Marco Terlizze has a brand new college degree in communications he has no desire to use, a prospect to train with a professional hockey league he doesn’t want, and absolutely no idea what he desires for his future. So when Marco’s friend, Lassiter Windsor-March, who also happens to be the man he’s been crushing on for four solid years, offers him a job at his family’s ranch for the summer, Marco jumps on the chance. It’s three months in Wyoming and a chance to let go of the pressures placed upon him to maybe figure out what he wants to do with his life. And it’s a chance to be near Las, who turned him down, but who Marco can’t stop wanting.
Las has his life planned to a T, and he knows deep in his soul what he wants for his life and for the future of the ranch. Windsor is in his blood and his heart, and even though he was born into local “royalty,” it’s deep in his soul too. Having Marco close is something Las desperately wants, but he won’t allow himself to date someone seasonal. He’s been burned before, and badly, and Las is not willing to risk his heart again. Not on someone who doesn’t want the same things he wants. And certainly not on someone who is going to leave in three months.
At first, Las tries to keep his distance, but staying away from Marco is impossible. And the more Las shares about the place he loves, the more Marco falls in love with it too. And the more the men fall in love with each other. But while Marco begins to hope for a future, Las is still holding back. Las’ fears seem to come true when Marco is offered an opportunity that seems to good to pass up. But the love they’ve been building is strong, and so is Marco’s love of Windsor. Can that be enough to keep these two young men together?
I took a chance on this book because the blurb sounded enticing and I wanted to give this author a try. But I’ll admit, I’m not one who generally swoons over cowboy books, and I tend to pass them by. I’m glad I picked this one up though. First off, there’s definitely less “cowboying” going on here than I expected, since Las’ family’s ranch is both a working ranch and a guest experience. A super fancy dude ranch, if you will. We see most of this, since Marco is working on that side of the operation, though there are definitely moments that will appeal to the cowboy-loving reader. So I think this book is the best of both worlds in that regard, and definitely worked better for me.
I think the author did a nice job capturing two very different young men. Las and Marco are both 22, and while Marco has no idea what he wants to do with his life, Las has known from a young age exactly where his heart and passion lie. The dichotomy between them was a nice balance, and I loved the growth portrayed in both of them. Marco especially was able to take a step back and breathe, find his passion, and find a place to call home. Las’ growth was even more internal as he both had to learn how to open his heart to what he wanted with Marco, and find a way to make his passion work.
This is a friends to lovers story that has the MCs as friends because they think they can’t have each other as more. I will say though, for me, it’s not true friends to lovers. For the first half of the story, both of them have a simmering, underlying attraction and a deep need for more, though they truly are friends. But every interaction between them is laced with desire, and Las, especially, wants Marco to fall in love with his home so that he’ll stay and he can have Marco as his partner in both things. Las, in particular, acts older than his age, but it works because he’s known for forever exactly what he wants and has the ambition and determination to follow through. Marco is a bit aimless and directionless, and this read truer to his age. Though he definitely acts a lot more mature that your typical 22-year old. The dual third-person POV really gives us a good look into each characters’ minds and hearts, so we really got to know them both.
The pacing here is spot on, with a bit of a slow burn to get to the romance part of things. Even the big misunderstanding moment is handled well and true to character. I wouldn’t even call it a misunderstanding exactly, but Las jumps to conclusions that make sense given his past experience, and Marco acts according to his past as well. Though, I wished for better communication between them before it happens. Considering how mature they both act, I was surprised that neither of them talked to each other about their true feelings and thoughts. But if they had, there’d be no dramatic moment. Even still, it’s resolved quickly and satisfactorily, and we’re left with an incredibly solid HFN that certainly implies an HEA.
And a quick note: this story relies heavily on both MCs remembering a conversation they had back when they were at college together. At the end of the book, the author makes a note that the conversation can be found by signing up for Aislin’s newsletter. I think it’s great it’s available, but I definitely would have preferred it to be a part of the story, even in bigger chunks of flashback form, because I felt as though I was missing something.
This is the first in a series, and I would definitely want to see what the author gives us next. There’s a good set up here, and there’s a lot of great supporting characters. All in all, it’s a solid story with just enough angst to give it some weight. Pick this one up if you’re looking for a “cowboy-lite” romance about two young men finding their future together.