Do you imagine blazing gun battles, bandits, and saloons with watered-down drinks when you think of cowboys and the West? We don’t. Our minds go right to horse shifters, bull shifters, were-leopards, urban wannabes, an interrupted journey along Route 66, a man of mystery named Dr. Feel-Good, and high noon at the edge of the galaxy! The fourth time’s the charm as the Butt-Thology authors saddle up, ride their men hard, and put ‘em away wet.
Butt Riders on the Range…the bulls aren’t the only ones being grabbed by the horns!
This is my third "Butt" anthology, and I was waiting with bated breath until it dropped into my inbox (thanks, Geoff). And then I got reading...
HUNG LIKE A HORSE by J.P. Barnaby:
This was a wee bit on the short side, though still a nice read. Riley is a horse shifter, and ends up on a farm owned by John, who figures out quickly that the horse that showed up a few months ago is also a man. He knows this because John is also a shifter. I liked that the author gave both characters some depth (not all that easy in a short). The mythology used here was also quite well done, especially the explanation about how much energy is involved to shift, and how messy the whole process is. The two men bond rather quickly, but since they're both shifters, it was an easy buy. There was a bit of a kerfuffle with one of the ranch hands, and the local sheriff, but all's well that ends well, with a HFN.
CHINCHILLA CHIMICHANGAS by Kage Alan:
One of the longer stories in this anthology, it starts out as if it's an Old West tale. It's not. It's a story of a young man, an aspiring author writing his book while traveling on a Greyhound bus to do a thing for his dad. When the bus gets stuck in a podunk town in the middle of nowhere, Chris meets Cameron, local boy, who takes him home to get help with a software program in exchange for offering Chris room and board while his travel plans are delayed.
What we also have in this story are two character voices in Chris' head, Ms. Kiernan and Ms. Tis, who chime in frequently with sarcasm and snark. While Chris tries to figure out if Cameron is also gay, we start to see something develop. There's lots of humor in this story, but also a bit of sadness as Chris' backstory comes out. And then the storm that delayed the bus keeps on storming. The men get closer and closer. There is some fantastic dialogue in this story that had me giggling and then awwing right after. Also, butt virgins. And even so one of them is virginal, the sexy times were smoking hot but also loving and fun. Mr. Alan's writing is a real treat, and I loved how the story ended.
SQUATTING WITH SPURS ON by Kiernan Kelly:
This was an interesting one. I didn't expect that kind of story in this anthology, though I must say that it fit very well. Also this one packed quite a bit into the pages it covered.
We meet Dooley McCallister on page 1, who's inherited a rundown farm in Montana. Upon arrival, he's plagued by bad dreams, and then the noises begin. Undeterred, Dooley calls out to "Casper" and gives him a piece of his mind. Of course, he doesn't really believe in ghosts, until the ghost starts to talk back. And tells him a story of time travel, and what not. Hard to believe, sure, and rather fantastical, but I liked how the author wrote the two characters, and really made this work. Nicely done!
FAUX COWBOY by Shae Connor:
As the title indicates, this story has a cowboy who's not really one. Jackson James is a model, hired to represent a line of Western-style clothing. Big beltbuckle included. It's all the rage among the gay men of NYC, and Jackson hates the clothes, but likes the paycheck.
Then he meets Douglas Shaw, who seems to be a real rancher, and sparks fly. Doug's in town for a touristy time, and when he and Jackson hit it off, we're in for a night of dancing, and some fade to black roll in the hay. When the truth comes out that Jackson isn't a real cowboy, Doug has some truth of his own to tell.
This was cute. Fast, over too quickly, but I liked the characters. Realistic dialogue, though the HFN seemed a little rushed for my taste.
HOOVES AND HORNS by Eden Winters:
Another shifter story, this time with a horse and a bull. Apparently, horses and cattle don't get along, not when they're shifters, and Kerry (the horse shifter) is not interested in reviving things with Armando (the bull shifter) after how Armando left him, because cows are snotty and don't mix with horses. I really like the sexual tension the author wrote - the electricity between the two sizzled in the pages, and I liked that Kerry didn't take crap from Armando, and vice versa. They were exceptionally well suited to each other, and it was very clear from the story that the two had genuine feelings for each other. And there's a real thin line between hate and love, especially between shifter mates. This was great fun to read.
THE BOY FROM BATTALION BLUFF by Jevocas Green:
This was my least favorite of the bunch. We enter the story in some western town, where Dr. Feel-Good makes the Sheriff, well, feel good. The good doctor, Johnen, is not quite human, it seems, what with glowing eyes and such. Toby, the stable boy, is caught watching Johnen get it on with the Sheriff.
Then a stranger comes into town, and things get a little weirder than they already were.
I'm not much into Sci-Fi, and this was a wee bit too Sci-Fi for me. The writing was very good, no doubt, but the story never gripped me.
THE FIVE HELLS WAR by Ally Blue:
This story is also a little Sci-Fi, though that fades into the background quickly, and therefore kept me interested. We find ourselves in the town of Burnt Butt Flats, in the Dilmun Planetary system, where Balthazar Shellenbarger (say that quickly a few times) has arrived representing his employer to do what it takes to obtain the last independently owned boomer cow farm. Said farm is owned by Salvador "Rocky" Flint, who isn't interested in selling his farm, and thus has no time for another lawyer Cavendish Farms has sent.
When the heat and lack of water makes Balthazar faint, Rocky takes pity on him and takes him to the ranch house. While there, Balty has a change of heart and decides that instead of working to take the farm from Rocky, he'll help him keep it. Of course, inevitably, they get closer and romance happens.
This was cute, even if it wasn't my favorite sub-genre, but Ms. Blue kept it interesting, and it was relatively easy to forget that this was not taking place on Earth.
AND THE HORSE HE RODE IN ON by T.C. Blue:
My absolute favorite in the bunch, I loved this story about a horse shifter and a leopard shifter who find each other under unexpected circumstances, and build a solid relationship. I loved the characterizations, I loved the secondary characters (even if we mostly hear from them via phone), and I loved, loved, loved how it all unfolded, and how it ended. With humor, snark and much UST, T.C. Blue delivered a fabulous story about two men falling in love, while getting to know each other, getting to know each other's quirks and idiosyncrasies, and really learning how to make it work. Absolutely adorable, and great fun to read.
Also, BOLO for Dr. Edmund Kage, who makes an appearance in most of these stories. I love how the authors keep that characters around, and how they made him fit into each story.
** I received a free copy of this book from its publisher, Wilde City Press. A positive review was not promised in return. **
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