Title ~ Pulling Leather (Pickup Men #3)
Author ~ L.C. Chase
Publisher ~ Riptide Publishing
Published ~ 1st September 2014
Genre ~ M/M Contemporary, Cowboys
The toughest ride of his life is all in his head.
Bull rider Scott Gillard has a reputation for quick fists and harsh words. What no one knows is where that anger comes from. After a shocking incident sends him into a tailspin, he knows he needs help: he’s been fighting a battle he could never win. Now he's trying to navigate a new life and embrace his true self, but some days are easier than others.
Pickup man Cory Ackerson has suffered his share of harassment, but his light still burns bright. He doesn’t let anything or anyone keep him down, so when he meets the rugged cowboy with a battered chip on his shoulder and regret in his dark eyes, all he wants to do is help.
As their unlikely friendship grows into something deeper, Scott must overcome his past to be the man Cory deserves, or lose his best chance at his own happily ever after.
I loved this story. It was a perfect balance of plot, romance and angst all held together by some really endearing characters who are true card carrying cowboys! Who doesn't love a hot, sexy man in chaps and spurs! Not only that, these rough, tough cowboys travel the rodeo circuit, so that's another plus, but the best thing of all if you're into your man on man action, it's even more awesome because this series is all about hot, sexy cowboys getting their guys...not their gals! Competing in an event, that has more than it's fair share of homophobic assholes, whose redneck attitudes in the first book lead to a serious injury for one of the main characters, Tripp Colby. Serious enough to end his bull riding career ...and it's one of the men who was sort of complicit in Tripps attack, getting his story told in book three of this engaging series. A deeply closeted man who was one of those homophobic assholes to start with but who as this story begins, has been absent from the scene for two years, trying to come to terms with not only his own sexuality but with the terrible guilt he's been carrying around with him for his part in the trauma that happened to Tripp.
Having read book one and three, I can see there's a pattern emerging; a group of men, connected by their love of a rough and tumble sport, fighting prejudice, coming to terms with themselves and finally finding acceptance, happiness and love at the end of it, and up to now it's not been an easy ride for any of them. But especially not for Scott who in this instalment of the series probably has the hardest journey of them all to make, because his reputation precedes him to the point where he's not welcomed by either the gay or the regular rodeo circuit. Pretty much hated by certain groups in both communities, who are at odds with him for reasons that all boil down to his past history with Tripp, a man he once called friend before he outed himself and brought to the fore everything that Scott thought he was managing to repress successfully, by acting the gay hating 'straight' guy. Triggering Scott's explosive, angry reaction and it's consequences that also resulted in his two former rodeo buddies arrest and imprisonment. So you can see why he's "persona non grata" in both camps.
With the help of his wonderful, female best friend and clinical social worker, Brandi, he's been working through some of the guilt and deep seated issues surrounding his own identity crisis, which started at a young age, when his father deserted him and his mother for another man. A traumatic incident that led to his mother drinking and filling his mind with hate towards the father he hasn't had contact with since. And that's how the story opens, with Brandi accompanying him to Tripp and Marty's home so he can apologise in person for everything that had previously gone down. An apology which leads to Tripp offering him a job helping out on the gay rodeo circuit...one that puts him in the path of unashamedly gay, sweet natured, non judgemental, femme Cory, who rides pickup at the rodeo.
Cory was smaller than most cowboys, or was too femme with his silk shirts, rhinestones, and makeup for the more butch guys, didn't mean he couldn't handle pickup. He'd proved time and time again he could, eyeliner and all, and could do it better than most.
From the moment he sets eyes on the gorgeous, quiet, rugged cowboy with the obvious chip on his shoulder, out and proud Cory pretty much loses his heart to him. A feeling that hits Scott too when he sets eyes on the beautiful young man who refuses to think badly of the 'pariah' who everyone keeps warning him against, until he's heard the full story. Only, however much progress he's made, Scott's still struggling to admit the fact that he's gay to himself, never mind say it publicly to anyone other than Brandi, the only person who knows, loves and accepts him regardless. But somehow this loveable, vibrant, 'comfortable in his own skin' person begins to break him down and resisting the pull becomes harder, until he finally yields to the force of nature that is Cory and gives in. But finally getting to that point isn't without it's many ups and downs and it's a very emotional road they take to arrive there.
...He cried for all the years he'd hated himself and hated others like him. Cried for the people he'd hurt—emotionally and physically—because he wasn't strong enough to be who he was. He cried for all the years he'd wasted, all the opportunities he'd missed, for the father he never knew, and for a future that came with so much negative baggage. But most of all he cried because Cory was an angel he never deserved and whose gentle acceptance and steadfast friendship had humbled him in ways he never could have imagined.
Definitely my favourite of the two I've read up to now because I loved that LC Chase could take a character like Scott...who you know you really should dislike intensely because of his past behaviour, yet the author manages to turn him into a totally sympathetic character. He had me from the first sentence in chapter one, when he'd just arrived at Tripps to offer his apology and Brandi, leant over and squeezed his thigh whilst saying the words "You can do this,hon". This was a completely different man to the hateful one, and it didn't take me long to fall for the guy, warts and all. Truth is I lost my heart to both these engaging cowboy whilst reading this lovely romance... that did bring tears to my eyes as Scott discovers love and redemption with Cory at his side, and because of that, also rediscovers a sense of family with the man who he believed had made him the insensitive, callous guy he'd previously been portrayed as...but things aren't always as they appear.
"You just need to listen to the quiet voice in your head. It's smarter than the loud one. Trust that voice, and you'll find your way."
The ending was a delight. It was extremely romantic and may well have come over as a touch sappy but I just felt it couldn't have finished it off more perfectly. It reminded me of the sort of ending that you get in the movies. Feel good? Warm and fuzzies? Sigh worthy? I'd have to go with all three...because that's how I felt at the finish line, alongside a touch of disappointment, but that was only because sadly, it was all over. I think you could read all of them as standalone's if you wanted but I'd advise picking this up as a series because these are all cowboys I can guarantee you'll want to get to know. I'm definitely seeking out book two straight away so I can complete the set and hoping there's a number four on the horizon.
Damn...I've resisted the urge all the way through to do this, but it's no use...I can't resist...I have to say it...YEEHAW! ;)
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About L.C. Chase
Cover artist by day, author by night, L.C. Chase is a hopeless romantic and adventure seeker. After a decade of traveling three continents, she now calls the Canadian West Coast home. When not writing sensual tales of beautiful men falling love, she can be found designing book covers with said beautiful men, drawing, horseback riding, or hiking the trails with her goofy four-legged roommate.
L.C. is a 2014 Lambda Literary Award Finalist for Pickup Men; a 2013 EPIC eBook Awards Finalist for Long Tall Drink; and a 2013-2014 Ariana eBook Cover Art Awards Finalist. She also won an honorable mention in the 2012 Rainbow Awards for Riding with Heaven.
You can find out more about L.C., story extras, works in progress, and cover designs below…