Raising the Bar (Kristin’s Review)

Title: Raising The Bar (States Of Love Series)
Author: Leigh Dillon
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
Release Date: September 7, 2018
Genre(s): Contemporary Romance
Page Count: 91 pages
Reviewed by: Kristin
Heat Level: 3 flames out of 5
Rating: 3 stars out of 5


Destin Bellingham has inherited a problem. Thanks to his late playboy father, Destin faces putting a For Sale sign on his family’s historic horse farm. Getting his talented stallion, Black Sambuca, into the Grand Prix show ring would put Bellmeade back on the map—if only someone could make “Sam” behave like a show horse.

Disgraced top rider Tonio Benedetto has his own problems, but he can work magic with difficult jumpers, so Destin hires him despite his bad-boy reputation. The street-smart, openly gay loudmouth from Miami and the closeted, buttoned-down son of Old Dominion Virginia make a rocky pairing, but time is running out to save Bellmeade from bankruptcy.

Opposites attract, sparks of tension grow into flames of passion. But if Tonio fails to tame Sam, will true love become a lost cause too?

States of Love: Stories of romance that span every corner of the United States.

Blurb is a bit overly dramatic, but is a fairly accurate summation of the book.

With the passing of his father, Dustin inherited a failing stable. He is banking on one horse to save the estate, but the horse is proving impossible to train. So he hires Tonio off the recommendation of his lifelong friend Al, and finds he has a hot headed, recovering alcoholic on his hands. From Dustin’s point of view, he just put the final nail in the failing stables coffin.

I enjoyed the backdrop for this latest installment in the States of Love series, but I confess, my inner girl is still love’s horses and stories with horses (yes, I still have all my Black Stallion books).

For a short story, I thought the author was able to capture the initial distrust between Dustin and Tonio quite adroitly and I appreciated how she built the relationship from that. Yes, the two men have a connection, but there was a mental aspect to it as well and it caused some friction. I like a bit of friction between main characters to give some added realism.

The downside of the this being a short story, is I felt I was left hanging in a few places. Dustin, despite being raised in the stables – so to speak – can’t see past his Dad’s disappointment and tradition. Tonio, a fresh set of eyes from the world of horseracing, gives Dustin some good advice. Which Dustin ignores because it flies in the face of tradition (coming back to that friction – if you don’t know how to do something, listen to others who do!). I would have liked to have known if Dustin ever took Tonio’s suggestions to stop the financial bleeding. But that’s me – I like details tied up.

We know Tonio has a problem with alcoholism at the beginning and end of the story, but that’s it. I would have liked to have seen this brought up in the middle as a bridge.

As I mentioned, this is a short story, and it’s super easy to pick apart something that is – in my opinion – challenging to write. I could totally ramble on about the horses and the stables, but this is meant to be a short review, not a short story. Overall, I thought this was a well written and engaging story, especially if you have a penchant for horses, set against a Virginia backdrop.

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Advanced Review Copy

Galley copy of Raising The Bar (States Of Love) provided by Dreamspinner Press in exchange of an honest review.


I have been a voracious reader from the time I learned how to read. My Motto: “Never leave home without a book (or two or three).” Though once I learned how to knit that became “Never leave home without a book (or two or three) AND a knitting project.”

A long-time fan of science fiction, I’ve since discovered mystery/suspense/thrillers and m/m romance. I love stories that span the universe, paranormal, urban fantasy, mystery, comedy; stories with veterinarian’s (yay! animals!) or a men in uniform, a splash of BDSM or a threesome can be fun, and of course, happy ever afters. IF that’s not a run-on sentence, I don’t know what is…

I’m not a fan of historical, horror, sports, plots with children, and New Adult/Young Adult.

Thanks for reading my reviews!

No two persons ever read the same book Edmund Wilson

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