Title: Cowboys Down
Author: Barbara Elsborg
Publisher: Self Published
Buy link: Amazon.com (Second Edition)
Genre: Gay Contemporary
Rating: 3 out of 5 Rating stars
A Guest Review by Feliz
Summary Review: A super angsty story about two perfect guys finding love against all odds while having lots of sex.
The Blurb: Stockbroker meets stock breaker. But who’s taming whom?
London stockbroker Jasper Randolph flies to Jackson Hole with hopes as high as the Grand Tetons. Hope that the getaway will force him to let loose, get dirty, and overcome a deep-seated phobia about horseback riding.
He hadn’t counted on an attraction to the dude ranch owner’s son, a man with sun-tousled hair, eyes bluer than Wyoming skies…and a father who’d rather eat tofu than accept his only son’s sexuality.
The moment Calum lays eyes on the uptight, buttoned-down Brit, he’s lost. But with his own saddlebags full of emotional baggage, he knows he should be looking at anything but Jasper’s spotless riding boots and tight-fitting jodhpurs. Trouble is, Jasper makes his heart buck like a wild horse trying to break free.
Despite the differences that set them oceans apart, they fall hard and fast. Trouble isn’t far behind, and they’re in for a rocky romantic ride. Especially since there’s growing evidence that someone is willing to do anything—no matter how dangerous—to poison their love.
Mix one sun-bronzed cowboy with a yummy Brit who’d give Darcy in his wet shirt a run for his money. Mix gently. Try not to drool.
The Review: After reading (and liking very much) another book by this autor, I had high expectations for this one. Well, the writing was mostly pleasant overall, but otherwise, this book fell somewhat short for me. It had its good points, and others’ opinions might very well differ from mine, but for me, the balance tipped towards the issues in the end.
To begin with, there were the main characters. Jasper and Calum were actually both quite likable guys. Duteous brothers and sons, putting the needs of their respective families before their own. From which fact a big part of this book’s internal and external conflicts arise. Which would be fine in and of itself, but those two took the altruism to a point where they turned into martyrs, not to say pushovers. Watching Calum cower before his father made me cringe (okay, he had a halfway understandable reason for that, but what all he put up with from his old man and in extension, from the ranch staff before he finally managed to stand up for himself–even his stepmother thought it was high time he talked back for once).
And Jasper–apparently, the ranch staff, the other guests and Calum’s father pegged him for gay right from the start; at any rate, nearly everybody showered him with derisive and/ or homophobic comments from the moment he first set foot on Jackson Hole. Not only that, the things that “accidentally” happened to him–but did he defend himself? No, he barely reacted, suffering away in private instead, even though he’d have had grounds to sue the ranch ten times over by the end of his second day there. Okay, he’d fallen for Calum fast and hard (I’ll concede it wasn’t quite insta-love, but not far from that) and didn’t want to rise trouble for Calum–but considering how Calum treated Jasper hot and cold and didn’t support him, I didn’t quite buy that all the hot smexxin’ those two did would make up for the nightmare Jasper’s vacation turned into.
Anyway, Calum’s father, his character was so exaggerated he appeared almost like a caricature of a bigoted redneck. He’s supposed to be a tourism industry professional of some kind, seeing as he leads a buddy ranch and all, you’d expect him to be concerned about his guest’s well-being, particularly since it’s mentioned several times over how worried he is about his business’s reputation. But he treats Jasper like shit right from the beginning, even before there was even a hint at Jasper and Calum showing the remotest interest in each other. I can’t imagine any tourism industry professional behaving like this with any of his guests, instant personal dislike or not.
The baddies were similarly exaggerated, so dumb and mean and so obvious they could’ve carried around a neon sign saying “bad guy”, everybody seemed to be blind to not figure them out earlier.
On the other hand, I liked some of the minor characters, particularly Calum’s sister and Jasper’s gallery owner friend in London.
Another bonus of the story was the romance between Calum and Jasper in and of itself. Despite Calum’s initial hesitation, they had good chemistry together, and some of the love scenes between them were really beautiful. However this was one of those cases where less would’ve been more, as hot and as well-written those sex scenes were. Several instances I found myself thinking, “what, they’re at it AGAIN?” and merely skimming yet another sex scene only to check if I’d miss something if I skipped it entirely. No, I didn’t. However, this might be a matter of taste; readers who like a lot of sex in their m/m might love this book just for that fact.
But, sweet romance aside, what bothered me very much with those two were the sheer number of obstacles they had to deal with. Between their respective traumatic pasts, the all-around hostility they met at Jackson’s Hole both as individuals and even more so as a couple, the life-threatening shenanigans of the baddies and the fact that they lived on different continents, they were practically facing every single trouble known to man. Add to that Jasper’s health problems, Calum’s sexual hangups and both men’s respective moral dilemmas, and the whole plot is dripping with angst, so much so that even an angst-lover like me would’ve liked to cry uncle. [spoiler name=”spoiler”] And, trying not to be too spoilerish here, but all problems dissolved into thin air thanks to some conveniently fortunate happenstances by the end so the HEA could happen unimpeded. [/spoiler]
Even though this book was pleasantly written and had its sweet moments, I didn’t end up enjoying it much overall. Likely a matter of taste, others may very well feel entirely different about this story.
Oh, and the jodhpurs mentioned in the blurb? Don’t look for them. Jasper rides in chinos.