As far back as he can remember, Jayden Laine has wanted to be a cowboy. Unfortunately, the closest he was able to come were books and movies… and the occasional visit to the state fair. At the fair he could walk into the barns and breathe in the smells of wood shavings and cows and dream, for a moment, that life could be different.
Lost in his fantasy world one day, Jayden is interrupted by Ben Ramos, a true cowboy, who needs a helping hand to convince a surly, stubborn bull that yes, he does want to move forward. For Jayden, the chance to help not only allows him to touch a real life cow, but the chance to impress a real live cowboy at the same time! However, Norman, the bull, has no intention of helping our dreaming hero look anything like competent, and with a well-aimed kick manages to land Jayden flat on his back in the aisle. But maybe Norman had the right idea, because Jayden finds himself being helped to his feet by the handsome cowboy, and it’s lust at first handclasp.
Ben Ramos is everything Jayden isn’t. Dark haired, confident, a real cowboy, and oh-so-sexy, he causes Jayden to feel desires and think thoughts that he knows are wrong even as he allows Ben to help him care for his swollen and aching knee. Even with these sinful thoughts and wicked dreams, Jayden can’t help but come back again and again, offering to help in any way he can if only to be close to Ben (and the cows) for just a little longer.
If this story were any cuter — and if the boys were any more sweet — I’d need an insulin shot! With a deft hand and a light touch, the author manages to create a pair of characters almost too perfect for one another. Where Jayden is a dreamer, prone to flights of fancy, Ben is grounded and prone to do things the way they’ve always been done. While he defies his father to bring the cattle to show at the State Fair, he does so not because it’s a known and safe step to take. But for all of Ben’s familiarity with cattle, it takes Jayden’s flash of inspiration to really get Norman moving in the show ring.
Ben is confident in himself, open about his sexuality, and patient enough to both show Jayden a possible direction, and then wait for Jayden to take the next step. They mesh so well, each bringing something to the relationship the other one lacks. Ben is earthy and calm while Jayden is airborne and anxious. But for all of that, it’s Jayden who is the braver of the two.
Ben is able to be proud of who and what he is, he does so because he’s had the support of his family behind him to support him. Even when he takes the cows to the fair against his father’s judgement, his father isn’t angry at his son for disobeying him. Though we never meet the man, Ben gives the impression that his father was more likely to roll his eyes and give his strong-willed son his head, to fail or succeed on his own. Jayden’s father sent him to be ‘treated’ in a gay therapy center, and has for all of Jayden’s life been a fearsome and demanding authority figure. When his father discovers Jayden not only playing cowboy at the fair, but playing with a cowboy, his response is instant anger. Jayden has to make the choice to stand up for himself and find the strength to be the man he knows he is. Ben is there with Jayden when he confronts his father, but he leaves it to Jayden to do the talking. He’s there to support him, not talk for him. And it’s that patient, giving sort of love that helps Jayden make the choice he’s known he needed to all along.
This story is a light, quick, easy read with so much more said around the characters rather than by them. Because so much ground has to be covered in so few pages, the relationship does feel a touch rushed, but believably so. The boys (both Jayden and Ben are 19) are young and prone to feel emotions deeply and swiftly. And just as prone to fall into love.
I’ll be keeping an eye on this author. If he should ever revisit Ben and Jayden in a longer book, I’ll almost certainly buy it. They make such adorable bookends for one another it would be hard to resist!