Title: My Cowboy Freedom (The Cowboys series #5)
Author: Z.A. Maxfield
Publisher: Penquin Books (Intermix)
Release Date: November 15, 2016
Genre(s): Contemporary Western
Page Count: 289
Reviewed by: Crabbypatty
Heat Level: 3 flames out of 5
Rating: 3.50 stars out of 5
After doing time, Skyler is used to fighting for everything he wants, and what he wants most is a job at the Rocking C. But Sky’s boss Sterling Chandler is a vocal homophobe and his men don’t necessarily trust an ex-con. Sky’s willing to overlook their attitude. It’s enough to be back outside, working in the open air. He wants to put his past behind him and he plans to mind his own business; hopefully, the men he works with will do the same. That doesn’t mean he wouldn’t like a friend—especially one like shy giant Rock Evans.
Rock does his best to stay away from Sky. Rock’s a gentle man with a big heart and the tattooed wrangler scares him. Forced to work side by side, they start falling for each other. When Chandler suffers a massive stroke, Rock and Sky must work together to save the boss’s life and run his ranch. Can Sky’s hard work and Rock’s Texas-sized heart teach Chandler that love will always save the day?
“My Cowboy Freedom” is the fifth book in Maxfield’s The Cowboys series. The first three books in the series take place at the Bar-J in New Mexico. Books 4 and 5 is set in the world of the Rocking C in Texas and “My Cowboy Freedom” briefly updates readers on Ryder, Andi and Declan from “My Cowboy Promises” and prominently features Sterling Chandler, Andi’s father. I would suggest reading “My Cowboy Promises” prior to “My Cowboy Freedom.”
Being struck by lightning turned Rock gay. Well, that’s what his uber-conservative ultra-religious family believes. But that atmospheric wake-up call makes Rock realize there’s no time like the present to start living an authentic life. However, due to a seizure disorder and brain damage caused by the lightning strike, his family keeps Rock on a very short leash, sending him to live with family friend Sterling Chandler and housekeeper Elena at the Rocking C, aided by a truly amazing service dog named Maisy.
Skyler finds his way back to the Rocking C after an 8-year stint in prison. Sky’s late father used to cowboy at the Rocking C and Sky’s deepest desire after his probational release from prison is to start his life anew as a cowboy.
Rock and Sky and their backstories definitely held my interest but as the book progressed, it felt like the story lost its focus and the pace of the book slowed. For example,
- Everyone warns Sky to stay away from Rock, over and over again in numerous scenes and situations. Rock is too often described as being naive and trusting and therefore unable to take care of himself, yet very few of his actions warrant that conclusion. Sterling is a homophobic control freak yet his “come to Jesus” moment comes out of nowhere. Rock’s parents are simply horrid in their desire to control Rock and wanting to send him to gay conversion therapy, and their sudden turnabout felt too improbable. Sky’s time in prison and with ‘Nando is so sparsely detailed, and I wished there was just one scene that really showed what their relationship was like.
Maxfield has created two compelling characters in Sky and Rock but everyone in the story carries such heavy baggage that their story got lost somewhere in the midst of it all. I would recommend this book, but with some reservations. (But I’d like to give bonus points to Maxfield’s description of Bitterroot Texas, a deeply conservative Texas town determined to stay insulated from the real world, as “Happy Days in a Walking Dead World.”)