Rating: 4 stars
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Cowboys Don’t Come Out by Tara Lain is a sweet Christmas offering that I found had some nice moments, despite what felt like a slow start. I will say that I found it difficult to “get into” this novel—but just because I was not immediately drawn in to the plot premise does not mean that Lain’s writing is at fault. Sometimes we are simply not enamored of a certain character right off the bat, as was the case for me, but due to some well-structured story arcs that feeling changed throughout the course of the book. In this instance, I felt it was watching the main character, Rand, interact with the riding students that really brought out a side of him that previously seemed missing—his humor and his tenderness toward the younger kids made him much more relatable and genuine and the entire novel shifted for me at that point. Let me recap the story briefly before highlighting some of the finer moments in this book.
Cowboys Don’t Come Out follows the week of vacation Rand and his parents take to scenic Hawaii at Christmas time. In the end, it also highlights what will become a real make or break moment in Rand McIntyre’s life when he meets a local cowboy who is trying his best to raise his two siblings and still manage to have some sort of life of his own. Rand, himself, is of the definite mind that cowboys may be gay, but never out to family and friends, as it might both harm his business—running a ranch that offers riding lessons, as well as devastate his parents’ hopes and dreams of having grandchildren to spoil. So he lives a rather miserable, closeted, and lonely life while trying to pursue his life-long dream of owning his own horse ranch.
When he meets Kai, Rand falls immediately in lust and is hopeful that a little action on the island will relieve some of the intense pressure he feels from his mother, in particular, about finding the right girl, settling down, and starting a family. The worst of it is that Rand actually loves kids and would really like to be living the dream, but with a man at his side—something he would never dare reveal to his folks, much less his employees or clients. But on the island, if he is careful, he can have his dream—if just for a short time. So when his folks leave, Rand opts to stay behind and spend time with Kai and his half-siblings.
Little does he know that both the kids will grow close to their “Uncle” Rand in such a short time and that he himself will begin to look at Kai as more than just a holiday fling. But common sense and fear of coming out has always ruled this cowboy’s life and no amount of new feelings for another man are going to unsettle those long held rigid standards he’s set for himself—even if it means he will be miserable and alone in the end. But disaster strikes Kai and the kids and prompts a decision that will unalterably change Rand’s life and potentially cause his own personal dilemma as well.
The chemistry between Kai and Rand ramps up rather quickly in this novel—and while I felt some of the dialogue, particularly during sex, was a bit over the top and even, at times, crossing the line into purple prose, there was undeniable heat between the two men. In fact, I sometimes found the clichéd way they spoke to each other during intimate moments rather off putting, but as the story developed there was more of a relationship between the two due to the kids being involved in the day to day interactions and, for me, that really helped to make those awkward dialogue moments more palatable to read. In fact, the longer I read and watched the kids grow to love Rand, the more I did so as well due to the fact that the author allowed the children to be the real catalyst in bringing the nicer and warmer aspects of Rand’s personality to the forefront. Kai also became much more vulnerable as his siblings drew closer to Rand—making him feel younger and yet, in many ways, more approachable and real. In fact, while the bulk of this story took place over the span of about two weeks, the feel of a slow build in the story made it seem much longer and really allowed for me to accept what amounted to an almost insta-love theme in the story.
All in all, this novel had some good bones to it and a sweet relationship that felt natural given its short time frame. While I was surprised that Rand felt he couldn’t tell his parents about his sexuality, there was most definitely honesty about his fearfulness that made his reluctance believable. I enjoyed Cowboys Don’t Come Out by Tara Lain and would say that it should definitely earn a spot on the Christmas list of any who enjoy cowboys and coning out stories.
A review copy of this book was provided by Dreamspinner Press.