Book Review: Heart of Stone by Ari McKay

Posted: June 12, 2013 by sidlove in 4.5 Star Reviews, Book Reviews, Macky's Reviews
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Reviewed by Macky

TITLE: Heart of Stone
AUTHOR: Ari McKay
PUBLISHER: Dreamspinner Press
BLURB: Stone Harrison never knew he had an aunt; he certainly never expected her to bequeath him one of the largest spreads in central Nevada. But something about Copper Lake Ranch and its foreman, Luke Reynolds, speaks to him, offering a chance for the home he’s never really had.

Luke wants Stone to succeed as a rancher and put the legacy of his shiftless father behind him, but he’d also like Stone to share his bed. Unfortunately, Stone is convinced that the world is a harsh place that will never accept two men sharing their lives. Much to Luke’s dismay, he refuses to risk Luke’s life despite the intense attraction they share.

The tension between them escalates when a series of calamities strikes Copper Lake. An unexpected and unwelcome visit from Stone’s dandified cousin, James, only makes things worse. Stone’s ability to run the ranch comes into question, but the threat of losing it means less to Stone than the threat to Luke’s life. Stone will do anything it takes to protect the man he loves—even if it makes him a murderer.

REVIEW:

Heart Of Stone is a proper Historical Western with everything you would expect and want from it. As I was reading this, I was actually imagining myself curled up on a chair, on a Saturday afternoon watching it all unfurl on the TV as a Saturday Matinee. Take away the fact that this is m/m romance novel (and in my opinion, it is a true romance) the rest of the story suits the classic Western tale perfectly.

A strong, silent Cowboy drifter, with a mixed native American blood and an angst ridden past, gets a letter saying that a long lost relative (who he’s never met before) has died, leaving him a successful working ranch. Arriving there he meets the foreman, who is his complete opposite – warm, friendly, hard working and a complete gem when it comes to helping him work the ranch. They strike up a friendship. Things are going well till a spate of mishaps start befalling the ranch, each one becoming more dangerous putting not only the ranch and its animals at risk but the lives of the men running it. Someone is out to run him off his land. So, with the help of his foreman and ranch hands and certain characters from the town, the lone Cowboy fights to save his livelihood!

OK, so thats the version you’d be watching on Saturday afternoon – cheering for the good guys, boo hissing the baddies and finally seeing the Cowboy save the day and get his “Mary Lou” the heroine who shows our gruff drifter cowboy that he can be loved and finally have a settled home life with all the trimmings… But of course this is no ordinary western is it?

Stone Harrison is our lone Cowboy and Luke Reynolds is the foreman he comes to rely on but of course the difference in this story is that both these men have no interest in women and never will have but living in a time when being gay could result in nothing short of losing your life, both have lived their lives, up to meeting each other, keeping it well and truly hidden. Of course the attraction and lust is there and after a while Luke’s warm teasing manner breaks down Stone’s brittle persona and reservations, causing the inevitable to happen. But, the morning after, Stone pushes Luke away for fear of their relationship not only harming the running of the ranch, but his and Luke’s lives.

“This was now his home, and there wasn’t any place he’d rather be. Part of what made that feeling, though was one smart-mouthed cowboy with a gleam in his eye and a teasing word on his lips. A cowboy who seemed quite willing to take Stone as he was and even take him to bed. And that was the one thing Stone knew could never happen.”

From then on they revert back to a working relationship that strains their friendship but stubbornness and underlying feelings run high and when danger strikes the ranch they have to put it all aside to ensure the safety of everything they’ve worked to achieve.

Add in some great small town characters, a proper slimy baddie, his hired henchmen, some very well paced sexual tension and two REALLY likeable MC’s and I think you’ve got an absolute cracker! There’s a lovely back story involving Stone’s Auntie, who’s left him the ranch, that I thought was a refreshingly sweet addition to this type of tale and a lovely little twist at the end that made me smile and left me feeling the fuzzies! One surprise I did have was that this is a collaboration of two authors. I’d never have known because the story flows beautifully. Nice one ladies!

I honestly didn’t put this down once I started it and ended up reading it all in one sitting. I think it’s probably one of the nicest m/m westerns I’ve ever read. There’s not oodles of sex but what there is, it is still sexy, full of chemistry and very romantic. I found it to be a lovely romance that didn’t insist on them jumping into bed every five minutes but still had that sexual frisson that kept you glued to their “will they/won’t they” love affair. This is a good solid story with sex…not sex with a bit of story thrown in. Perhaps this is why some readers have rated it lower? I don’t know but for me this engaging book is a winner and a total keeper. I absolutely loved it. One little niggle was that I thought they should have cottoned on to who the baddie was a lot earlier, I knew the moment he arrived in the story he was going to be trouble, and I was a wee bit disappointed in how he gets his comeuppance but because of the end of the story, which I loved, I saw why it had to be that way so I gave it leeway, and this is a story, at the end of the day and great one at that, so it’s 4.5 rounded up.

Now I’m left hankering for another tale of the Wild West with strong silent cowboys in chaps riding the range… as long as they’re sexy ones. Slap my thighs and  YEEHAW! You know what they say about riding a cowboy… (winks and grins)

Macky’s rating:

BUY LINK: Dreamspinner Press  ||  Book Store

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