Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Blog Tour/ARC Review: My Heartache Cowboy by Z.A. Maxfield

My Heartache Cowboy
(Cowboy Series, Bk #2)
By Z.A. Maxfield

Can love conquer all?

Jimmy Rafferty and Eddie Molina go way back at the J-Bar ranch. They’ve worked together, bunked together, camped out, and drank together. So how has Jimmy failed to notice that Eddie is gay? Eddie has not failed to notice that his friend has a serious drinking problem, and he’s determined to help Jimmy kick the booze cold turkey.

Taking him up to a snowbound cabin to detox, Eddie is confronted with Jimmy’s fierce denial. But the pains of withdrawal are nothing for Jimmy compared with the heartache of denying his true feelings and his deep longing…for the one man who cares for him more than anyone else on earth.

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When I woke, I was alone and the truck wasn’t moving.

Who the hell did Eddie think he was, leaving me asleep by myself in a truck outside in the freezing cold? My pa and my older brother, Jonas, used to do that. We’d be on the road, and when I fell asleep, they’d leave me in the parking lot of some dive bar or motel—just leave me asleep outside in the dark. I’d wake up with no clue where I was, no idea if they were coming back or if I should go in and try to find them.

My first useful thought was to look for the keys, because I hadn’t forgotten what Eddie said. I hadn’t forgotten the plans him and boss Malloy made for me behind my back. It would serve them right if I up and hightailed it back to the J-Bar with Eddie’s truck and no Eddie.

No keys.

Not like that was going to stop me. Where the hell did Eddie get the idea I’d go quietly? I slid over and tore the wiring out from under the dash. Found what I needed without hardly even looking.

I hated waking up alone like that. Unwanted. Abandoned.

One twist. Two. Touch the wires together and the engine should . . .



What the hell? I checked I got the proper color-coated strands and tried again. I was frowning down at the mess of tangled wire when someone tapped on the window behind me.

I glanced up and saw Eddie frowning down, no doubt pissed at what I’d done to his truck. Serves you right for leaving me like that, you prick.

“You need a working engine for that,” he told me as he opened the door. “One that has a battery.”

“Fuck you.” I spilled out of the car ready for a fistfight.

“What?” Eddie jumped back.

“Why did you have to leave me like that? What did I ever do to you?”

Eddie shook his head at me. “I don’t have a clue what you’re talking about. You were sound asleep and I thought maybe you needed it.”

I took a swing at him. “I hate waking up alone in a car like that.”

Ed plucked my fist from the air and peered at me like he was trying to see through my skin. “I didn’t know.”

“I hate that. Left behind in the car like a damn dog. Like a fucking duffel bag. You can’t be bothered to even wake me up and take me in out of the fucking snow.”

Now Eddie frowned like he was thinking about it. Now, after the fact. “I’m sorry, Jimmy. I didn’t think how you’d feel waking up alone like that. I won’t do it again.”

“Would have served you right if I took your truck and left you up here to walk back to civilization, wherever the hell that is. Would have served you right if I’d died out here.”

“All right, all right. Simmer down now.”

I glared at him. “Fuck you.”

“It’s pretty civilized inside. How about you come in with me.”

“How about you suck my fucking—”

“That’s enough.” He turned and headed toward the cabin’s welcoming front door. “I almost didn’t bother to disable the damn thing, but I thought on the off chance you knew what you were doing and could—”

“Which I did,” I pointed out.

“Come inside.” He jerked his chin toward the cabin like I was a dog and I was supposed to just follow along and yip around at his heels.

I debated making a run at him, but frankly, Eddie was a tough buzzard. He wasn’t too much older than me, just forty-two compared to my thirty-eight. But I was a lover, not a fighter, or at least that’s how I thought of myself. Back there on the road, Eddie had proved he wasn’t above using violence to get his way in this, so I went along.

You’re going to have to sleep sometime.

Eddie led me into a rustic-looking cabin that seemed awful nice for the middle of nowhere. There was a place for us to hang our hats just inside the door, over a table with a passel of pictures on it. There were old time black-and-whites of families and framed pictures of a good-looking man, a pretty woman, and some kids. There were some of the kids alone, and holy cow, there were probably a dozen pictures of Ed. He looked so young in a couple of them, they must have been from before we met.

One of Ed and the unknown man caught my eye. Something about the difference in height, the casual way they leaned together, the way they looked at each other, made me think this was Ed’s friend from the road, Don. Even though they’d both aged some since it was taken, I was almost sure of it.

No knobby hands, no weathered angel, this Don was good looking, without a doubt. He was lanky and chiseled. He had an intelligent face and a smile that drew the eye. He seemed sure of himself and charming. Whatever I’d seen in the darkness outside the car had to be a trick of the light.

Ed looked so young and earnest next to him it took my breath away. Brawny and tan, he wore a yoked Western shirt with the sleeves rolled up past well-muscled forearms and he eyed Don like he would follow him anywhere.

And that Don, he looked like he could appreciate a guy like Ed, as well.

Hadn't I seen firsthand how much he did appreciate him?

Sandra's rating:

A great read, with a realistic first person POV (Jimmy Rafferty) and a very realistic depiction of alcoholism and the effects, as well as a wonderful love story between two ranch hands who've secretly pined for each other for 15 years.

A couple of things that bothered me: Sloppy editing in the epilogue. For the entirety of the book up to that point, Jimmy's brother is referred to as Jonas. In the epi, he becomes Jonah and Johan - that should have been caught, and I hope this will get fixed prior to publication. Also, Eddie's age is given as 42. There is one spot, toward the end, where he's suddenly 43. If he had a birthday, I missed it. If not, please get that fixed.

Other than the above, this book was awesome, and I liked it better than the first one, which had a more stoic character in Speed Malloy. Another thing - while this novel is more or less standalone, it's probably best to read My Cowboy Heart first so you can get the full experience of Jimmy's homophobic assholery before he quits drinking. While some of his actions and words are mentioned in this novel, I think that reading these books in order will give the reader a fuller picture of the characters. 

And that includes Eddie. Gay, and finally out to Jimmy, Eddie has loved his friend quietly and without hope for a very long time. Jimmy, afraid that his lack of book smarts would get him rejected, has cloaked his love for Eddie as well as his homosexuality in brash words and crass behavior, as well as drowning his feelings in alcohol. This escalates to the point where Jimmy makes moves on Crispin, with whom Malloy is in love (all this happens in book 1), and at the climax of the first book, Eddie and Malloy decide that Jimmy needs to either dry out or ship out.

This book starts with Eddie taking Jimmy up to a cabin belonging to Don, a good friend of Eddie, who's also been his lover for years. Their relationship is casual, and Eddie wants more than Don can give, so they never progressed beyond anything more than fuck buddies.

Taking an alcoholic to an isolated cabin in the middle of winter, by yourself, to dry him out, isn't a good idea in general. Then again, these men are rugged cowboys, made from strong stuff, and while Eddie quickly realizes that he can't do this on his own, he does get Jimmy past the withdrawals, because he has sufficiently prepared himself and knows what he's up against.

I loved how the author progressed the relationship and let the two men discover things about each other that they never knew, despite their long friendship and having worked together for so long. They are absolutely in love with each other, but neither is willing or able to actually say so. 

Both of them don't like to talk about their pasts, and both of them hide the skeletons in their closets from each other. Jimmy doesn't even realize yet that he's gay, having hidden that his whole life, but what he does figure out, despite his self-assessment of being just a dumb cowboy, is a profound truth that every addict needs to know.

Your recovery must be for yourself. You can't do it for someone else.

It's a hard lesson, one that Jimmy and Eddie both have to learn. But learn it, they do.

I've seen a couple of reviews that expressed dissatisfaction with this book because of the menage. I don't agree. I think the three-somes (holy shit, they're hawt) are actual fostering and furthering the plot, because they teach Jimmy not only how to give up control and shut off his brain, but they also let him see the difference between sex and love. I had a few tears in my eyes when this rough cowboy thinks about the emotions he sees in Eddie's eyes, holding him while Don fucks him, and how those emotions are for Jimmy and not for Don. I loved how Jimmy finally lets himself see what's been there all along, and when he fucks up, he knows that his attempt at making amends might not be welcome, but he does it anyway. There's strength of character right there. That's growth. That's worth cheering for.

I quite liked Don, Eddie's friend/lover/sex buddy. He was at once a horndog and unashamed about it, honest and straight forward, caring, loving, knowing his limits and what he needed, not shy about anything. He was also instrumental in helping both Eddie and Jimmy see the truth, and more or less kick-started the transformation of their relationship.

And holy hot boysecks, Batman. These aren't young whippersnappers, no sirree. Eddie is 42, Jimmy is 38, and Don is 52. These are real men, rough around the edges, with calloused hands and dry skin and muscles formed from hard work, not pushing weights in a gym. These are real men, strong and solid.

Jimmy's voice as the narrator sounds utterly authentic, and I immersed myself in his character, seeing everything through his eyes. The writing is engaging, with bits of humor and great, realistic sounding dialogues. The characters are explored beyond their current circumstances, and the author gives background information on them both, without turning it into infodumping. 

The book has organic flow and is evenly paced, like a quiet brook flowing along. Still waters run deep, and both of these cowboys (as well as the book) fit that saying perfectly. While I didn't care much for Jimmy in book 1, because of his assholish behavior, in this book, I adored him. I kept catching myself wanting to hug him and pet him and tell him that everything would be okay. The pain and hurt from his childhood has turned him into someone who hides behind anger and whiskey, but when he sets himself free from his demons, he's quite a sight to behold. And he deserves his happy ending.

I didn't care much for the epi. The surprise Eddie and Don spring on Jimmy, while perhaps needed for his continuous recovery, didn't interest me as much as I would have liked to see more about the rings they both sport at the end.

Overall, 4.5 stars. Well worth reading, and highly recommended.

** I received a free ARC from the publisher via Netgalley. A positive review was not promised in return.

About the Author

Z. A. Maxfield started writing in 2007 on a dare from her children and never looked back.  Pathologically disorganized, and perennially optimistic, she writes as much as she can, reads as much as she dares, and enjoys her time with family and friends. Three things reverberate throughout all her stories: Unconditional love, redemption, and the belief that miracles happen when we least expect them.

If anyone asks her how a wife and mother of four can find time for a writing career, she’ll answer, “It’s amazing what you can accomplish if you give up housework.”

You can find ZA Maxfield at 



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1 comment:

  1. Thanks so much for the review!



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