Rating: 3.5 stars
Buy Link:
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Length: Novella

Sixteen-year-old Grant Peters knows who Logan Summers is. How could he not? Logan is the young man who, again and again, takes gold in the calf roping competitions, while Grant has to be content with silver. It doesn’t help that Logan gives him that same small smile and the careless “Hey” that gets under Grant’s skin every time he sees him at one of the rodeo events, The two boys go to the same school, though location is the only thing they have in common. They have different classes and different friends, and Grant’s happy to keep it that way. If only Logan weren’t his next door neighbor (so to speak).

Meanwhile, Grant’s father is having to shoulder the increasingly heavy burden of a ranch that’s losing money. The family farm hasn’t been bringing in much profit; the back fields and rustic buildings usually hosting tourists, weddings, or other parties has been sitting neglected. Neighboring places have sold, usually to Demco Oil, and people moved on to more lucrative — or, at least, less rural — lives, and now Demco has been sniffing around the Peter’s family land.

Grant can’t do anything about that; he can’t fix his father’s money problems any more than he can beat Logan in a competition, but when a dead deer hints at a cougar skulking around the property, Grant knows there’s one thing he can do. Kill the cougar, or get rid of it, and give his father one less thing to worry about. If only Logan didn’t decide to tag along. Grant can ignore the conflicting emotions the other boy makes him feel when Logan’s far away, but with Logan at his side on the cougar hunt, Grant can’t ignore the way Logan’s smile makes him feel.

Grant’s family loves him, and he loves them, too, but the stress of the last few years has been weighing on everyone. Grant knows his father wants him to go to a local college and then come home, ready to help take care of, and then take over, the family ranch. But, Grant isn’t sure that’s what he wants. At the same time, Grant can’t bear the thought of the family farm being sold to Demco Oil or even to anyone else. And then there’s his sister, Lila, who would love to inherit the ranch. If only she weren’t a girl, and if only Grant were brave enough to talk to his father about what he really wants … and really doesn’t.

Logan’s father is Crow and his mother is German, and he’s caught in the middle in every way that counts. The family farm is part of his blood and — like Grant’s — isn’t doing too well at the moment. The stress of it is driving his parents into arguments with no winners. His mom reasons that selling a small bit of unused land won’t hurt, that it would actually bring in money, but his father will have none of it. Logan sees both sides, and sees how fragile his family is at the moment. As with Grant, Logan goes after the cougar in order to keep his father from having to shoulder that final straw. It’s as much an outlet as it is an escape for Logan.

The two boys aren’t friends, have never been friends, but they aren’t unaware of one another. Grant can’t help but admire the sheer physicality of Logan, and Logan knows his feelings for Grant are growing into a crush that probably isn’t shared. Practical and pragmatic, Logan decides to accept it and endure the pain of it, as there’s no point making Grant uncomfortable with the knowledge. When Grant finally does admit that he’s pretty sure he’s bi, Logan has a choice to either let Grant breathe … or admit that he, too, is bi and has feelings for Grant.

This isn’t a coming of age story; both young men are already who they are. This isn’t even a coming out story, though there is that, because both boys are not certain if they’ll be alive the next morning. It’s an adventure book more in line with the horse and boy stories of the ‘40s and ‘50s where young men and loyal horses had to face down and outwit dastardly villains. It’s a pleasant romp, but it keeps the tone and the story light and fun, rather than delving into any of the issues it brings up.

There are some inconsistencies in the story, some glossing-over and hand waving to wrap up the plot that feels overly dismissive of the realities of the world, and everything is resolved with a happily ever after. It’s an okay story, but I feel like it could have been more, which speaks well of the author and their ability to craft interesting characters. I’ll definitely be keeping an eye out for the author’s next work.

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