My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Stone Harrison never knew he had an aunt; he certainly never expected her to bequeath him one of the largest spreads in central Nevada. But something about Copper Lake Ranch and its foreman, Luke Reynolds, speaks to him, offering a chance for the home he’s never really had.
Luke wants Stone to succeed as a rancher and put the legacy of his shiftless father behind him, but he’d also like Stone to share his bed. Unfortunately, Stone is convinced that the world is a harsh place that will never accept two men sharing their lives. Much to Luke’s dismay, he refuses to risk Luke’s life despite the intense attraction they share.
The tension between them escalates when a series of calamities strikes Copper Lake. An unexpected and unwelcome visit from Stone’s dandified cousin, James, only makes things worse. Stone’s ability to run the ranch comes into question, but the threat of losing it means less to Stone than the threat to Luke’s life. Stone will do anything it takes to protect the man he loves—even if it makes him a murderer.
So what did I think?
This is a true cowboy romance that takes place in an historical setting. It portrays that difficulties that face people who are unable to love freely in a time where social expectations are great.
Stone is part Indian and also “a man who didn’t care for women” but his largest fear is for people to think he is like his father who was an abusive drunk. Throughout his whole life he has strived to work hard and to be responsible. When he unexpectedly inherits a ranch, he faces a whole new set of responsibilities and the temptation of Luke.
Luke is the ranch foreman who takes Stone under his wing, showing him the ropes both in terms of running the ranch but also navigating the local social scene.
The beauty of this story is that Stone and Luke share an obvious attraction but the focus is not on the sexual side of their relationship, rather the emotional journey they face. They are both men who do not seek sexual encounters and have been living quietly. Both have focused on their work and fitting in with society as best they can.
Unable to resist, they do share a single encounter which is beautiful as Stone gives himself to the other man. However, morning after concerns arise and Stone’s feelings about his obligations to the ranch and ranch hands mean he is unwilling to continue this type of relationship with Luke.
Returning to a boss/employee status is difficult for both of them as they want so much more and they must also face many issues on the ranch which threaten not only the livelihood of the ranch but their lives.
The historical setting seemed very real, from social customs, dialogue and details of the house and environment. The characters were really interesting and it was nice to see the inclusion of discussion of the relationship between Stone’s aunt and her housekeeper.
Overall a really enjoyable story.
On a side note, I recently read a short story by these authors and although I enjoyed it, there was something missing for me. See my review here. Although it was a very different story, when I started this book I was a bit tentative, worried that I might not like one of the characters but I needn’t have worried. It goes to show that it is worth trying an author/s more than once and not restricting your opinion based on one book/story alone!
For more information on Ari McKay visit their blog.