Review: A.M. Arthur – Wild Trail (Clean Slate Ranch #1)

Author: A.M. Arthur
Reviewer: Natalie
Publisher: Carina Press
Genre: MM

Rating: ★★★★☆ 

Summary: Welcome to Clean Slate Ranch: home of tight jeans, cowboy boots, and rough trails. For some men, it’s a fantasy come true.

Mack Garrett loves the rolling hills surrounding his Northern California dude ranch. Leading vacationers on horse trails with his two best friends is enough – romance is definitely not in the cards. When a sexy tourist shows up at Clean Slate, he’s as far from Mack’s type as can be. So why is the handsome city slicker so far under his skin in less than a day?

Roughing it in the middle of nowhere isn’t anywhere near Wes Bentley’s idea of fun. Then he lays eyes on the gruffest, hottest papa bear he’s ever seen. But Mack is as hard to pin down as he looks – distant, sharp-tongued, and in desperate need of a shave. Until a campout gone wrong strands both men in the mountains with nothing to do but get to know each other.

Mack intends to keep his closely guarded heart out of Wes’ very talented hands. But for a seven-day cowboy, Wes is packing some long-term possibility. The cold country air can do wonders for bringing bodies together – but it will take more than that to bridge the distance between two men whose lives are worlds apart.

Review: A.M. Arthur is one of my very favorite authors and I was so thrilled she decided to write cowboys! Although it’s a dude ranch, featuring a few city slickers turned cowboys, the story completely caught the atmosphere and feel I expected. Wes arrives at the ranch with his sister Sophie, her fiancé and his best man, and Miles, Wes’s best friend and roommate. He’s instantly attracted to Mack, who works there with his former SWAT partner, Colt, plus Reyes, once a firefighter. I mention the professions because the characterizations were molded to fit so well with the ranch and cowboy vibe, without losing sight of their previous jobs. Most of the first half of the story follows the group during ranch activities, with some sizzling hook-ups, followed by feelings developing between Mack and Wes that seem destined to go nowhere. Painful relationships from their pasts have them agreeing to just a vacation fling.

The two men don’t see each other for a few weeks after that before succumbing to the inevitable, beginning a not so long distance relationship. Along with their time together, the latter half of the book covers work and interests each of them are involved in. Additional plot points revolve around their friends, Wes’s acting jobs and Mack’s new business for the ranch, keeping the narrative moving briskly. It is a fairly long book but it didn’t feel all that long. Very little angst is added, just emotional repercussions from Wes’s and Mack’s history with their exes. I got wrapped up in the added mystery, danger and action sequences, lies causing a rift between friends and mild conflict between the lovers.

POV’s switches between Mack and Wes, all in third person, is a comfortable writing style I prefer to read. I did dislike the pet names used, where Wes called Mack “daddy” and Mack called him “boss”. It wasn’t daddy kink, though the names came up in sex scenes but they’re only a few years apart in age, so it seemed strange. There were a couple of other minor inconsistencies and a dangling plot thread that I felt Wes should have followed up on before the epilogue. It involved Miles, so I’m fairly certain it will be addressed in a future book. All in all, it was well worth reading and should be very enjoyable for fans of modern westerns.

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