A sense of duty brings a soldier home…but a passionate cowboy makes him want to stay.
After his brother’s tragic death, Tripp has to leave the army and return to New Mexico to take care of his mother while his father is in prison for arson. Seeking work at the J-Bar Ranch, Tripp is immediately drawn to injured cowboy Lucho Reyes, whose foot was accidentally crushed by a rescue horse. But will the sins of the father interfere with the desires of the son? Tripp’s father may be responsible for the death of Lucho’s grandfather. Now Tripp must balance caring for his mother, repairing his father’s damages, and trying to win the heart of a man who has every reason to hate him and his family.
This is another sexy, ride-em-hard adventure on the J-Bar ranch; it can be read as a standalone, although Malloy & Crispin and Jimmy & Eddie from the previous books do play a secondary role in the story.
The steam level here is moderate, but Tripp and Lucho are hella hawt in the included steamy scenes. I'm particularly fond of the one in the hotel room, where Tripp rides his cowboy hard and fast. Say giddy-up, baby!
Tripp is into Lucho from the moment they meet, but Lucho, whose family was hurt by Tripp's criminal father, wants naught to do with Tripp.
I liked the enemies-to-lovers trope, the slow burn, the care the men showed each other.
Tripp returns from the army to take care of his mom, only to get trapped in his father's clutches once again. Tripp suffers from nightmares. He feels guilt about his brother's death and his mother's breakdown.
When Lucho finally allows himself to see the real Tripp, a brave but broken man who's not his father's son, he becomes Tripp's rock.
That was love, right there. That's what love really looks like. Love and acceptance. Understanding. Kindness. What Lucho brought to the table wasn't some dumbass romantic idea of love, but the kind of love I'd been looking for all my life. The kind that gives and doesn't ask anything in return.
The relationship between Lucho and Tripp is solid and believable, the dialogue realistic. The men have to deal with Lucho's family who despise Tripp for the sins of his father, and Tripp's emotionally manipulative, unstable mother who allows Tripp's father to control her even from prison.
I became more frustrated with Tripp as the book progressed. He was ready to leave everything he loved to save a mother who I'm not sure deserved to be saved. She was supposed to be the victim, but I found her incredibly weak and unlikable.
Lucho was an interesting, complex character. Because the book is told from Tripp's first-person POV, we see Lucho only through Tripp's eyes, but Lucho's love for Tripp is obvious and unmistakable.
The ending felt a bit like a cop-out, but I found it preferable to the initial choice Tripp was going to make. He didn't need to be a martyr to finally put the past behind him.
ZAM's writing is generally polished, and this one is no exception. Ranch life comes alive in the small details: Tripp birthing a calf; Lucho and Tripp training a scared, stubborn horse; Crispin making dessert tortillas over the campfire.
There was an easy pace to the story, an unmistakable sense of RIGHTNESS between Tripp and his Luis.
[Lucho] kissed me with all the passion I'd come to expect and more tenderness than I had a right to. As if it was his right, and his duty, and his pleasure to kiss me. He kissed me like I was his and he was never going to let it end and I never wanted it to end, either.
Trust in that kiss, Tripp; it won't lead you astray.