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I'm a hopeful cynic.

Nowhere Ranch

Nowhere Ranch - Heidi Cullinan

I wasn't planning on reading anything for fun this month—I'm too busy reading for work—but this book jumped out at me and demanded to be read. "I'm full of dirty talk!" it said. "I'm kinky!" it said. So I just had to make some time for Nowhere Ranch.


Storywise, it reminded me of Bareback by Chris Owen and Keeping Promise Rock by Amy Lane. Strangely enough, it didn't remind me of Mary Calmes, but I've only read one book by her, so maybe there are some similar patterns there and I just can't see them.


For me, the difference between Nowhere Ranch and the abovementioned books is that the voice of the narrator is much more interesting and believable and the writing is a notch better.


As for the similarities, you have a ranch owner and a ranch hand. You have strained family relationships, and criminal records, and people running from things. You have minor dramas, and bad weather conditions, and various other things I won't mention here because I don't want to spoiler everything about the book.


There's also an abundance of sizzling and, yes, deliciously kinky sex scenes in roughly the first 50% of the book. The chemistry between the heroes is strong, the D/s dynamic well-done, and it worked great for me. Some of the BDSM elements I liked, while some others weren't exactly my cup of tea, but Travis and Roe seemed to be enjoying themselves just fine, so I went along and enjoyed that first half of the story plenty, too.


In the second half, though, the story adopts a much more dramatic and largely didactic tone and, by the end, the plot becomes unnecessarily corny. And maybe it was just me, but it was strange and a bit unexpected because that didn't seem like where the author intended on taking her characters and her story in the first half of the book.


What rubbed me the wrong way was that, suddenly, Roe needed Haley to act as sort of a mental crutch, to decide for him, defend him, speak for him and instead of him. For instance, it would have been a meaningful step in character development to have Roe finally finding the strength to speak up to his family. Haley doing it for him made him come across as weak when his actions were supposed to show otherwise.


Also, a major question was

why did Travis and Roe need to have a baby

(show spoiler)

for their relationship and their story to be considered complete. That plot detail came out of nowhere (I mean, I knew what was going to happen the moment the words

"I'm pregnant"

(show spoiler)

hit the page, but there was nothing at all in the plot development, before or after, to justify the twist) and it didn't add anything substantial to the story. If anything, for me, it detracted from it.


In a nutshell, in the first half of the book, you have two cowboys having fun and some hot and kinky sex, forging the kind of relationship (or quasi-relationship) they want, defining it according to their terms and needs, while in the second half of the book you have the character of Haley hijacking the story, turning the two kinky cowboys into a pair of marionettes, speaking for them, acting for them, ordering them around and, to cap it all off, forcing her baby on them because she decided so herself and it was final.


Still, I enjoyed this book enough to want to read more by Heidi Cullinan. I feel she has much more to tell me and I'm eager to try more of her work.