About the Book:
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’s 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.
The Finer Details
Narrative Arc: Series
Series Detail: Clean Slate Ranch, book 1
Publication Date: December 11, 2017
Publisher: Carina Press
Editor: Alissa Davis
Length: Novel, 90,000 words
POV: 3rd person, limited to two main characters
Age Range(s): 30 to 34
Tropes and Tags: actor, fling, slow burn, opposites attract, cowboy
Settings & Locales: Garrett, California (fictional town about an hour from San Francisco)
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Advance Review Copy generously provided by the publisher via IndiGo Marketing and Design.
Back Porch Thoughts
Wild Trail was a promising start to a new series. I’m starting to think a vacation to a dude ranch might be a fun thing to do. Well, as long as there’s room service and I’m not the one having to muck out stalls. Been there, done that too many times to count.
I seriously dig opposites-attract stories. And I can certainly jump on board with insta-lust that turns into Something Big and Everlasting. And broody bear of a cowboy Mack Garrett is waaaay up my alley — and the cherry on top is he’s an ex-SWAT-turned-cowboy. Because c’mon, that’s all kinds of capable sexiness in one package.
His polar-opposite is floundering actor Wes Bentley, who ordinarily probably wouldn’t choose to vacation in such a dusty, smelly, hands-on sort of venue. Unless by hands-on we mean HANDS-ON if ya know what I mean. But he’d do anything for his little sister who’s hell-bent on celebrating her impending nuptials in a non-traditional way. Wes is chock full sass and snarky humor that keeps everyone on their toes and endears him as nothing but lovable.
The setting is Clean Slate Ranch located just outside the small, dying town of Garrett, California whose heyday was during the gold-rush era. There’s not much there to keep the town thriving until Wes and Mack stumble upon a long-forgotten ghost town. But it’s the ranch, at its heart, that is seriously something special. It’s a place for misfits to start anew. A judgment-free zone where all are welcome and safe to be. Where the hands have pasts that are not held against them as they’re given a clean slate to start anew. And it’s the perfect setting for both Mack and Wes, with their own painful pasts, to find each other.
Wild Trail is a fun romp and a bit of a wild ride with moments of levity and humor and the distinct feeling of strong bonds between friends. But, as much as there is to enjoy, there are a lot of moving parts that didn’t always feel cohesive. What started with a super-strong connection that Mack wanted to deny for Reasons, and Wes wanted to ride like a wild bronc was more of a slow-burn with a lot of delays. Now, a vacation fling is one thing…but setting it up for the long-term takes TIME. And they needed that time to get to know each other.
I think what didn’t work for me about it was so much being spent on the first seven days dancing around and denying their attraction. Then we further tipped toward a mystery subplot laced with mayhem and danger, that while it did the job of showing that Wes could be cool under pressure, was not as tightly knit into the overall storyline as I’d hoped. And, while there was a need to set the stage for some of the other cowboy dudes to find their true loves, I got bogged down by too many people and their details when I needed more of Mack and Wes finding their way and solidifying their path to HEA.
Wild Trail was a mostly fun and somewhat light read hinting at good things to come.
Footsteps scuffled in the dirt. Wes turned, expecting to see Sophie or Miles. Instead, Mack’s broad body filled his vision. He smiled at Wes from beneath the tilted brim of his hat—a smile less friendly, and slightly more predatory. Wes’s skin prickled with awareness.
“Doesn’t seem like you to not be sociable,” Mack said.
“Stretching my legs,” Wes lied. Okay, so that was partly true. He glanced around, startled to see he’d wandered a good ten yards from the creek and the other campers.
“Don’t stretch too far. You might get eaten by a mountain lion.”
“Please tell me you’re kidding.”
Mack shrugged one muscled shoulder. “Can’t say as I’ve seen one myself, but I’ve seen their tracks.” Wes must have had some kind of terror on his face, because Mack added, “They tend to stay to the north, though, higher up in the mountains. Shouldn’t be much of a bother to us.”
“Good.” He took a breath to calm his suddenly racing heart, which could have been from the mountain lion scare as much as the way Mack had taken a protective step closer. Close enough that he could smell sweat and horse, and something deeper that was all Mack. Not cologne. He doubted Mack wore that shit around the horses. But whatever the smell was, it was damned intoxicating.
“You not enjoying the trip?” Mack asked out of the blue.
“Sure. Not used to riding on a horse.”
Mack tilted his head, that smile dimming. “You sure that’s it? A few times on the trail, you looked…I don’t know. Sad?”
Mack had been checking him out while they were riding? “I’m not sad, exactly. Sometimes I get inside my own head and it isn’t a pretty place to be. All the regrets and bad choices. It’s why I usually am the center of attention in a crowd. Talking and entertaining people lets me not think about my problems.”
“I hear ya.” Mack shoved his hands into his jeans pockets, pulling the material tight across his crotch. Wes couldn’t help taking a peek at the package, nicely outlined even under denim.
Dropping to his knees and blowing the tour guide for being kind was probably frowned upon by management, so Wes forced his gaze back up. Mack watched him with open amusement in his eyes, even if his lips were still flat. Curious, Wes poked out his tongue and clacked the ball of his tongue stud against his teeth. Mack’s nostrils flared.
“Ever felt one of these against your—” Wes glanced at Mack’s crotch “—skin?”
Mack growled. “You’re trouble.”
“In the flesh.”
“Troublemakers like you deserve spankings,” Mack retorted, his voice low and growly.
Wes’s dick perked up. “Please, daddy.”
“Fuck.” Mack took a deliberate step backward, big arms crossing over his chest.
“Was that an invitation?” Wes purred, cocking his hip just so.
His only response was another growl—the kind that made Wes’s belly tighten in anticipation of action. Instead, Mack threw his shoulders back and said flatly, “I don’t fuck the guests.”
“Then how about after checkout on Saturday? I won’t be a guest anymore.”
Mack’s silence said loads to the fact that he was actually considering Wes’s offer, and hell yes, Wes would love to bend over for Mack—a big, stallion of a man who probably fucked like a champion.