Title: The Heart of Texas
Author: RJ Scott
Narrator: Sean Crisden
Publisher: Love Lane Books
Release: 9th August 2016
Length: 7 hrs / 59 mins
Genre: M/M (contemporary)
Riley Hayes, the playboy of the Hayes family, is a young man who seems to have it all: money, a career he loves, and his pick of beautiful women. His father, CEO of HayesOil, passes control of the corporation to his two sons; but a stipulation is attached to Riley's portion. Concerned about Riley's lack of maturity, his father requires that Riley 'marry and stay married for one year to someone he loves'. Angered by the requirement, Riley seeks a means of father's stipulation. Blackmailing Jack Campbell into marrying him "for love" suits Riley's purpose. There is no mention in his father's documents that the marriage had to be with a woman and Jack Campbell is the son of Riley Senior's arch rival. Win win.
Riley marries Jack and abruptly his entire world is turned inside out. Riley hadn't counted on the fact that Jack Campbell, quiet and unassuming rancher, is a force of nature in his own right.
This is a story of murder, deceit, the struggle for power, lust and love, the sprawling life of a rancher and the whirlwind existence of a playboy. But under and through it all, as Riley learns over the months, this is a tale about family and everything that that word means.
Oh my, talk about “who shot JR?” for all those who are old enough to remember who JR was - lol! This book has it all; Dallas, Falcon Crest, Dynasty, feuding families, moneyed families, dysfunctional families and everyone with more secrets than you can shake a stick at. I actually really did like it in an over the top, soap-opera kind of way.
Riley has just been done out of his share of the family oil business by his tyrannical father, the controlling share going to his oldest brother. The scene is set and Riley has to find a way to get what is his as he sees himself as putting the most work in and achieving the most success for the company. But he isn’t married and his father says that he’ll change his mind if Riley gets married and stays married for one year. Now the scheming and conniving starts……. cue theme tune! Riley uses blackmail to get Jack, the middle son of the Campbell family with whom the Hayes family have been feuding with over years, to marry him. Jack is openly gay and has no secrets and Riley wants revenge on his father. Way to go! Basically the Hayes family had ruined the Campbell family although both fathers were partners at the very beginning. So no love lost there at all.
When Riley offers his terms to Jack and puts him in a corner then he has no other choice but to go along with his scheme. I did have a moment of saying to myself, seriously? Jack is seriously going to go along with this? But the reason for Riley’s blackmail offers Jack no choice but to go along with the marriage on paper. At this point Riley is known as a playboy and shagging every girl in town. He doesn't consider himself gay or even bi. So I must admit for me personally the GFY alarm bells started ringing for me at this point, but I just suspended believability and went with it. One of the terms of the contract is they are to have no sex with third parties during their year of marriage.
HAHA – really? Two young men in their late twenties having no sex for a year? Like that is going to happen! Well, Jack starts to work his charm and eventually Riley falls for it, probably because he just needs some kind of stress relieving sexual release. The main objective being to get your rocks off and who cares with whom. He doesn’t know how to come to terms with these feelings first of all and thinks that he’s bi, not gay, whatever, but it seemed to be glossed over a little too much for me personally. I think more could have been made of Riley’s obvious confusion over his first time. It’s not easy having your first gay sex, you don’t just shrug your shoulders and notch it up to experience. I know that young horny men experiment all the time and all this happening between Riley and Jack is all quite plausible to be honest if you just go with it and don't question it too much. So at this point I decided to stuff my GFY alarm in a soundproof cupboard, locking it away and just belted up for the ride.
In all of this the one thing that Riley doesn’t expect is how his feelings on an emotional level start to change and develop for Jack on a scale he had never anticipated. Yes, Jack’s charm is irresistible. The man is cowboy sex on legs, confident and grounded. But more than that Riley starts to see the love Jack’s family have for each other that isn’t present in his own family. He starts to wish or almost yearn for this kind of family closeness. This is what pushes him to thinking that he really is falling in love with a man that he admires. Jack’s family has all the values that his family doesn’t seeing that all his wealth and money isn’t going to buy him happiness and love in the end. Sounds a little clichéd? Well I guess, but it’s still one of the basic truths of life even today.
However, Riley’s father and older brother have plans afoot to bring even more misery on the Campbell family. Riley starts to see what evil and manipulative people his father and older brother are with all their money, greed and power. With his increasing emotions with Jack he takes a stand and eventually turns the tables and starts a new chapter in his life. There are a number of revelations along the way, well buried secrets start to surface and come to light and it’s almost like a mission of Jack’s and Riley’s to right all the wrongs that have been done. Circumstances are out of control and they have to put things back in order.
I did like all this drama which gave the whole story a soap-opera kind of feel to it, but that’s OK with me too. I have absolutely nothing against a good soap for the entertainment factor as all they are is a melodramatic version of real life anyway. So you have more emotional situations than you can count, combined with some detestable characters à la JR, some who manage to redeem themselves by the end and others who get their just rewards. What I loved about this was to see the transition that Riley went through from spoilt, manipulative, rich kid, to someone who is loving, caring and down to earth. All this achieved by steady, grounded, loving Jack. Riley was never all bad, it was just the circumstances he was surrounded by and living in that made him behave the way he did. But with Jack’s help he finds and recognises the good in himself that was always there to begin with just buried under all the pressure of working for Hayes Oil.
So if you like Ewing family style drama then you'll love this book. I got my soppy, to sigh for happy-ever-after, wonderful! However, not only for Riley and Jack but also for all the many other characters who find their happy-ever-afters. The end of the book is seriously an HEA love fest - lol!
Well, what can I say it’s Sean Crisden! One of my favourite narrators and for me can never usually put a foot wrong. He made Riley and Jack sound suitably sexy and hot with the Texan cowboy drawl just oozing from Jack’s lips. OK, I’m a Brit so for my untrained ears regarding American cowboy accents then it was definitely authentic and hot enough for me. There are a myriad of characters to play out in this book and Sean gave them all their own unique voice. It was just at times the voices of two particular characters; Beth, Jack’s ill sister, and Eden, Riley’s little sister sounded a little too weak or schoolgirl like and pubescent. Both characters are young and I think it’s the hardest thing to narrate young women when you’re a male after having to narrate two testosterone packed MCs. Here the voice characterisations didn’t quite match up to the character being portrayed in my head for me, although young they are both exceptionally strong and determined women and those qualities I found missing for me personally. Nonetheless, I loved the narration a lot and those small points did not detract me one iota to being thoroughly entertained once again by Sean Crisden.
Connect with RJ Scott
I've has been writing since age six, when I was made to stay in at lunchtime for an infraction involving cookies and the mixing bowl. You can't tell a six year old not to lick the bowl!
I was told to write a story and two sides of paper about a trapped princess later, a lover of writing was born.
As an avid reader myself, I can be found reading anything from thrillers to sci-fi to horror. However, my first real true love will always be the world of romance. I love my cowboys, bodyguards, firemen and billionaires (to name a few) and love to write dramatic and romantic stories of love and passion between these men. (Yum)
With over 70 titles to my name and counting, I am the author of the award winning book, The Christmas Throwaway, which was All Romance Ebooks best selling title of 2010.
I'm also known for the Texas series charting the lives of Riley and Jack, and the Sanctuary series following the work of the Sanctuary Foundation and the people it protects.