Title: Twisted (Lucky Jeff Ranch #2)
Author: Jake Mactire
Cover Artist: Paul Richmond
Buy link: Amazon.com
Genre: Contemporary Romance/Western/D/s-lite/Suspense
Length: Novel (338 PDF pages)
Rating: 3 stars out of 5
A Guest Review by Aunt Lynn
One Sentence Review: Two Sides of the Same Coin part two, or more of the same.
Despite the celebrity their recent cracking of a cattle rustling ring has brought, Jeff Connelly and his partner, Mike Guidry, are ready to settle down and start the dude ranch they’ve always dreamed of. Following your dreams isn’t always easy, though—between a troubled new ranch hand who propositions Jeff and Mike’s past suddenly confronting him, emotions are already running high.
Then a sadistic serial killer nicknamed the West Coast Cutter starts slicing a trail though Jeff and Mike’s territory. As the body count rises, they begin to suspect that the killer may in fact be someone they know—a suspicion that is only strengthened by a sudden rash of threatening notes addressed to Jeff. Can they escape the West Coast Cutter before the worst happens?
Lucky Jeff Ranch Series
Twisted is the sequel to this author’s Two Sides of the Same Coin (reviewed here) and the second book in the Lucky Jeff Ranch series. Well, I asked for it and I got it; in the summary final para of my review, I was interested to see what Mactire would give us next, and I found out: more of the same from his first novel. While another ambitious and hefty effort, unfortunately all of the things I had issues with in that book are carried over here.
The story opens about two months after the end of the previous book with our first-person narrator, Jeff, and his partner, Mike, cross-country skiing in the area near their home in an eastern valley off the Northern Cascades in Washington state. The recently-opened dude ranch, the Lucky Jeff Ranch, is getting going and they anticipate new guests soon. They also agree to take on the brother of one of the ranch hands, troubled teen Jason, who will helping and hopefully straightening out. Additionally, a major figure from Mike’s past comes knocking on the door, opening old wounds. In the meantime, there is a horrific serial killer on the loose, coming close to home for our heroes and even perhaps making one of them a target, and a big ol’ gay rodeo to attend.
What worked for me:
While I guessed who the baddie was the minute he was on the page and it had a completely different feel and tone than the rest of the book (more on this later), I admit that last quarter of the story containing the lion’s share of the serial killer sub-plot was, for me, perhaps the most enjoyable aspect. On the second read, I realized that the reason I liked it was because it was outside of the rest of the repetitive, near-saccharin, heavily-dialogued plot: no Mike and their lovey dovey-ness, no descriptions of food or cowboyin’, no same group of friends talking about the same things over and over.
Unfortunately most of the rest of the book. As I mentioned, this story suffers from the same issues for me as the first book. Once again…
…it’s too wordy and descriptive. We’re given many details about food, clothes, entertainment and socializing. We’re also given what I consider borderline lectures about cowboy culture, cross-country (Nordic) skiing, Akhal-Teke horses, and serial killers, just to name a few.
…it’s repetitive. What we’re told here numerous times are things we also knew from the first story. For example, we hear multiple times about who Renee is. How Smitty is the newest hand. How bad Mike’s father was to him. How Sandy and Jeff have been friends forever and she was often his “date” to events while growing up (like the prom). How Mike came to be on the ranch and the order of his friendships/acquaintances. How Mike and Jeff got together. How to make cowboy coffee. How they have to rinse off in the bathroom off the mudroom before getting into the hot tub. What Jeff’s views about religion are. How the serial killer was twisted. I was bored and it got old fast.
…it’s dialogue heavy. It felt as if no one shut up. Plus, I grew weary of the constant inclusion of people’s names while they talked. No one continually says a person’s name or nickname in most every sentence. Additionally, much of the story is overly-sweet, with Jeff and Mike constantly telling each other how much they mean to and love each other, and how great the other one looks, and how wonderful they are together. This also goes for the group of friends, who are all great together and there is no real conflict between them.
Lastly, I thought there were too many plot elements stuffed into the 300+ pages. Between Mike’s past returning, taking on Jason, the gay rodeo, the serial killer, and the everyday lives and running the ranch, it all felt to be too much for one story. Additionally, the serial killer sub-plot, which as I said earlier was a plus for me, felt completely out of place with the rest of the story. We went from a pretty light atmosphere where everybody joked and laughed and had tons of smexxin most of the time to a heavy, melancholy tone for the last quarter. Once again I believe this book could have benefited from a sturdier editing hand to deal with this and the other problems.
I have trouble recommending this story, but if you liked the first book, you’ll probably love this one as well.