Vakarian makes Tom a smart, endearing protagonist who proves perceptive sizing up Abe — and judicious when talking with homophobic Sheriff Daly, who suspects Abe is on his property. Tom is comfortable with his sexuality, longing for a past lover, Matthew, and uninhibited when coupling up with Abe. The author persuasively depicts the realities of farm and frontier life, and Western terms (yannigan, sawbones, picket pin) create a sense of authenticity. The sheriff may be hissable, one-note villain, but Vakarian makes some shrewd observations about queer life, and allows for engaging ambiguity in Abe’s character.
The plot is compelling enough that readers may feel short changed when it ends abruptly. The abundant erotic passages certainly flesh out the same-sex relationship, a pairing that readers will hope survives, but the lengthy, frequent and explicit sex scenes threaten to overwhelm this thin Western. Vakarian’s effort to appeal at once to readers of historical fiction, m/m romance, and erotica will likely disappoint one of those audiences. Otherwise, this is a terrific start to a series that will have readers craving more.
Takeaway: This explicit gay frontier romance is stimulating, likable, and certain to leave its audience wanting more.
Great for fans of: Cowboys: Gay Erotic Tales, edited by Tom Graham.
Design and typography: B-
Marketing copy: B+