Title: The Second Time Around
Author: Rowan McAllister
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
Release Date: September 11, 2018
Genre(s): M/M Contemporary Romance
Page Count: 200
Reviewed by: CrabbyPatty
Heat Level: 3 flames out of 5
Rating: 3 stars out of 5
Though born into wealth and privilege, Jordan Thorndike can’t keep pretending. He’s never going to become the lawyer his parents hope for or provide the daughter-in-law and two-point-four grandkids they expect. Faced with an ultimatum—carry on living the lie or get out—Jordan leaves with only what he can pack in his BMW. Homeless, jobless, directionless, Jordan heads to one of his mother’s pet charities: Better the Second Time Around Rescue Ranch. With his family name and charm, he has the staff eating out of his hand in no time—except for one man. Russ has never been handed anything, and he resents the spoiled rich brat using the ranch to live out a fantasy. Though Jordan is determined to prove himself to Russ through hard work, family and old wounds complicate matters. Will Jordan realize that what he sees as an escape is real life for most people? And can Russ accept that Jordan can grow—and that he wants him?
Jordan Thorndike was born with a silver spoon in his mouth, but that doesn’t mean his life is been an effortless or happy one. Jordan is burdened with his father’s expectations that he become a lawyer, although Jordan is just going through the motions. After coming out to his parents, he is left with a fancy car and little money of his own. In desperation, Jordan returns to the Second Time Around Rescue Ranch, where he and his mother spent several summers as volunteers, and where he especially feels a kinship to the horses the ranch rescues and rehabs.
I liked the plot as Jordan attempts to figure out his next step, and finds that helping the rescue animals helps himself as well. The mission of the rescue ranch and how they work with the community and sponsors held my interest and I liked the secondary characters involved with the ranch, especially the ranch’s director Phyllis.
What didn’t work for me as well was the relationship between Russ and Jordan. Jordan is a people-pleaser and he desperately tries to keep a smile on his face despite the heartache inside. The only tools he’d ever been given by his family were “Supress. Lock it away. Be proud. Be strong. Don’t let the world see you hurt…” And no matter what he does he just can’t win with ranch hand Russ. Russ believes Jordan to be a self-centered rich kid and nothing is going to change his mind. Russ’ disdain is abundantly apparent, and then in the space of a few pages (around 45% through the book), Russ goes from an angry tirade to kissing Jordan, telling him “Baby, I’ve wanted you since the second you stepped out of that shiny red sports car of yours. I just didn’t want to admit it.” Wait, what?
Personally, I found it hard to become invested in their relationship when Russ was such a colossal a$$. And once Russ has moved on, he automatically expects Jordan to forgive him. As Jordan says
“You weren’t exactly impressed with me from day one,” he pointed out.
Russ grimaced. “I though we’d been over that and put it to bed already. I said I was sorry for prejudging. I told you I wanted you the whole time. What more do you need me to say?”
Now, I realize other readers may not have such a strong dislike of Russ, but this dislike colored my perception of the story. In the last pages of the book, Jordan says: “Russ, you know I’m still a mess, right? I mean, I’m working on it. I’m happy …. ecstatic really, that you and Phyl want me as part of your family, but I”m still kind of a mess.” To which Russ tells him “…. I told you I’d be the happiest man in Texas to call you my mess.” Not quite sure whether he liked that, Jordan stood frozen at the stove until Russ threw him another grin and said “Come on, slowpoke. We got work to do.” Jordan, sweetie, you deserve better. 3 stars.
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