Title: Saddle Up
Series: Clean Slate Ranch: Book Three
Author: A.M. Arthur
Publisher: Carina Press
Length: 336 Pages
Category: Contemporary, Western
At a Glance: Saddle Up is a roller coaster ride of emotions to the very end. I think author A.M. Arthur produced a real winner and the best book in the series by far.
Reviewed By: Sammy
Blurb: Reyes Caldero keeps his past buried deep and his emotions buried deeper. But what he doesn’t say he always makes up for with his actions. When the hot chef he once saved from an abusive ex turns up at Clean Slate Ranch, the quiet cowboy is happy to act on their sizzling chemistry, even if he’s not ready to share his secrets—or his heart.
Miles Arlington needs to get the hell out of San Francisco, and heading north for a job near Clean Slate Ranch seems like just the thing. It doesn’t hurt that his secret crush slash onetime rescuer happens to work at the ranch. Miles has never been one for the outdoors, but the superhot Reyes has him ready to saddle up.
Reyes is happy to keep things casual, even though his heart has other ideas. And when Miles is forced to confront his past again, Reyes and Miles will have to put all their trust in each other if they want any chance at building a future together.
Review: Saddle Up is the third installment in A.M. Arthur’s Clean Slate Ranch series. It’s Reyes Caldero’s turn to take the spotlight, and I must say of all three stories, I think I liked this one the best. There was something more intense about this novel that was lacking in the other two, and I think it came down to two components—one, the slow developing love story between Miles (Wes’ best friend) and Reyes, and the threat of imminent danger that Will had to grapple with on a daily basis.
Before I go any further with my review, please note that I would not label this a standalone and suggest you read this series in order before you pick up this third book. There is a lot of history between these characters that I feel you need to know before diving in to this book. Also, some of the discussion about what happened to Wes might be triggering for those who have been victims of abuse. While the acts are never described on the page, it haunts Will throughout the entire book, so please know it is a fairly big plot point. Now, let’s discuss why I thought this was the best of the lot thus far.
Miles has been a shadowy figure in this storyline since the first book. A rather timid and quiet best friend to the more flamboyant Wes, almost every novel has had some allusion as to a past that Miles was running from that had left him scared and damaged in some way. What we do know is that he has an ex named Dallas who has stalked him in the past and who still comes around every so often, trying to get back in Will’s good graces. We also had an inkling from past stories that Will fears Dallas, and Wes knows this as well. Of course, whatever Wes knows, so does his boyfriend and his two buddies at the Clean Slate Ranch, and that is how Reyes initially comes into Will’s life.
Reyes Caldero is just about as mysterious as Will’s past relationship. Both these men have secrets and Reyes has wrapped up his painful and violent memories so tightly even his best friend, Mack, doesn’t know everything about him. Suffice it to say that what Reyes keeps hidden has convinced him that he doesn’t deserve to be loved, and surely will not be if anyone discovers just what he has buried in his past. When Wes convinces Will to take on the role of head chef for the Bentley Ghost Town project Mack is running, Reyes and Will find out they will be bunking together on the ranch. Given that Will cannot bring himself to trust any man near him, and even sleeps behind a locked door in the old apartment he shared with Wes, it’s problematic that things are going to be rather tense given the new living arrangements.
However, Reyes is determined to give Will his space despite the very real knowledge that he is slowly falling for the guy. For his part, Will does begin to relax around his new roommate, and the two gradually begin to share some of their past with each other. As they share more about themselves, the walls that Will has erected to keep himself from shattering slowly come down, and Reyes is there to help hold the man he is falling in love with together. But Dallas is not done with Will yet, and despite going completely off the grid, Will is found by his manipulative, dangerous ex. Now the dark, destructive secrets that Will and Reyes both hold must be exposed if they are truly to discover if their love for each other is strong enough to survive.
This novel was a bit of a nail-biter, I must say. Every chapter, I was waiting for the other shoe to drop, so to speak. Would Dallas show up and find poor Will—hurt him, kidnap him, or worse? What was it that Reyes couldn’t tell Will? What was so horrific that he had never even confided it to Mack, who has known him since they were teens? And good golly, could the sexual tension and unrequited love get any more intense between these two guys? All these mysteries coupled with some hefty sexual tension, swirled around Will and Reyes as the solidly written story about the grand opening of the ghost town Mack had sunk his life savings into finally got off the ground.
I was well and truly captivated by this novel. It was a solid plot that never let up. From moment to moment I worried about Dallas finding Will, and what might happen. My heart just wept for Reyes, the gentle heart wrapped up in moments of explosive anger when anything befell the man he loved, and Reyes felt he had failed in keeping Will safe. Reyes, who carried the weight of not one but two deaths on his shoulders—deaths he felt directly responsible for and which haunted his every waking moment. Reyes and Will were both tortured souls for very different reasons, and author A.M. Arthur holds the key to the mystery surrounding Reyes tight until nearly the very end of the novel, and I have to say, it is a doozy.
Saddle Up is a roller coaster ride of emotions to the very end. A smattering of romance, a dose of psychological thriller, and two heavily wounded main characters who just wanted to love and be loved in return made this a story that knocked the wind out of me more than once. With this third novel, I think author A.M. Arthur produced a real winner and the best book by far.
You can buy Saddle Up here:
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