Title: Marathon Cowboys
Author: Sarah Black
Cover artist: Anne Cain
Publisher: Dreamspinner press
Buy link: Amazon.com
Genre: Contemporary Gay Romance
Length: 172 pages
Rating: 5+ stars out of 5
A guest review by Sirius
Summary: A beautiful romance and thoughtful meditation about what it means to be an artist, which captured my heart, but the works by this writer always do.
Jesse Clayton loves painting, his cowboy grandfather, and his life as an artist with a wild abandon that leaves scorch marks on everything he touches. Budding Navajo cartoonist Lorenzo Maryboy is a hard-working former Marine: staunch, brave, and honorable. Chance brings them together on the road to Marathon, Texas, and passion flares.
Just as always, Jesse puts his art ahead of everything. He betrays their growing trust, and that Lorenzo can’t forgive. But Jesse’s found something he loves more than his art, and what he does to win Lorenzo’s forgiveness is far more dangerous than either man understands.
The stormy blue of his eyes, with their humor and intelligence. His mind. Oh God, I was so in love with his mind. And his flirty gay-boy come-on in red shoes. An comed the way he dragged a couple of green velvet Victorian couches into the studio, called it Paris on the Rio Grande, stripped down and gave me a blow job with all the joy of a kid licking an ice cream cone in July.
I wanted him. I wanted him all for my own, his heart and his mind. I wanted us to be partners. Real partners, forever and ever, amen. I wanted us to be partners. Real partners, forever and ever, amen. I wanted us to ascend to heaven on the same cloud, a couple of cowboy angels in handmade boots
This is why I love Sarah Black’s writing, because when I read paragraphs like these, it makes me both choked up a bit and also makes me smile. I never ever feel that her characters are engaged in over the top angst and melodrama, even when they experience some very strong emotions.
In many ways I found what I was looking for in this story as I always do, but this book also took me in a somewhat unexpected direction. It has some similar themes to this writer’s previous works, but at the same time those themes create original work of art. If you read the blurb, you have a pretty decent idea of the outline of the story, but believe me when I tell you the story is so much richer than what the blurb implies. I did expect to see a diverse cast of characters because Sarah Black always portrays diverse characters in her works, and I was very happy to see that Lorenzo is of Navajo descent and it is not just a nod from the writer, but part of who he is and part of what influenced his choices in life.
I was also happy to see the writer exploring the theme of war veterans coming home and struggling to find the place in their new life, but in this story she explores this theme from a new angle, at least for me. Lorenzo is not just an army veteran struggling to find out who he is now in terms of how his painful and at the same time gratifying experiences shaped him, Lorenzo is an artist — and a very talented one (even if he puts himself down more than once and insecure about it). He is trying to find out who he is, in which direction he should take his art and on this path he meets Jesse. Jesse, who is a genius painter, whose main focus in his life is his art and always had been his art.
I thought Lorenzo and Jesse had a great chemistry from the time they met, and I actually thought it was a little bit more “hot” than in many other works by this writer that I have read. Not that this is a bad thing of course, it is just I am used to more understated chemistry in her stories.
The conflict between Jesse and Lorenzo arises because of the appropriation in art and I thought that by creating certain plot turns the writer raised questions for us to think about. Is appropriation in art a good thing? Is it a good thing when it hurts a person whose pain was being appropriated in order to create a piece of art? But do the issues become more complicated if the piece of art is basically a work of genius? What if the pain of the person whose identity he appropriated changed the artist to such a degree that his whole style became different in that work? What if he wanted to make a very real difference in the lives of many people and was inspired by that person? The writer does not give us black and white answers, except maybe saying that love and forgiveness matter more than anything else. It certainly made me think and appreciate this writer’s works even more.
The characters definitely mature and evolve by the end of the story, and the writer portrays both guys with the whole spectrum of colors, not just black and white, but I was left with the impression that Lorenzo evolved more than Jesse did. And while they definitely love each other, I was had the feeling that Lorenzo is going to compromise more in this relationship to allow Jesse to remain who he is.
Even though his art is the center of his world, Jesse is definitely from the beginning so much more than just “artsy gay boy,” as Lorenzo observes; he is smart and has a shrewd business sense as well. I am not sure, however, what Jesse learned at the end. I can get behind the idea that a genius should be allowed to do what he wants to do in the situations like this, and Jesse is so incredibly fragile in the maters which relate to his art, but as I said there are no black and white answers to this in my opinion. On the other hand Lorenzo is struggling at the end with not letting himselth smother Jesse, so maybe our protagonists’ characters flaws are still there and it is more realistic and interesting to see “real people” fall in love and trying to balance their passion for what they love to do with passion for each other. I guess subconsciously I did want to classify them into neat little boxes, but they just won’t go there, and I think it is a really good thing and testament to this writer’s talent.
There are few secondary characters all together and most of them had tiny parts to play, so the only well-developed one that stood out was Jesse’s grandfather.
One more thing, I think that besides being the longest work I have read from Sarah Black, this story also has the happiest ending so far. Maybe because this work is the longest, there is a definite happiness for our characters and I admit to being so very pleased about it. As much as I have enjoyed her somewhat melancholic HFN endings, which felt very organic for her shorter stories, I was pleased here with the change. 🙂
Highly recommended, but again, please note that I am a fan of this writer so please seek out other reviews to make your decision.