Title: Love, Like Water
Author: Rowan Speedwell
Cover Artist: AngstyG
Buy Links: Amazon, Dreamspinner
Genre: m/m contemporary romance
Length: Novel (284 pages)
Rating: 5+ stars out of 5
A Guest Review by J.K. Hogan
Review Summary: Everything I like in a novel; Cowboys, Horses, Angst, and a fantastic HEA
Three years undercover with one of the worst gangs in the country left FBI agent Joshua Chastain shattered. Battling nightmares and addiction, he leaves the concrete jungle for New Mexico horse country, hoping to start over on his uncle’s ranch.
Foreman Eli Kelly spends his life rehabilitating abused animals, and Joshua is just another lost soul. But as Joshua slowly begins to put his life back together, Eli realizes that Joshua is a lot more than his newest project.
Joshua’s plan seems to work—maybe a fresh start was just what he needed. Then, just when he has finally found a sense of peace, crime and hatred nearly destroy all his hard work, forcing him to reevaluate what he wants out his relationship with Eli and his own life.
I’ve always been a fan of Rowan Speedwell—and I’m not just biased because my son’s name is Rowan. 😆 I love westerns and anything horse related, so I begged Wave to request this one for me. Ms. Speedwell did not disappoint with this one.
The story takes place on a horse ranch in New Mexico that rehabilitates abused horses and participates in roundups of the wild mustang population. Tucker, the owner, opens his home to his nephew Joshua, who is recovering from a challenging three year FBI undercover operation and the resulting heroin addiction. Joshua comes out to the ranch after rehab to recover and eventually learn how to work the books on the ranch.
There, Joshua meets Eli Kelly, the ranch foreman. Eli is a full-fledged cowboy, who specializes in gentling the wild mustangs. His slow and patient manner is what makes him able to befriend Joshua, who is skittish and damaged from the time he spent infiltrating a Latino gang.
Although his operation was successful, and he busted up a major crime ring, Joshua is left with the dregs of his addiction and a complete breakdown of his physical and mental health. To top it off, he is gay, but first being in law enforcement, then spending three years with the gang, left absolutely no opportunity for him to be open about it. Then he finds himself on a ranch in the middle of a bunch of redneck cowboys, and he feels the need to hide it there, too.
Eli is gay as well, and Tucker, along with a few choice people, knows it, but he’s not out on the ranch. Eli and Josh slowly build a friendship and trust over time, and it eventually turns into mutual attraction. At first, they are both hesitant about making a move, but when they do, their chemistry practically melts the pages.
It’s not all rainbows and butterflies after that, however. Josh still has a lot of struggling to do to get over his inner demons and feel like he deserves to be loved. And Eli has his hands full navigating that land mine. Josh is the hardest creature he’s ever had to gentle. A handful of disastrous events mar the road of their relationship, and there are a lot of misunderstandings between the two of them. However, they both eventually realize that they are much happier together than apart.
This book really tore me up, but in the best way possible. I loved seeing Joshua become whole again, and I have to admit, Eli’s frustration made me chuckle a bit, because he was so used to being able to get the animals to do whatever he wanted. But men just can’t be trained.
The ranching/equine aspect of this story was above reproach. I’m very familiar with the equine lifestyle as I said in my last review, and there was nothing in this book that jumped out at me as poorly researched or inauthentic. Usually, accents written into books tend to bother me, but these didn’t. I actually started hearing the characters’ voices in my head so I didn’t even notice I was reading the slang anymore.
Ms. Speedwell has woven an elegant story of pain and redemption, of one broken man finding strength in another. I couldn’t turn the pages fast enough. This is definitely on my list of top books of the year.