Title: Outcast Cowboys
Author Name & Publisher: Sarah Masters — Pride Publishing
Publication Date & Length: August 18, 2015
You can run but you can’t hide. Problems have a habit of following you, even if it’s only inside your head.
Ross decides to start a new life away from the grim belly of London, England, unable to stomach being a cop any longer. He tells himself he’s moving miles away to find himself a bed partner, but he’s lying. He has to. Facing up to the real reason he’s leaving isn’t something he can handle. His last undercover job proved too much—his life was at risk—and if he stays in London he’ll likely end up dead. Nightmares plague him, his subconscious unable to switch the past off. So he moves to a ranch in America, thinking the new surroundings and different lifestyle will help him to heal—and to forget. What he soon realizes is he’s jumping from the frying pan into the fire…
Joe’s passion—that of caring for the horses—is the only thing that keeps him sane. He’s a surly man, and for good reason—a reason he hasn’t told a soul. Folks think he’s mean and unapproachable and suspect him of committing murder. More than once. Locals assume that Joe got let off the hook. Nothing could be further from the truth, but Joe lets people think what they will. He’s done with their speculation and sly looks.
When Ross and Joe meet, tension is rife. The air between them prickles with animosity as well as sexual tension. Both have a past they can’t get over. Both have skeletons in their closets they wish would turn to dust. And both have to make a decision. Can they cast their fears aside and trust each other, or have the terrors they’ve experienced ruined them for love?
I struggled with this one. I think I was expecting Andrew Grey or Ariel Tachna, but this is much grittier. Not grit as in the struggle to keep a ranch going in a hostile environment – but grit as in family secrets, domestic abuse, homophobia, PTSD, grizzly murders and small-town cover-ups. Ugly gritty. And the author doesn’t offer up much hope or easy platitudes. This is a difficult book.
There is an awful lot going on in a relatively short novel. Ross leaves his job as an undercover detective in London, answering an advert for a job on an American ranch. As you do. I’m sure work visas are easily obtained for unskilled labourers. In America (I’m not sure we know exactly where?) Ross finds himself working for a family hiding many dark secrets. And he finds himself falling for a man who just might be the most dangerous member of the family.
Joe has been treated badly by his family since he came out to them. Allegations are made against him, he is physically harmed and blamed for all of the family’s problems. He is wary of Ross, but inexplicably drawn to the Englishman. Slowly, as Ross unravels the family secrets, he and Joe find themselves in increasing danger.
There was too much angst in this story for me. The author exploits every Southern small-town stereotype to create conflict. As a result, the story never really moves past stock characters and cliche stereotypes. Small towns and the people who live in them are bad; California is safe and its residents are good people.
I’m still not sure about the main characters. It felt like the author was trying to develop the characters through their respective troubles. Good characters transcend their troubles with quirks, attractive flaws and endearing characteristics – but for me, neither of these two ever became more than troubled men with difficult pasts.
The story ends after a lengthy time lapse which didn’t work for me. I wanted the details! Unusually for an m/m story, or for any romance, there are limits to Joe and Ross’ HEA. The end of the book is sad and quite dark.
Sarah Masters is one of three pen names I write under. Sarah mainly writes m/m. Natalie Dae writes het erotica, while the third, Charley Oweson, writes thriller/horror/suspense books with no sex.