Title: To Hell You Ride
Author: Julia Talbot
Genre: M/M Historical, Western
Length: Novella (81 pages)
Rating: 5 stars out of 5
A guest review by Leslie
Big Roy is a hard rock miner with a not so secret love for the theater, so when he hears a new troupe of actors are coming to the Telluride opera house to put on a Shakespeare play, he saddles his mule and makes the trek into town to see it.
The play doesn’t disappoint, but the beautiful lead actor, Sir Edward Clancy, certainly does. Clancy is rude and arrogant, and Roy figures he’d never have a chance with such a man. He’s wrong, because Clancy needs some entertainment himself, being stuck in a Hellish mining town for the long, snowy winter.
Come spring, though, Clancy knows he’s going to want to move on, and he thinks Roy will be easy to forget. Then tragedy strikes, and Clancy has to rethink his entire life. Can these two strike gold?
“‘Thank the Lord and all the angels,’ as Big Roy Marsh would say. ‘A historical western that gets it right.’”
Edward Clancy looked up from his book. “What’s that you say?”
Roy Marsh looked at him. “I’m readin’ a review and she quotes me.”
“A review? Of what?”
“The book about us, of course!” Roy gave Clancy an exasperated stare.
Roy wondered if Clancy was being dense on purpose. “Tis only one, as you know. Ain’t dozens of books ‘bout us. To Hell You Ride, the one by Miss Julia Talbot.”
“Ah,” said Clancy. “And what does she say? Is it a positive review?”
Roy nodded. “I’d say so. Five stars.”
“Five stars! A superior rating! That’s better than my last performance.”
“You didn’t rehearse enough for that one.”
“You were too busy keeping me busy.”
Roy blushed at that.
Clancy gestured towards the paper. “Go on, read some more.”
Roy cleared his throat. “‘Big Roy Marsh is a gold miner, working high in the mountains above Telluride, Colorado. On Saturday, he likes nothing better than to ride his mule, Annie, into town, stop for a shave, haircut and perhaps a bath, then put on his ‘Sunday go-to-meeting clothes’ and head to the theater.’”
“That’s what you still like,” Clancy interrupted.
Roy nodded. “I surely do, even if you do make me wear a suit.”
“You look particularly fine in a suit.”
Roy blushed again. He looked back down at the paper. “‘On this particular Saturday, Roy is transfixed by the performance of Sir Edward Clancy in the role of MacDuff. He accidently bumps into the actor the next morning and wishes to pay him a compliment, but Sir Edward arrogantly brushes him aside.’”
Clancy frowned. “Why did she have to include that?”
“It’s true. You were arrogant.” He continued reading. “‘When a comment about Sir Edward’s rudeness makes it into the paper, Clancy decides he requires a personal apology and sets out to get it, which becomes the basis for an amusing encounter between the two men.’”
“Amusing, hmm? I thought it was odd.”
“Amusing or odd, you couldn’t get enough of me,” Roy said.
It was Clancy’s turn to blush.
Roy turned back to the paper. “‘Roy and Clancy are the unlikeliest of lovers, but Talbot tells their story deftly, moving from a relationship built on carnal lust and a base desire for each other to one of a strongly shared love and mutual need.’” Roy’s brow furrowed. “Sounds a little personal, here.”
“Well, if you didn’t want it to be personal, you shouldn’t have shared so many details. I told you to be a bit more circumspect.”
Roy looked at his lover, his lips tightening into a hard line, but didn’t say anything. “‘The reason why this story works so well as a historical western, as opposed to a story that takes place in the old days, is the way the author effortlessly evokes the time and period. Little details bring the frontier town of Telluride to life, with its wood-framed buildings and muddy roads leading high up into the mountains. I particularly loved this line, ‘Only thing he’d taken had been his own shoes and coat, assuming them after he was out in the hallway, bright with its fancy electric lights that looked so odd to Roy. Any light that didn’t flicker with the wind just oughtn’t be trusted.’” Roy looked at the electric lamp at his elbow, then looked at Clancy. “Not sure why she’d comment on that,” he said. “Still think it’s true.”
Clancy smiled at him. “Oh, my rough miner. You never change, do you?”
“Do you want me to?” Roy asked.
Clancy shook his head. “No,” he answered softly.
Roy took a minute to compose himself, then picked up the paper again. “‘Themes are beautifully woven throughout the story, such as shaving and bathing. At the beginning, they are impersonal acts between Roy and the barber—a business transaction. Then they become erotic moments between the two main characters and ultimately, an act of caring and love, when Edward bathes Roy after a life-threatening accident.’”
Roy stopped. “Well,” he said.
“Well,” Clancy replied.
“I didn’t know we was being erotic,” said Roy.
“I didn’t know we had themes, but I suppose I should have figured it out, given my prowess in the acting profession.”
Roy chuckled. “Gotta hand it to you, Clancy, you ain’t ever been one to hide your light under a bushel.”
Clancy pointed to the paper. “Go on. Is there anything else?”
Roy nodded. “‘All in all, this was a thoroughly satisfying novella. Colorful, well-drawn characters, a totally engaging story, historical details that were pitch perfect in pulling me into turn-of-the-century Colorado. Having read a number of Westerns that come nowhere near this standard, it was a true pleasure to stumble upon this unexpected gem.’” Roy stopped reading. “Guess she liked it.”
Clancy nodded. “With a review like that, I suppose I shall have to stop ignoring this book and actually read it. Do we own a copy?”
“Yup,” said Roy. “It’s in the bedroom, next to the bed.”
“Will you fetch it for me?”
Roy shook his head mournfully. “Now, Edward, you know I ain’t your manservant, here to do your fetching. You can go get it for yourself.”
“I suppose I shall have to do that.” Clancy brushed an imaginary piece of lint from his trousers. “Perhaps you will accompany me?”
“To the bedroom?” Roy asked.
Clancy nodded. “Some of the things you read reminded me of memories that have, um, quite aroused me. I think, perhaps, some recreation is in order.”
“You mean getting fancy?” Roy winked.
“You know precisely what I mean, my love.”
Roy stood up. “You lead the way, honey,” he said with a smile.
“I don’t need to be asked twice,” replied Clancy, as they headed out of the room, the newspaper forgotten on the chair.
NB: This review has been cross-posted at Speak Its Name. Thanks to Erastes for the reciprocity!