Author ~ Z.A. Maxfield
Publisher ~ InterMix
Published ~ 2nd December 2014
Genre ~ M/M Contemporary Romance
Love can heal the deepest wounds…
A sense of duty brings a soldier home…but a passionate cowboy makes him want to stay.
After his brother’s tragic death, Tripp has to leave the army and return to New Mexico to take care of his mother while his father is in prison for arson. Seeking work at the J-Bar Ranch, Tripp is immediately drawn to injured cowboy Lucho Reyes, whose foot was accidentally crushed by a rescue horse. But will the sins of the father interfere with the desires of the son? Tripp’s father may be responsible for the death of Lucho’s grandfather. Now Tripp must balance caring for his mother, repairing his father’s damages, and trying to win the heart of a man who has every reason to hate him and his family…
Z. A. Maxfield does it again. This remarkably talented author just can't write a bad book. I have read so many of them, based on an impressive variety of topics, characters and themes, but all with vivid, empathetic, fully-fleshed-out characters, a great sense of setting, some serious drama and, above it all, an authentic understanding of the love between men.
This is the latest in her remarkable "Intermix" cowboy series. Yes, I know, yet another gay cowboy romance. Hardly the stuff of legend. But in Ms. Maxfield's hands, the stories and characters transcend the genre. After all, how many cowboy books have you read where the primary livestock are not just young calves (nothing earthshaking there), but also alpaca and sheep? How many have huge compost bins to recycle animal waste into fertilizer and energy? How many have such stirring and wonderful stories?
The main characters are Lucho (Luis), a young Latino ranch hand who's a wonder with horses, though you'd hardly know it when his first appearance in the book is on the way to the emergency room for the foot that was broken by an ill-tempered rescue horse; and Tripp, a soldier returning from Afghanistan to "fix" his family. And what a family! If you've read the earlier books in the Intermix series, you already know that Tripp's father is in prison. At some point he turned into a right-wing hate machine, attacking immigrants and anyone else he doesn't like, committing arson, repeatedly, as a hate crime. Tripp's brother, Heath, recently died in a car accident, which is not such a great a loss, as he turned out to be the area's top drug dealer, specializing in peddling his deadly wares to schoolkids.
Other secondary characters abound. Tripp's mother is a mentally unstable woman, convinced her son's sexual orientation is just a temporary "confusion" caused by being corrupted by the other boys he hung around with, and in complete denial of the hell her husband brought down upon this world until the law caught up with him.
There's also Lucho's family, a traditional Latino Catholic clan who barely accept his orientation and absolutely refuses to accept the son of the man who burned their grandfather's restaurant to the ground, shortly after which he died.
There's lots of "sins of the father" going on here, but even that can't stop the love and passion that grow between these two beautiful men. In the midst of all the crazy, including the drug ring Tripp's father is running from his prison cell, these two men find a home in each other. That's something that Tripp understands, all two well, as the men in his platoon were his true family for a decade in a Middle East combat zone.
One of the nicest touches in the book is Tripp's remarkable relationship with the animals on the ranch. He's got a real gift. Lucho thinks he's a "cow and horse whisperer" when he manages to tame Pio, the angry rescue horse who injured Lucho, makes a lifelong friend of a calf he helped to deliver, and picks up calves in his arms to be tagged, while all the others have to rope theirs, drag them, kicking and screaming, and then run from the angry mothers out to protect their offspring.
It's a Z. A. Maxfield book so, of course, there's a happy ending. And a lesson to be learned - that there's more than one way to run away, to escape facing up to the greatest obstacles in life, to avoid doing the right thing because it might be painful and uncertain.
But what makes this book, like all Z. A. Maxfield books, so wonderful is the writing itself, the remarkable flow of words, images and characters that just lift you up and take you along on the difficult but rewarding journeys her characters undertake. Her depictions of love are not always easy, never trite, always believable, moving, and sometimes, beautiful.
My only complaint (and it's just a niggle, I admit) is that, considering that this was published by a major publishing house (Penguin), Ms. Maxfield deserves a better editor. There were only a few issues (missing words, tenses, etc.) and they weren't distracting, but prose this good deserves immaculate editing.
"My Cowboy Homecoming" is another five-star winner from Z. A. Maxfield. Don't miss it.