Title: Clouds and Rain
Author: Zahra Owens
Cover Artist: Anne Cain
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
Buy Link (Kindle): Buy Link Clouds and Rain
Genre: Cowboy, Contemporary M/M
Length: Novel (250 pages, word count unlisted)
Rating: 3 out of 5 stars
A guest review by Buda
Summary Review: What begins as a fun cowboy-on-cowboy tale loses steam about midway, then jumps the shark around three-fourths through and becomes an infertility tale about a secondary character.
Flynn Tomlinson has drifted for several years, working odd jobs when he needs the money and moving on when he doesn’t. He’s content with his freestyle life, not tied down, not responsible for anyone but himself. Then he comes across a Help Wanted ad in a post office in Idaho and meets Gable Sutton. Gable can’t pay Flynn until he sells his horses, but a serious accident has left him unable to work his ranch alone.
Working with horses beats stacking shelves at the supermarket, and so Flynn agrees to Gable’s terms. What Flynn doesn’t bargain for is being captivated by this gentle, lonely man who captures his heart and moves Flynn to take on an incredible burden: saving Gable’s ranch.
Clouds and Rain Stories
Flynn Tomlinson takes a job at Gable Sutton’s one-man ranch with the understanding that he won’t get paid until the horses have sold at auction. Having decided that getting back to ranch work suits him more than working as a short-order cook or in a grocery store, Flynn is content enough to work hard along side Gable until the job is done. He is immediately attracted to Gable, the ranch owner, but the two don’t fall easily into a relationship. For starters, Gable is much older (though how much is never determined), not a talkative type, and has a wounded foot that causes him much pain, which makes him a bit surly. Still, Gable appreciates Flynn’s hard work and the delicious meals he prepares for them.
My favorite line appears early:
[Gable had] eyed his cute little butt as he was walking down the barn, admired the long legs and the lean back. Of course he could only imagine that last bit, since it was hidden underneath a suede jacket and a denim shirt, but when he’s turned around earlier, Gable had practically heard his body wolf whistle.
The intense attraction the two have for each other flashes to life when Flynn is working with a young horse and a rattlesnake spooks both of them. Flynn dives away from the rearing horse just as Gable shoots the snake. Fearing Flynn has been bitten, Gable is all over Flynn trying to find the bite before Flynn can react. That leads to their first wild sex, which is unsatisfying for Flynn, who feels used. This is a recurring theme. It stems from Gable’s previous relationship with a man named Grant, who took whatever Gable offered sexually, while keeping him shut out emotionally. Grant left the ranch the night before Gable was injured and hasn’t been seen in the more-than-a-year since.
Flynn and Gable have just taken the first steps into a tentative relationship when they have a bitter fight, leading Gable to retreat to the stables to think. When he gets there, he re-injures his foot and so begins a long hospital drama complete with amputation. While the book is told in alternating third-person POV, when it’s Gable’s tale, his emotions about the loss of his foot are always couched in his feelings about Flynn: will Flynn leave now as Grant did, won’t Flynn stop (s)mothering Gable, etc. Gable’s recuperation from the amputation is handled well otherwise.
Calley, Gable’s best friend, and her husband Bill, the veterinarian, have very minor parts in the story, even while Gable is in hospital, until the three-quarters mark of the book. Then the shark is jumped and the book morphs into an unlikely story of Calley and Bill’s infertility, including a lengthy, lengthy passage about Gable in the semen-donation room. Quite frankly, I didn’t care for this story line and I don’t think it added anything to Flynn and Gable’s story.
Overall, I wasn’t impressed. Flynn and Gable are interesting enough individuals and together they’re in turns amusing and exasperating, as are most people in a relationship. What I found irritating was that at a year into their relationship, Gable is still hiding a secret (related to Calley) from Flynn, which much later leads to a stupid misunderstanding. The secondary coupling of Gable’s friend and neighbor Hunter with Grant was amusing and kind of cute. Frankly, the fertility story ruined my enjoyment of the book because a) it wasn’t necessary and b) it turned Flynn from a confident cowboy into a whiny pain in the ass whose attitude is only bound to cause trouble in the future. Another revelation about Bill, and Gable’s feelings about (not for) him, occurs so late in the story, with no hints given earlier, that it made me question everything I thought I had learned about the characters.
Zahra Owens is a new-to-me author, as this is the first book by her that I have read. Hopefully, fans of her previous work will like the book. I just couldn’t sustain my early enjoyment through the whole story.