Joshua Ryan has always considered himself to be straight, but desperately in need of money to support his grandmother and recently found half-brother, he agreed to play the role of the "straight cowboy" in a gay porn movie the previous year. He only did it for the money, or at least that's what he thought until city boy, Matt James, becomes a guest of the trail riding expedition outfit Josh works for. Matt came to see a band of wild horses in person to photograph and write about them. As the two spend long days and even longer nights alone on the trail, Josh finds himself having lustful inclinations toward the other man. Matt welcomes Josh's attentions, but can Josh come to terms with his sexual identity before their adventure is over?
Straight Cowboy is a M/M romance novella and the first story in Jan Irving's Uncommon Cowboys series which appears to be an unusual mix of contemporary and paranormal romances. Straight Cowboy is a contemporary about two young men who are on a trail ride in search of a band of wild horses. City boy Matt is hoping to do a little first hand research and photograph the horses for a book he's writing. Josh is a cowboy, working for the trail riding outfit Matt hired to lead him into the wilderness. Josh is also on a personal journey to accepting who he truly is. He's always considered himself straight, but in need of some quick cash, had participated in the production of a gay porn film the previous year. When he starts having lustful feelings toward his guest, Josh is confused, so him finally accepting that he's gay is a gradual process throughout the entire story.
I admired Josh for his commitment to his family. He seemed to be the sole provider for an elderly grandmother and a half-brother who he had only recently found out about, because the boy had been in foster care. I would have loved to have seen some actual interactions with his family, but I got enough hints from the narrative to know that he was an upstanding young man who cared about them very much. Matt is a well-adjusted gay man from an affluent and accepting family, and as such, we don't learn as much about him as an individual. I did like that he had an awestruck appreciation for the wild horses and that he didn't seem to mind being out in the wilderness. Having seen the porn film Josh was in, Matt doesn't understand at first why he's fighting their attraction, but once he figures it out, Matt becomes more patient with Josh. Overall, I thought they were a well matched couple whose love scenes are frequent and ultra-steamy. However, even though they didn't overtly declare their love, they were both thinking that they were falling in love and entertaining the idea of a longer-term commitment once the trail ride was over, which was perhaps a tad too quick to be entirely believable.
Straight Cowboy had a few other minor issues. First, I thought it stretched the bounds of credibility a little to have Matt recognize Josh from the porn movie since he'd only been filmed from behind. I realize that Matt had watched the movie numerous times and had been lusting after the "straight cowboy" for quite a while, but despite that, I honestly don't know how he could have known the two men were one and the same when he had only seen Josh's back. I think this would have been a lot more believable if Josh had some sort of distinctive mark like a birthmark or tattoo or at the very least something unique about his physiology. The editing also could have been a bit better as the author occasionally uses some awkward wording that doesn't always flow well. Lastly, the majority of the story is told in relatively small snippets with the scenes changing pretty frequently, leaving me feeling like there were gaps in the narrative. I would have loved to read a longer story about these two men with more of those breaks filled in and more getting-to-know-you and romantic moments to make their growing love more plausible. However, despite it's weaknesses, I can't deny that it was an appealing story. I liked both heroes, especially Josh, because he embodies a sweet honesty in his struggles. Straight Cowboy was my first read by Jan Irving, but it has definitely left me open to trying more of her work and continuing with this series. Straight Cowboy can be purchased as a stand-alone e-book novella and in print as part of the multi-author anthology, Saddle Up 'N' Ride or the single author anthology, Uncommon Cowboys, Vol. 1.
Note: This book contains scenes of explicit sensuality between two men which may offend some readers.
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