Rating: 4 stars
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Length: Novel

Miles Arlington broke up with his ex, Dallas, but Dallas still won’t leave him alone. The guy is stalking Miles and after Dallas drugged Miles and did who knows what to him, Miles doesn’t want to be anywhere near Dallas and the stress is really getting to him. When Miles’ best friend, Wes, offers him a job as the head chef at the new restaurant in the ghost town near Clean Slate Ranch, it seems like the perfect chance for Miles to make a clean break from his old life and leave Dallas behind. Miles is excited to start his new life, but also a little bit nervous as he will be sharing a cabin with Reyes Caldero, a man on whom he has been crushing hard since he visited the ranch last year. But Miles is not ready for a relationship so soon after the mess with Dallas, so he wants to keep his distance.

Reyes has it bad for Miles as well, but Reyes has secrets about his own past that have convinced him a relationship is not in the cards. No one as sweet as Miles would ever be interested in being with Reyes if he knew the truth about what happened years ago. So the two men decide to keep things as friends only and start to get to know one another better. But despite their determination to keep their distance, both men are still attracted to one another and slowly a real connection blooms between them. Soon they are basically platonic boyfriends, having found a strong emotional bond, and ultimately they take it to a sexual relationship as well. But while Miles may have gotten away from Dallas, that doesn’t mean the man has forgotten about him. And Reyes still has secrets that he knows he must share, yet he is sure it will spell the end of things with Miles. As much as two men have fallen for each other, their pasts may get in the way of having a future together.

Saddle Up is the third book in A.M. Arthur’s Clean Slate Ranch series. While the story could stand alone, Reyes and Miles have been side characters in past books (a prominent one in Reyes’ case), so being familiar with the series plot and some of the other characters will definitely enrich your reading here.

I have been intrigued by the quiet Reyes since the start of the series and was eager to see him find his match with Miles. As I said, neither man is ready for a relationship, but it pretty much finds them regardless. It isn’t long before they are sharing meals and intimate moments and are basically boyfriends in all but name. I liked how these two guys fit together. Reyes is a big, strong cowboy and his instinct is to protect Miles, but I like that he listens when Miles wants to stand up for himself and doesn’t push. He helps give Miles the strength and confidence to work through the conflict and stand on his own two feet, which I really appreciated.

From a story perspective, things are set up here pretty much from the start: Dallas is threatening Miles, and Reyes has secrets that will inevitably come out. So there isn’t really anything surprising that goes on here and we are mostly watching those two things unfolding. I’ll admit I was surprised at the severity of what happened with Reyes. I was kind of expecting it to be more in his head and his own self doubts than a really serious transgression, but that is not the case. I am happy that things worked out, but I would have liked to see this perhaps addressed a little more between them. What I really enjoyed here is seeing life at the ghost town now that it has officially opened. We have been getting teasers about it for the first two books, but here we see things in full swing, particularly the restaurant where Miles works. So I think that is a fun element that has been nicely incorporated into the story. I also really like the sense of family among all these men and the way they have created such strong bonds of friendship and brotherhood.

So this was a nice installment in the Clean Slate Ranch series. I am not sure if there is more to come or not, but I definitely will keep my eyes open for more as I enjoy this one quite a lot.