Title: Nowhere Ranch
Author: Heidi Cullinan
Publisher: Self Published
Buy link: Amazon.com (Second Edition)
Genre: contemporary, cowboys, BDSM
Length: Novel (175 pdf pages)
Rating: 4.25 out of 5 Stars
A Guest Review by Feliz
Summary Review: A beautifully written book with really formidable characters, but it took an unrewarding u-turn towards the end that ultimately spoiled the story for me.
The Blurb: Roe Davis is a man who works hard, keeps to himself, and never mixes business with pleasure — until he takes a weekend away from his new job at Nowhere Ranch and runs into the owner at the only gay bar for two hundred miles. Getting involved with the boss is a bad idea, but Travis Loving is hard to say no to, especially when it turns out their kinks line up like a pair of custom-cut rails. As Loving points out, so long as this is sex on the side, no interfering with the job, they could make it work.
The truth is, there’s good reason Roe never settles down and always spends his birthdays and holidays celebrating alone. Shut out in the cold by his family years ago, Roe survived by declaring he didn’t need a home. As his affair with Loving grows into more than just sex, Roe finds out what happens when he stays put a little bit too long: the past always catches up with you. Eventually, even a loner gets lonely, and home will grow up through whatever cracks you leave open for it — even in a place called Nowhere.
The Review: Monroe “Roe” Davis loves his home in Algona, Iowa. He’s been a normal Iowa farmer’s boy – okay, he’s not the brightest bulb in the lamp as his cousin Kayla never fails to lovingly point out tho him since he has problems at school, but he’s hard working and good with sheep – until the day his parents found his stash of gay porn. After that day, nothing is ever the same. At some point, Roe can’t take all the preaching and trying to “heal” him with prayer anymore and leaves, first his parents’ farm, and then, after a bar fight got him imprisoned, he leaves his home town for good.
Life isn’t easy for a highschool dropout and former convict, though. Roe scratches along as a ranch hand for several years, a restless wanderer, always careful not to let a place or another person affect him.
His latest change of jobs takes him to Nowhere Ranch, Nebraska. The owner, Travis Loving, seems to be a decent guy; although he was a highschool teacher before he turned organic rancher, he’s not above trusting Roe’s advice when it comes to practical knowledge. Otherwise, Roe is left in peace, he has his own apartment, and he’s quite comfortable with his new job. His only problem is, he has needs – and in order to fulfill those, he has to take a three hour’s drive to the next gay bar. Which he does, one weekend when Loving is away.
But who’s the first person Roe sees as he walks into the bar, horny and determined to get laid, no matter what? Travis Loving, of all people. Roe’s life has taught him that keeping his sexual preferences to himself is the sensible thing to do. The last person who should know that Roe is gay should be his boss, and Roe almost panicks – until it dawns on him that there can be only one reason why Loving would be in that bar, same as Roe’s. Through an initially awkward conversation they discover that their respective needs indeed seem to match perfectly, and the evening brings Roe some of the best sex he has ever had in his life. In the morning, Roe and Travis agree on getting together again back at the ranch, with the understanding that it’s just sex and doesn’t affect their working relationship.
This seems to work out just fine for both of them, at least in the beginning. Both men are very much into BDSM, and pretty heavy stuff at that. Over the course of the book, they also browse almost the entire spectrum of role play, including some puppy play and pony play (which I found a little out of place, but hey, one man’s meat…). The scenes are deeply emotional and always serve the purpose of getting Roe and Travis closer together as their mutual trust deepens.
The fierceness of their scenes sometimes borders on disturbing. Roe craves utter sexual submission and pain which is a perfect match for Travis’s urge for complete domination. Yet, Travis isn’t some garden variety Dom who knows all the answers. Travis makes mistakes, he has his own past he needs to come to terms with, and in the beginning he hasn’t yet learned to read Roe very well. This finds its point of culmination during one of their scenes when Travis lets himself be carried away to a point where he almost causes Roe real damage. It’s not only Travis’s fault, though, since Roe fails to stop him in time. But Travis is willing and able to learn to pay better attention to Roe’s needs, and in turn Roe makes concessions to Travis’s imperfections as he learns that he can really trust Travis, not only in bed, but also with his heart. Both men find reassurance and solace as they grow into their respective roles. Gradually their ability to talk to each other transcends the sex and filters down to their everyday life until their sexual affair evolves to a loving relationship between two equally strong men who are on par with each other in every aspect.
Travis and Roe are perfect examples of Heidi Cullinan’s awesome talent for creating vivid and believable characters, which is all the more impressive since we have only Roe’s narrative voice for characterization.
However, this book had some issues which ultimately kept it from being exceptional for me. My first problem was Haley, the ranch manager’s daughter. She’s surely a well – drawn, positive character, and she’s surely very important for Roe’s character development. But here lies also the core of my problem with her, since I found Haley’s role was too big. For the last third of the book, she almost steals Roe’s and Travis’s thunder. Towards the end, it’s even her who calls the shots, pushing Roe and Travis towards a life-altering decision that should have been entirely theirs to make and with which at least Travis wasn’t entirely comfortable, which left me, as a reader, uncomfortable in turn.
The ending was, in fact, the biggest problem I had with this book. After all the darkness, the internal and external fights, the angst-filled struggle for love of two tough, hard men, I found the happy – happy – joy – joy pro-homo world of the ending a bit overdone. This is something that always bothers me with Heidi Cullinan’s writing (which I otherwise adore): She writes impressive, harshly real stories with hard-edged characters and then gives them mushy, double-chocolate-cherry-topped-fudge-iced endings that make my teeth hurt with their sugary sweetness. Yet I’m well aware that many love Cullinan’s stories just for this; those who do can have their fancy here in spades.
This book would have been outstanding had it ended about two or three chapters earlier. As it is, it’s still a very good story, with excellently drawn characters who I was reluctant to leave behind. Recommended.
***This book contains violent, heavy BDSM scenes including one fisting scene which, although they are always consensual, some readers might find disturbing***