship last.
Strung Up is a really enjoyable cowboy romance with lots of hot steamy scenes and some really nicely developed characters. It is a fairly short novel, but James manages to create some interesting back stories for these guys and even in a short number of pages, they are both given a lot of depth. Each man has had tragedy in his past that left him avoiding future relationships, but the spark that was there years before between them is still there. And wow, what a spark! These guys are super hot together and the connection and chemistry between them is great. James manages to get the balance just right between depth to the characters and also lots of heat and intensity.
This isn’t a really plot heavy book. It mostly focuses on the guys reconnecting and their growing relationship. The conflict comes with the fact that both men want more and for things to continue between them, but both assume the other isn’t looking for anything more serious. So we do get the misunderstanding conflict towards the end that could have easily been resolved with some talking, but this doesn’t drag on long and the pacing of the book helps keep thing moving.
I did find myself a little confused by Cres with regards to his mourning of his lover. As the book starts, it is clear that Cres has been down for a long time, he never gets out, he ditches his family, and is basically a mess. Then he sees Breck and hooks up right away. And even though Cres then has some anxiety over it, by the next day it is over and they are moving forward. So I wished this had been explored a little more. Why is he suddenly ready to move on after being a mess right up until he got to the party? Given how well the other issues were explored, I would have liked to see this more developed.
Strung Up is part of Lorelei James’ Blacktop Cowboys series, but I had no problem reading it as a standalone. This is the only m/m romance in the series and the book is written so you can jump in without having read the others. Cres is related to several characters in other books, but their relationship and connections are all made clear. The book is also part of the 1001 Dark Nights collection, which is a set of books put out by various authors under a joint label. Those books are not connected by plot or characters, but rather by a fairly general “storyteller” thread and none of them have to be read in order or as any kind of series. So you can be just fine jumping in here without having read the other books. But if this one does intrigue you and you enjoy m/f romance as well, it looks like there are two other books that feature Cres’ brothers.
I definitely enjoyed Strung Up and was excited to see the series add in a m/m romance to the collection. This one is a great combination of really engaging, well drawn characters and some super heat and chemistry. If you enjoy cowboys, or are just looking for an great read with a steamy side, I can recommend Strung Up.