A Guest Review by Cryselle
Review Summary: Engaging prose but with implausible situations and large chunks of development accomplished off screen if at all.
Clayton Palmer is an up and coming lawyer in the family’s East Coast firm. A long-standing agreement with his father allows Clayton to head to Colorado during the summer–to work hard as a dude ranch hand and if he’s lucky, play harder with a hot cowboy, or two. But this summer, his luck is all bad. His normal bunk buddies are missing, and a lawyer from a competing West Coast firm is a guest.
A week-long retreat with clients doesn’t hold any appeal for James Owens until he spies Clayton hauling in the luggage. James has lost to Clayton in the courtroom more times than not, and while he’s longed to gain the upper hand over his attractive nemesis in trial, he’ll settle for winning in the bedroom when Clayton approaches him and offers to do anything for James to keep his secret.
Though he’s always been attracted to James, Clayton’s unprepared for the emotions the man inspires and runs scared. Haunted by his feelings for James and doubts about his lifestyle, he decides it’s time to seize hold of the reins of his life. When the dust settles, will James be willing to let him into his heart?
This book left me with some very mixed feelings: the writing is smooth and engaging, and I really like the style. When the prose is almost good enough to lull me into ignoring or accepting inconsistencies and plot holes, that’s very good writing indeed. Emma Lai’s style makes me want to read more of her work, with a more logical plot attached.
Clayton uses his summer for playing gay cowboy; wrangling on a dude ranch and spending hot bunkhouse nights with a couple of pals. They both managed to find permanent partners and didn’t return this season, leaving him alone, horny, and regretting the time spent, at least until his hot competition shows up.
James, a lawyer for a firm on the opposite coast, is openly gay, and has argued cases against Clay, so they have more than a passing acquaintance, but only on the professional level. He’s certainly not expecting to find a legal hotshot carrying suitcases and saddling horses, and James, I’m right there with you. They’re in the sack pretty fast.
The mismatch between James’ expectations of a partner who’s out and proud and Clayton’s life in the closet send them in opposite directions practically before they finish coming. James has no patience for hiding, and Clayton’s stayed in the closet because of family pressure, which is the flip side of the family advantages of wealth and position. As long as he refuses to do without what his father can provide, Clayton has to abide by the old man’s wishes and hide his true self. His encounter with James sets him thinking, evaluating, and making changes.
And the next time we see him, those changes are all made and he just has to convince James to go along with it, which takes little more than some mind blowing sex.
This is supposed to be a story of coming out, and it does have the bare facts of Clayton’s revision of his life, but there’s a pretty substantial gap in the emotions of it, and also in the practical aspects. All of these are dismissed in a few paragraphs, and then it’s off to more sex, which clinches the relationship.
Unfortunately, all Clayton’s interesting growth after his initial decision to come out falls into the missing six months. There have to be a lot of practical issues to consider, quite a lot of self-examination, and it would be nice to see some relationship growth. James and Clayton have yet to establish that they can stand to be in each other’s company for more than an hour while not engaged in litigation or sex. But similar career trajectories and hot sex have to be enough for this story to end in an HEA. In short, there’s just enough text in the middle to string the sex scenes together.
This might be enough for readers primarily looking for the hawt, although I don’t consider it complete. I also have issues with some of the world-building. Students get three month summer vacations, hotshot litigating lawyers’ cases don’t fall so neatly into the calendar, but this is a longstanding habit for Clayton. Lawyers who have yet to make partner don’t have the luxury of months off at a time, even if Daddy is the boss, and lawyers who have made partner are harder to discard than Clayton was, so what was he really? His cover story for those three months off every year is so flimsy as to be insulting to the reader; if he’s in the London office, surely someone will try to pick up the phone and ask him a question, and good luck with that if he’s really on a horse in Colorado.
I wanted to be happy with this story, because it does flow like water, but I kept bumping into the logical and developmental rocks and getting bounced out. Had I been reading strictly for the sex, I’m sure I would have been more satisfied. 3 stars