I chose this story for Judge a Book By It’s Cover Week of Reading Challenge Month because I felt it was really evocative. The stylized graphics clearly highlight a big strong cowboy looking up at a character who appeared to be a young man, down on his luck, and in need of some help and comfort. That was a story I wanted to read.
Henry Atkins is a lifelong resident of Clyde’s Corner, Montana, and that’s not awesome. Mostly because he grew up the only child of a couple that were known for domestic disturbances. Henry was a troublemaker growing up, meaner than a stomped on rattlesnake after all their non-existent TLC. His old pals were little better—though one has turned his life around. And, now that his mom has fled to her sister’s home in Florida and his dad moved to Alaska, Henry’s trying like heck to turn a new page. He’s been scrimping and saving for fly fishing gear to get a guide business going, and working at the Muddy River Ranch also helps. There he earns a decent wage, and all the exercise from caring for the horses and mucking stalls has helped him lose a lot of weight. Plus, it’s allowed him to make amends for revealing some personal business about Ben, the boyfriend of the ranch’s owner, Joshua. Yep, he has a front row seat to a loving gay partnership, and it makes him a mite wistful. Henry is a man of little experience with love, though he’s consumed a lot of gay porn—especially that featuring his favorite model, Devon.
Micah is also known as “Devon,” a top gay porn model earning big bucks for several years. He started weeks after high school ended and he’s now about 23, and still in peak shape. Unfortunately, Micah’s desire has dwindled and he’s unable to perform without pharmaceutical aids—mostly because he knows his gay-for-pay scene partners have no real attraction to him. His manager urges him to take a vacation and get over whatever issues are dragging him down, so he calls his friend Ben who invites him to the Muddy River Ranch for a month of fresh air and solitude. Ben was in porn before moving back to his hometown of Clyde’s Corner, and he swears the ranch is a healing place. Micah is startled to learn that Big Buff Henry recognizes him, but he trusts Henry, who promises to not divulge his modeling persona to anyone.
The men start an unlikely friendship. Micah is afraid of the horses, yet determined to try everything at the ranch to see if it will help him relax. Henry teaches him to ride and to fly fish, because it’s one of the most peaceful activities once can do up there. Micah didn’t believe he’d like it, but Henry is a good and patient teacher. Their quiet time on the river gives Henry the courage to ask Micah to help him get over his tongue-tied nature. That vulnerability really appeals to Micah. It seems the Ladies Society has noticed the positive changes Henry has made, and they want to help him rehabilitate his reputation and get his business going, as well as find a good woman. The trouble is that Henry’s very much attracted to Micah. Would coming out mean the women stop helping him in other ways? Meanwhile, Micah’s happily realizing his physical desire for Henry is growing by the day.
This was a sweet and sensual odd couple romance with a savvy city boy finding the stalwart country man to be both attractive and indispensable. I loved the bonding moments they shared at sunrise, whipping those fishing lines out and back, out and back, searching for that big bite. There is a distinct cadence to the story, with Henry’s parts sounding a little slower, as he’s a little more deliberate in all he does—with pondering his options in the community and being precise in his language. The Ladies Society was a hoot and a half, and I could visualize how carried away they were getting with their misguided do-gooding. Micah is a man with plans, and he’s afraid to deviate too far. His future plans include opening a business for himself, as he fears that no employer would hire a former porn star. So, he’s been taking college courses to support that goal. But, maybe there are other avenues that he could explore, both personally and professionally, with the help of both Ben and Henry.
I absolutely loved how joyous the love story is, with Henry and Micah both being so tender and trying hard to please one another. Both men have felt a lack of love in their lives to this point, so experiencing love for each other gives them each pause. It gets serious quickly, and Henry doesn’t want Micah to go back to the Vegas porn life—but he doesn’t want to lose him by pushing the issue, either. Henry will take whatever Micah will offer, and Micah isn’t sure what he wants; he doesn’t believe the Clyde’s Corner Ladies Society would welcome him if they knew his history. Once a stalker arrives, however, it’s time for both Micah and Henry to fight for what’s important, and that’s the true love they each deserve. This may be the third book in a series, but it’s easily read as a standalone. The pages turn fast, and the characters all feel like people you’d meet in Anytown, USA.
Back to that cover, after reading the story I could see why the cowboy looked up to the younger man. Henry may be a few years older, and bigger and stronger, than Micah, but he definitely idolizes Micah and wants to both comfort and protect him. Their growing friendship and eventual physical relationship was so enjoyable to watch happen on the page.
This review is part of our 2021 Reading Challenge Month for Judge a Book By Its Cover Week! Leave a relevant comment below and you will be entered to win one of five $20 JMS store gift cards from JMS Books (you can see the details on the bundle in our Prize Preview post)! Commenters will also be entered to win our amazing Grand Prize sponsored by NineStar Press: a Kindle Paperwhite loaded with 50 NineStar Press books! And don’t forget if you read along with your own challenge book this week, you can earn ten contest entries for writing a mini-review on our wrap up post on Friday! You can get more information on our Challenge Month here (including all the contest rules) and more details on Judge a Book By Its Cover Week here.