Title: Wild Trail (Clean Slate Ranch: Book One)
Author: A.M. Arthur
Publisher: Carina Press
Length: 384 Pages
Category: Contemporary, Western
At a Glance: Wild Trail is a good beginning to what could turn out to be a steamy and fun new series.
Reviewed By: Sammy
Blurb: Welcome to Clean Slate Ranch: home of tight jeans, cowboy boots, and rough trails. For some men, it’s a fantasy come true.
Mack Garrett loves the rolling hills surrounding his Northern California dude ranch. Leading vacationers on horse trails with his two best friends is enough – romance is definitely not in the cards. When a sexy tourist shows up at Clean Slate, he’s as far from Mack’s type as can be. So why is the handsome city slicker so far under his skin in less than a day?
Roughing it in the middle of nowhere isn’t anywhere near Wes Bentley’s idea of fun. Then he lays eyes on the gruffest, hottest papa bear he’s ever seen. But Mack is as hard to pin down as he looks – distant, sharp-tongued, and in desperate need of a shave. Until a campout gone wrong strands both men in the mountains with nothing to do but get to know each other.
Mack intends to keep his closely guarded heart out of Wes’ very talented hands. But for a seven-day cowboy, Wes is packing some long-term possibility. The cold country air can do wonders for bringing bodies together – but it will take more than that to bridge the distance between two men whose lives are worlds apart.
Review: Wes loves his sister—so much so that he is willing to endure a week at a dude ranch to fulfill her every pre-wedding wish. Dragging along his roommate Miles, his sister’s fiancé, and his brother, the group of five descends upon Clean Slate Ranch to enjoy a week in the outdoors, complete with horseback riding and camping outdoors. Met with not one but three handsome cowboys, the rather flamboyant actor turns his sights on the quiet, brooding Mick Garrett. Mick has a story, one that includes his own experiences with a cheating actor who stole his heart, and his trust, before dying in a special op Mick and his team were involved in.
Ex police and SWAT team member, Mick is a no nonsense kind of man. Now working on his grandfather’s ranch, and enjoying the outdoors, his main focus is trying to keep the nearby small town of Garrett alive so that the Ranch is able to continue and prosper. He has no time for dallying with the guests, nor does he even care to, as he’s still grappling with the loss of the man he loved. But, despite his resolve to remain aloof, Wes gets under Mick’s skin, in all the right ways, and before either know it, the attraction they feel blossoms into more than just one heated encounter. Determined not to drag out what should have been a brief affair, both men part at the end of the week without exchanging any private information, and go their separate ways.
However, absence only amplifies the attraction and before too long, Wes and Mack are brought together again, and must decide if they really want to start a long-distance relationship that both are more than a bit wary of and reluctant to begin.
Wild Trail is the start of a new series called Clean Slate Ranch by author A.M. Arthur that, by all indications, is going to be a fun ride through at least three different cowboy’s lives. Mick, Colt, and Reyes are all good friends who have left their careers to start over at the ranch. Wild Trail focuses on initially introducing all three men and then focusing on Mick’s story. Having lost his lover to friendly fire from a police op gone wrong, Mick is very reluctant to give his heart away anytime soon, especially to another actor who seems rather self-involved. Wes, however, is much more than a shallow flirt, and fairly determined to get to know Mick much better. Both men have been burnt before, which makes them equally reluctant to embrace love even when it’s staring them right in the face.
The author weaves in two side stories with good effect-one being the revelation of who actually shot the bullet that killed Mick’s lover, Geoff, and the other about the origins of the remains of a ghost town Mick and Wes stumble upon. Thankfully the ending, which could have been too neatly tied up, is left a bit open ended, with a happy for now and more than a good chance of a happy-ever-after in the cards for Mick and Wes.
While I can appreciate a good kinky element in any relationship, the one offered up for Mick and Wes seemed a bit weak to me. The nicknames of “boss” and “Daddy” got a bit cloying, and the hints that some good old-fashioned domination in the bedroom was dangled but never really came to fruition, in my opinion. I wish the author would have chosen to either go full steam ahead with the tantalizing hints of the suggested Dom/sub vibe, or abandon it completely rather than go the anemic way in which the story actually played out. Despite that glitch, there was most definitely good chemistry between Mick and Wes, and a rather believable trajectory in the development of their relationship. I really appreciated how Wes’s career choices were handled, and the idea that he continued to pursue his dream rather than give it up for Mick’s.
Wild Trail is a good beginning to what could turn out to be a steamy and fun new series. If all the signs are reliable, then Miles (Wes’s roommate) may be the focus of the next installment, and I have a feeling his past will contain some fairly serious subject matter, if the hints dropped in this novel are any indication. Either way I am hooked and looking forward to seeing more of the men of Clean Slate Ranch.
You can buy Wild Trail here:
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