Title ~ Finding Forgiveness
Author ~ Ari McKay
Publisher ~ Dreamspinner Press
Published ~ 24th September 2014
Genre ~ M/M Historical Romance, Cowboys
Boston in 1888 is quite urbane, but unfortunately for Gil Porter, that isn’t the same thing as being understanding. When his sexuality is exposed by the scandalous suicide of his lover, Gil is exiled to the small town of Mercy, Texas, by his domineering father, George, who believes life on Vernon Porter's ranch will cure Gil of his “unnatural” desires. Grieving and ashamed, Gil is determined to keep his distance from everyone until he can return home. To his surprise, he finds acceptance at Bent Oak Ranch, especially from Matt Grayson, the handsome son of the ranch foreman. Knowing he must fight his attraction to Matt, Gil courts a local girl, but an unexpected encounter with Matt leads to his discovery of Matt’s feelings for him. Torn between Matt and his desire to be “normal," between returning to his old life and building a new one in Texas, Gil is faced with a choice—appeasing his father or becoming the man Matt knows he can be.
Sweet, tender and endearing...that's how I'd describe Ari McKays new romance set in the old west. I loved their last one, Heart Of Stone and I fell for this too. To be honest it isn't an action packed 'Rootin' Tootin' style Western, it's quite simply a gentle love story set in Texas in the year 1888, between a slightly stiff city dweller and the warm hearted, handsome cowboy he meets when he's packed off to his uncle's ranch under a cloud of shame. There are no shoot outs, no outlaws, no wicked land owners, no cattle rustlers and no Native American's...Either friend or foe. So why did I love it so much?
I can only say it was because as well as falling in love with not only its two MC's, but the majority of the cast on the ranch, it gave me a huge case of the warm and fuzzies as I followed poor, conflicted Gilbert Porter; a character whose plight pulled at my heartstrings from the word go, into a territory that was as far away from the fancy minded, social set he generally frequented, as it possibly could have been.
The territory was desolate and did nothing to lift Gil's already low spirits. Being exiled to his uncle's ranch was a wretched fate, but he couldn't possibly have stayed in Boston, not with the miasma of a scandal clinging to him. The best thing he could do for his family—as father so kindly reminded him everyday until his departure—was stay away until the gossip died down and his former social circles had forgiven and forgotten his transgressions enough to admit him once more.
Gilbert is a major disappointment to his father in lots of ways. He's small, red haired, slender and obviously gay, so it's not hard to put two and two together to guess what the scandal is that's conspired to have him sent away in disgrace. What we don't find out though, until later, are the actual details of his misdemeanor, but there's no doubt that throughout his life, Gil's pompous, authoritarian father has done a real number on his son, and it shows in his reserved manner and formal attitude, which on first introduction doesn't endear him too kindly to some of the other characters he meets at the ranch. The only person who doesn't judge him or take offense at his initial conduct is the ranch foreman's son, gorgeous Matt Grayson, the cowboy who makes him tingle the first time Gil spies him. But he can't afford for his secret to come out, amongst these rugged, straight forward cowboy folk so he closes himself off, causing him to appear standoffish, distant and unintentionally rude at the beginning.
He had unnatural desire's, and he harbored a secret that would make him as much a pariah here as he was in Boston. He could never be truly accepted or truly free no matter where he went.
Over time he soon comes to realise how strong the sense of family is that ties the community on the ranch together. There's a true camaraderie between everyone who lives and works it: his fair minded uncle Vernon, his gruff old friend and foreman Jeb Grayson, lovely, open-hearted Matt and his kind, sympathetic sister Jeannie, plus all the ranch hands who reside and work there. The concept of such a warm, loving home is difficult for Gil to comprehend as it's not something he's ever been privy to but it's not long before it starts to work its magic on him, all helped along by the fact that Matt refuses to give up on the sad, beautiful little man who he ends up becoming more than a little attached to...because Matt is gay too. It's not something he shouts to the world but he doesn't see it as the burden Gil does and it's this that ends up coming between them when they finally give in to the attraction that's never far from the surface when they're together. It's Gil's conditioning and obstinacy that won't allow him to give in to what would make him truly happy and that's the basis of the story's conflict, although like I said at the beginning this is more a gentle drama than a full blown angst fest.
"What makes you think a man can't love another man? Because they can. If you think it ain't never happened then you're foolin' yourself........what I feel for you is love, nothin' less. Love that makes me ache inside from wantin' you. Love that makes me want to sing when I see your smile,"
I adored Matt. He was such a sweet natured man, the sort who hasn't got a nasty bone in his body. Not particularly simple, just uncomplicated. An open guy, accepting of his own sexual identity and feelings, the sort of person who sees no purpose in bemoaning the fact that it's men he has feelings for and not women. He doesn't go around announcing it to everyone he meets because it's not a time when it's safe to do that, but he doesn't see it as being wrong or abnormal and he's embraced it where and when he can, even making long standing friends from some of his ex lovers. One of them...Carlos...makes an appearance, and has an impact of sorts on their journey to love when Matt brings him back to work on the ranch, and the two of them hope a touch of jealousy will ignite Gil's passion and break down his objections, but whereas Matt accepts his lot in life, Gil has been made to feel the way he does by the constant berating of his controlling father and the outcome of the unhappy incident that originally sent him to Texas, so it's much harder for him to relinquish the notions deeply embedded in his psyche.
"You keep sayin' 'normal' over and over. Look at me in the face and tell me I'm not normal, Gil. Look at me and tell me I'm wrong for lovin' you, that I'd be better off with a woman."
Gil lifted his head slowly, his green eyes wide and shimmering. "You wouldn't be," he said softly. "But you shouldn't love me."
You cant help loving both characters but for completely different reasons. Matt for his protective loving nature and Gil because you just want to hug him silly for the sad life he's endured up to this point. Throwing himself into life on the ranch, Gil works hard and it's a joy to see him blossoming both physically and emotionally as a character; warming towards the land that originally he wanted no part of, but as time passes, he grows to love. However he does make some exasperating decisions around his and Matts burgeoning romance which I didn't always like or agree with, but I did understand.
Ari McKay flesh out the storyline by adding some flashes of jealousy, surprising family secrets and a nice little twist at the end that sheds some light on a couple of the other supporting characters, one which I have to say I did have a bit of an inkling about but I still found myself smiling. And once again they do it all in such an easy manner that it's one of those books that just flows; taking you with it until you suddenly see that the end is nigh... and you really don't want it to end. The love scenes come at just at the right time and even though they're not splashed on every page, when they do arrive they're sweet, sexy and romantic. I really like Ari McKay as a writing team, but this for me is my favourite of the sub genre's they write in and I'm hoping they treat us to more historical westerns filled with lovelorn cowboys. A sweet, engaging read and one I'd be very happy to pick up again in the future.
Buy It Here
Gil moved to the edge of the bluff and surveyed the landscape. He could see the ranch house in the distance and cattle dotting the fields, looking no bigger than little toy figures from up here. Everything seemed faraway, including his problems, and he thought he understood why Matt liked this spot.
It didn’t take long for Matt to gather sticks and get a fire going in a pit that had obviously seen plenty of use. He took a covered iron pot out of his saddlebag—the lid tied on tightly with twine—opened it, and suspended it over the fire on an iron tripod. Jeanie had sent everything they needed, including bowls, spoons, and a crusty loaf of bread. When the stew had warmed up, Matt filled their bowls and tore the bread, giving Gil half the loaf before settling himself on a pine log.
“I always think food tastes better up here,” Matt said, looking out over the ranch with the air of a man at peace with himself and the world.
There wasn’t another log, and Gil didn’t want to sit on the cold ground, so he perched on the other end of the log, balancing his bowl on his knees as he ate. The sun was going down, and the air was getting cooler, but the fire kept away the chill, its crackling and popping the only sound breaking the silence of the vast prairie stretching out below.
Gil found himself transfixed by the fiery display of the setting sun. He could see it all the way down to the horizon, something he’d never experienced back East. He’d never noticed how vivid the colors were before, setting the sky ablaze until they were muted by the encroaching twilight. Away from tall buildings and streetlamps, he thought the stars seemed brighter and more plentiful as they began to appear.
“It’s beautiful,” he murmured, scarcely aware he’d spoken aloud.
“Yeah.” Matt was looking up at the stars as well, the Milky Way slowly appearing in a dazzling band of light across the heavens. “Up here is a place where you feel small compared to the vastness of the world, but the thing is, it makes your problems seem small too. There was a time when I was sick at heart, feelin’ like the world wouldn’t never be right again—that I could never be right with it. I came up here, and it made me think that I’m one person, just like every one of those stars is a single point of light among millions. Every one of them is different, but special too, just like every person is. Everyone has troubles and cares, hopes and dreams. Maybe in the big old world, one person don’t matter much, but where you can matter is to the folk around you. Every one of those stars that seem so far and tiny to us could be a sun like ours, just like we’re all suns to someone else.”
Even though Gil couldn’t see the rest of the ranchland anymore, he knew it was there, stretching out for miles and miles all around just like the sky stretched out overhead. He was surrounded by vastness, giving him a new perspective on his own little life. But right here and now, he was sitting comfortably by a fire with a bowl of hot stew in his hand, and somehow the rest of the world didn’t seem to matter as much.
“When I first arrived, I thought this was nothing but an ugly, barren wasteland,” he said, leaning back a bit to get a better look at the rising moon. “Now I’m not sure I’ll ever see anything prettier.”
Matt turned his head, and from the corner of his eye, Gil could see his smile, which seemed oddly warm and full of affection. He was silent for a moment, and when he spoke, his voice was almost too soft to be heard. “Neither am I.”
About Ari McKay
Ari McKay is the professional pseudonym for Arionrhod and McKay, who collaborate on original m/m fiction. They began writing together in 2004 and finished their first original full length novel in 2011. Recently, they’ve begun collaborating on designing and creating costumes to wear and compete in at Sci Fi conventions, and they share a love of yarn and cake.
Arionrhod is an avid costumer, knitter, and all-around craft fiend, as well as a professional systems engineer. Mother of two human children and two dachshunds who think they are human, she is a voracious reader with wildly eclectic tastes, devouring romance novels, military science fiction, horror stories and Shakespeare with equal glee. She is currently preparing for the zombie apocalypse.
McKay is an English teacher who has been writing for one reason or another most of her life. She also enjoys knitting, reading, cooking, and playing video games. She has been known to knit in public. Given she has the survival skills of a gnat, she’s relying on Arionrhod to help her survive the zombie apocalypse.
Ari McKay will be gifting one lucky reader an e-copy of Finding Forgiveness. All you need to do is enter the Rafflecopter below for your chance to win.