After the Sunset (Timing #2)


Title: After the Sunset (Timing #2)
Author: Mary Calmes
Cover Artist: Mara McKennen
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
Buy Link: Buy Link (Second Edition)
Genre: Contemporary Romance/Western
Length: Novel (168 pages)
Rating: 3.75 stars out of 5

A Guest Review by Aunt Lynn

One Sentence Review: Behaviour on both Rand’s and especially Stef’s part make this a less enjoyable read for me than Timing.

THE BLURB

Two years after riding off into the sunset with ranch owner Rand Holloway, Stefan Joss has made a tentative peace with his new life, teaching at a community college. But the course of true love never does run smooth. Rand wants him home on the ranch; Stef wants an exit strategy in case Rand ever decides to throw him out. Finally, after recognizing how unfair he’s being, Stef makes a commitment, and Rand is over the moon.

When Stef gets the chance to prove his devotion, he doesn’t hesitate—despite the risk to his health—and Rand takes the opportunity to show everyone that sometimes life’s best surprises come after the sunset.

Timing Series

THE REVIEW

Stefan Joss is back saving the day in After the Sunset, the sequel to this author’s Timing (reviewed here). While I thought it was okay overall and I did enjoys parts of it, I had a few problems with After the Sunset that made it a less enjoyable read for me than its predecessor.

Set two years after the end of Timing, the story opens with Stefan, our first-person narrator, talking with a few sheriff’s deputies after they blocked in his car at the grocery store. The Sheriff wants to chat with Stef about some things that have been happening. Apparently Rand and his ranch were both kicked out of the town and county they were in (and happily county lines were redrawn) after he came out as gay, and Rand has been buying up and selling off property all over the place, securing his position as one of the wealthiest and diverse ranchers in the area and making a lot of people either happy or upset. In the meantime, after losing his job to the economy and trying to figure out what happens next, Stef has decided to throw in the towel and get a teaching job close to the ranch, choosing a permanent life with his black-haired, blue-eyed cowboy to Rand’s complete and utter delight. Enter Rand’s relatives from his dad’s side of the family whom Stef has never met and with whom Rand has bad blood on multiple levels, participation in a rodeo to keep land, and secrets coming to light.

There were things I really liked about this story. I love the cover, which is actually a snapshot of a scene and a nice change from two bare-chested men (that often don’t even look like either character). I enjoyed the rodeo — how it came about, how Stef handled it (I thought the emceeing of the cowboy date auction was a hoot), what happened there. I liked how Stef was with the Red Diamond hands and vice versa. I found the part of the plot around Rand’s family to be entertainingly-(melo)dramatic. I loved the interaction with Stef and the dogs, especially Bella.

We get to see some of the relationship Stef and Rand have developed (which includes a copious amount of smexxin), but a significant portion — about a third — of the book happens without Rand in attendance, which was a disappointment. Stef finally making a decision was great, but the lack of fanfare around it seemed a bit anticlimactic.

It’s light on angst, and the majority of the drama and conflict is external to Stef and Rand’s relationship, with a large part of the plot devoted to Rand’s extended family and the rodeo. We are introduced to many new characters, and one in particular that got a lot of attention in this story is Glenn, one of Rand’s cousins, and I am thinking that I might like to see him get his own story.

One of my biggest complaints about the previous book was Stef’s seeming perfectness. While he does turn heads, solve people’s problems and charm the pants off most folks he comes into contact with, he seemed less in-your-face perfect in this book, which was an improvement. Additionally, Charlotte plays a very small role here, as opposed to her being a major character in Timing, and since I had some problems with her character and actions, this was welcome.

But my biggest problem with the story for me was Rand’s demands (hey, that rhymes!). From what clothes Stef wears (“You are not allowed to put on your fuck-me clothes if I ain‘t there to do the fucking!”) to his and Stef’s finances (“I‘m telling you right here and now that I want you to close your account from Chicago and start using the one we share.”) to when Stef needs to be home (“You should be home when I‘m home, period.”) to where he’s allowed to go (“You don‘t go nowhere without me.”), there is no asking. Now some of the exchanges that they have over these things are cute (much of the time Stef just laughs at him), but by far the most significant and outrageous was Rand’s pronouncement that he expects Stef to essentially be the little wifey and raise the kids that Stefan and Charlotte are going to make together, something that apparently Rand, Charlotte and their mother May had already discussed and agreed upon — without telling Stefan. WHAT?!? After dropping the bomb and a short conversation during which Stef does put up a teensy bit of a fight, Rand says:

“No! I will not discuss this with you. The time to talk is over and done. When you asked me if I wanted you and I said yes, I started planning my whole life right then. When you lost your job, you decided to only look as far as Lubbock for a new one so you could come home every night to me. That tells me all I need to know, Stef.”

And then…nothing. Stef just sits back and accepts it, which is unbelievable considering Stef’s strong independence stemming from fear of abandonment in the previous book (he left everyone before they could leave him). If they had talked about it and come to some mutual understanding and agreement, that would be one thing, but it’s not; Rand just thrusts it on Stef. In all fairness, this plan of Rand’s is within his caveman-like domineering, possessive, focused and über-alpha character, and I can even buy Stef’s stepped-up domesticity (as it is begun in the previous book), but I simply did not understand his easy acceptance, and it irritated and bothered me throughout the book. And by the way, while I did add the warning, I don’t really consider this a spoiler since it happens in the first chapter, which is the excerpt on the DSP site.

Additionally, there is a continuity issue around this: about half-way through the story Stef has a conversation with May on the phone where she references this plan, then toward the end she mentions it again, but in a way that makes it seem like it was the first time it’s been brought up.

OVERALL

As I said, I generally liked this story, but some issues preventing me from rating it higher. Fans of the author and those who liked the first book will probably like this one as well.

25 comments

  • Enjoyed your review Lynn and I also enjoyed this book. The pairing of Stef and Rand work for me,and I felt Stef’s decisions were long thought out and explained well and he was obviously not put out by Rand’s “demands” or he would have been gone a while ago. (I think Rand blows some smoke too 😉 Could have done with more together time for Rand and Stef and less convoluted family matters.

    I look forward to more, although I could do without the baby situation as outlined because I found Charlotte (as written in “Timing”) to be one of the most irritating characters I’ve read in a long while.

    Add another thumbs up for the cover – it’s unique, and really makes me smile as it fits the scene from the story so perfectly.

    I have eclectic taste in the stories I like to read, so there are days when Calmes doesn’t fit the bill and others where her writing is exactly what I feel like reading.

    Reply
  • I loved the story. The things that bothered others, I just accepted.

    In Timing, it was brought out that he really only wanted a partner and kids. So a baby by his best friend and partner’s sister would be an ideal solution. Why question it? Also the talking about a baby would come when Charlotte next visited, which was the weekend after the book ends. So the baby thing didn’t bother me.

    The Rand in Timing had a macho attitude, so it didn’t bother me in After the Sunset since Stef would accept or reject Rand’s “requests”. Stef was independent but he really only wanted a loving family. That’s a strong motivating factor for his decisions. So I went with the flow and enjoyed it.

    And I will be first in line for any sequel. Thanks for the review.

    Reply
    • Thanks for commenting Linda. It’s great to see someone who read it who had no issues with it. I am truly glad!

      Regarding Stef wanting children, I had re-read Timing before I started this one, then re-scanned it for specifics while reading this one and writing the review, and found only a passing reference on page 54 about wanting kids. Stef then goes on to say:

      It was hard for me to explain to people, so I usually just skipped it, doing my patented disappearing act instead of having the big blowout that signified the end of a relationship. More than anything I wanted a home, wanted to belong to one man, but the men I always ended up with wanted to smother me and entrench me in their lives. I wanted to share my life with someone, not simply take on theirs. Most men didn’t understand that, and so I ended up leaving. There was a man out there confident enough that he could keep me around without trying to change me. I just hadn’t found him yet.”

      While Rand and Stef have what seems to be a strong relationship, I would argue that Rand is doing exactly what Stef does not want: in some ways changing him and forcing him to live his life. That sentence about wanting to share a life and not take on theirs? I have yet to see it. All I hear is “I want you to do X;” “You need to do Y.” In my opinion, Stef has done all of the changing and doing and altering, which he even talks about when he said on pages 13 and 14 of this book:

      I ended up making all the changes while Rand’s life stayed pretty much the same.

      In fairness, he then goes on to say that he understood why that was, but for me, it just played into the whole situation. What ultimately bothered me the most was Rand’s demand about the kids and that the three of them (Rand, Char, May) talked about it and decided before any future conversations.

      It’s just a difference of opinion, which is perfectly fine. 🙂 It tripped my wire, but not yours. That’s one of the things that I love about us readers: we all can take things differently, see things differently. Like I said above, this author definitely has tons of fans, and it’s wonderful to see one sticking up for her and the book.

      Reply
    • I agree with you Linda, that is how I see the relationship being developed btw Stef & Rand…everyone makes adjustments in a relationship, and after all, this is FICTION…I too would like to read another sequel.

      I actually had a harder time accepting the relationship of Ty & Zane from the Cut & Run series, they were both so macho and alpha it didn’t seem to work.

      Reply
      • Thanks for the input, rdafan7. I’m glad that those who loved this book are coming out to comment as well. In every book, in every pairing, there will be those who get it, those who don’t and some in between. As I said, that’s what I love about us.

        Reply
        • HI Hannah,

          I started Fish & Chips but did not finish it (yet)…I like the mysteries (Cut & Run) and action in the stories, but I reach a point in reading them where the guys get on my nerves as much as each others 😀

          Reply
  • Hi Lynn, Great Review!

    Yea, I read it and yea, I enjoyed it for what it was.

    I wanted Rand’s attitude addressed also. It didn’t have to be solved, but addressed, snorted at… whatever….
    Stef was also in his own little world with his decisions. There are pig headed people in the world who don’t learn, but Stef is too social a creature to be this dense.

    Her characterizations are simplistic, but I still found it entertaining. I liked the dog Bella and the ranch hands. I think I’m done with this series, though. I would still buy her shifter series– I find it amusing. :XD: :DX:

    Thanks Lynn! 😆

    Reply
    • Thanks Reggie. I agree that Stef’s reaction — or lack of — to and acceptance of Rand’s demand is out of character. He is too smart to be steamrolled like this and at least not put up a fight. The small things weren’t as big a deal for me (though they got tiring), but the kids thing was too much.

      I may be done with this series as well. Need to think on this further…

      Reply
  • I should probably stop asking myself why I keep buying *every single book* by this writer, shouldnt I? I keep rolling my eyes and I keep buying. Such an unexplicably guilty pleasure (annoying too). I actually liked Timing less than this one if I were to compare. I do not think Steph became less than perfect here. However I found the plot funny. I also agree with Tam, I mean Rand’s orders were extremely annoying, but I thought Stefan just rolled his eyes and ignored him. Great review Lynn.

    Oh and I see Lasha reviewed Again. LOL I have and read that one too.

    P.S. One can dream that one day this writer will produce less than perfect protagonist.

    Reply
    • Sirius, I think you’re the only one who can answer that question. 😉

      I don’t think that Stef was less perfect, but less apparently perfect. What I found is that in Timing, his perfectness is pushed at us in scene after scene — everyone wanted to touch him, be with him, he could do anything, he was so amazingly handsome with that smile and eyebrow raise. It never ended. I felt the sheer quantity was less here.

      And yes, even though I haven’t read any of her books besides these two, I understand that this perfectness is a common trait among at least one of her protags in each book.

      Reply
      • OOOOO, okay totally agree then Lynn – sheer quantity of his perfection was less lol. By the way great review 🙂

        And yes, either one of the couple or two of them are usually pretty perfect and their only flaw is that *they* do not get how perfect they are. You can switch them around so easily from one book to another lol. I know, I have read every single one of hers except A matter of time (funnily those are the ones I have had no desire to get).

        And no, I keep asking myself and failing tee hee. I guess it is good for relaxation, I could be entertained by her plots, just not by her characters. And I suppose I like the dialogue.

        You know what else I noticed? She recently started to included nominally diverse secondary characters in her books. In Warder series in one of the book I think even one of the couple is Korean, which I suppose is an improvement from all amazingly beatiful white characters only. Although they are mostly just called Korean or Black,so I dont know if it counts.

        I think I can write the post about many of her books one day 🙂

        Reply
  • Im fan of M.C., I enjoyed this book. I like the cover, it fit the character descriptions, not to mention just sexy.
    and, yes, the sperm donor part? what was that all about?..it’s the biggest problem I had with the story.

    Reply
    • Calmes has many fans out there, for sure. After I finished up this review, I went and looked to see what others are saying and there are quite a few folks who loved this one. I’m glad you liked it and can totally get your question.

      Reply
  • I really liked Timing, which was my first introduction to Calmes. I’ve read two others since that turned me off her. I was hoping this book would be more than just a pretty cover (which I really like, btw), but it sounds like Rand’s gone round the bend. I’ll give this one a pass. Thanks, Lynn.

    Reply
    • I liked Timing as well, issues and all, and I haven’t read anything else from her. I hesitate to do so because of many comments I’ve seen.

      …it sounds like Rand’s gone round the bend

      He was very domineering here, which is within character, but the thing about the kids blew me away.

      Reply
  • I can’t believe that we have a Harlequin type plot with a woman carrying their baby. What’s next? In Timing Stefan’s character as you described it …

    One of my biggest complaints about the previous book was Stef’s seeming perfectness. While he does turn heads, solve people’s problems and charm the pants off most folks he comes into contact with

    ….was identical to that of Jory (I think that’s his name) from A Matter of Time which I reviewed, which was one of the reasons I had a lot of difficulty with him. However, although he seems to be a little less perfect here and I might have been tempted, the whole baby thing just threw me. Plus this author always seems to have a huge cast of characters basically in walk-on parts,w hich I can’t stand because they have no role in the book other than as fluff to increase the word count.

    Did you say there’s going to be another book? Oh no. 🙁

    Reply
    • Yup, as I was reading it, Harlequin popped into my head. The whole baby thing was out of the blue, and Stefan’s acceptance soured the read. As I’ve been sitting here thinking today about this, I am not sure I will read the next one as I don’t think I could stomach a baby plot played out, especially knowing it was all decided for him without a choice.

      I haven’t read other works by her, but my understanding is that Stefan’s character is reminiscent of Jory and others of hers. Folks commented here and elsewhere after Timing that his perfectness is a character trait she uses.

      As for the large cast, outside of the smexxin scenes, most of the page time is spent with quite a few people in attendance — the rodeo, family gathers, etc. Some of them play parts, others are just names.

      Reply
  • I disliked Charlotte in Timing with her constant shrieking, bursting into tears, bridezilla attitude & how everyone had to cater to her. She was the most annoying female character & just took over the story when she was in it. When she wasn’t there the story was a lot better.

    Now it looks like the Charlotte show continues in this sequel with here carrying the baby. This also sounds like a very old fashioned hetero story with the get the wife barefoot & pregnant & have him/her stay home to raise the kiddies. Haven’t we gotten past this? Plus I don’t like long separation because most writers in m/m don’t handle it well. I want the writers to write the scenes where they hash things out, not have it magically solved due to the separation. It just feels like lazy writing. Looks like I’m staying away from this one.

    Reply
    • Actually — and I neglected to mention this, so I will correct it — Charlotte plays a very small role here, relegated to a phone call about something else and a few mentions. If that’s the reason why you would not read this one, you can not worry about that. My guess is that we will see more of her in the next book.

      The separation is a long weekend, but that time period makes up about a third of the book. The separation is circumstantial (not because of a fight or anything) and isn’t meant to solve anything, in fact it contributes to part of the drama.

      And yes, in some ways it read like a old het romance, with the babies and homemaking being forced onto the little woman.

      If any of what I said changes your mind, let us know what you think after.

      Reply
    • Charlotte is only mentioned Sara, she’s not in the book on page to mention at all. I disliked her as well. She’s not pregnant yet, it’s just discussed that she will carry a baby or two for them.

      Reply
  • Oh, no, no, no… After the first book, the chances of me reading this one were microscopically small. After reading your review, they completely evaporated. This is so not the book for me. Though I agree the cover is great.

    Reply
  • I confessed I giggled at the rodeo scene having just been a rodeo this summer I could visualize poor Stef. He did seem less perfect which was nice and I didn’t mind Rand’s demands because I figured Stef would just ignore what he wanted to, but I did find the whole “you will stay home and raise the babies” thing a bit much. I wanted to scream “He’s not a girl!” Hello? Maybe discuss HAVING babies first? Everyone has decided who he’s donating his sperm to without informing the creator of said sperm?

    But on the whole I enjoyed it and just took it for what it was, a bit of a soap opera-esque romp. I loved the cover too.

    Reply
    • A soap opera-esque romp is a great way to put it, Tam. I agree that Stef pretty much ignored and laughed at most of Rand’s demands, but after a while I just got a bit tired of Rand’s macho ways. And yeah, how the the babies thing was handled was ridiculous…

      Reply

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