Sunday, September 8, 2013

Cowboys and Secrets, Oh My!

Chase, L. C.  Pickup Men.  Riptide Publishing.  July 2013.

Brokeback Mountain with a happier ending?  Well, not quite.  Tripp Colby and Marty Fairgrave may be gay cowboys, but that is where the similarities stop.

The child of successful dude ranchers set to take over his family’s ranch someday, Marty Fairgrave is the sowing some wild oats on the rodeo circuit, experiencing some action and excitement before he settles down someday.  His job as a rodeo pickup man is to help capture the bulls and broncos after a cowboy rides.  Marty is well-known on the circuit, the “gay pickup man” in a sometimes hostile macho environment.

Tripp Colby is rodeo royalty, a three-time PBR champion with the rodeo world at his fingertips.  He’s also a man with a secret that threatens to destroy him.  But the burden he carries isn't merely his after-hours, under-the-covers relationship with Marty Fairgrave, but something much darker. 

Against his own ideas and beliefs, Marty has been Tripp’s secret for a long time, accepting Tripp’s unwillingness to come out despite hoping that someday Tripp will publicly stand at his side.  But when Marty throws himself between a Brahma bull and Tripp and Tripp stands aside, Marty’s forced to realize that sometimes love isn’t enough.  He deserves more than shadows, and he’s willing to walk away from Tripp to find someone willing to stand with him in the light. 

For all his accomplishments in the rodeo ring, Tripp Colby knows the truth about himself.  He’s a coward, afraid of publicly acknowledging not only Marty but the truth about himself.  Even if he wants to come out, scars on his spirit from a bitter past keep him hidden in the dark.  But when he is forced to face the real possibility of losing Marty, not only to his own fears but to another man, can Tripp dig deep to find the courage to face not only his secrets but his past?

The road to happily ever after is rarely smooth.  But this journey is filled with interesting characters, and unlike some novelists, Chase does not allow her supporting cast to be mere cardboard figures.  Kent and Bridge, Marty’s partners in crime, Eric, the hot new paramedic on the circuit, and Scott, Tripp’s competition and the embodiment of the macho cowboy world, are all given development and depth.  They are active parts of the story, not merely props in Marty and Tripp’s play.  Nor are Marty and Tripp the cowboys one might expect in an Eastwood spaghetti Western, but unique individual with their own demons, their own follies, and their own love.

In addition to her wonderful characters, who are so easy to fall in love with, Chase uses Marty and Tripp’s story to make important points about the dangers of conversion therapy, the damage effects of lying – to yourself and to others, and the healing power of forgiveness and love.  Pickup Men is sweet, provocative, hot, and uplifting.  And, it’s the first in series set in the rodeo world.  I admit, I can’t wait for the next installment to see Chase’s cowboys continue their story.

ARC received through NetGalley.

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