This post includes reviews of the books in The Cowboy and the Dom series:
- First Rodeo (#1)
- Razor’s Edge (#2)
- No Ghosts (#3)
- The Soldier and the Angel (#3.5)
First Rodeo (Book 1)
I’ve become a lot more intentional about which books I write full-length reviews for rather than just a few sentences on Goodreads. This series started as the latter when I first read it a few weeks ago. However, these characters have been living rent-free in my brain ever since, so I decided they were worth revisiting. And if I was going to spend time with old friends (rather than my enormous to-be-read pile), the books were also worth the time of a full review.
My original thoughts after the first read:
The slow burn romance here between a dead man’s brother and former lover is an intriguing ride — throw in a healthy dash of BDSM, especially when one character knows very little about it, and I was hooked. There is a touch of mystery here because no one knows who murdered James; however, the focus is solidly on the connection that grows between Sam and Thomas. Another aspect of this story I thoroughly enjoyed is Sam’s “fish out of water” existence in New York City, as he finds his place as both a retired rodeo cowboy and Thomas’s submissive. I immediately dove into the next book in this series as soon as I finished this one, which is always the highest compliment I can pay.July 2021
Obviously, anything I expand upon here comes with the knowledge of the full storyline. That being said, this book loses none of its appeal on the second pass. Experiencing the way Sam and Thomas come together becomes a richer experience overall, as does examining certain interactions with the gift of knowing the truth about the characters. (Also, finding the first time Sam calls Thomas “mister” is a sweet treat.)
Overall, Payne and Tortuga walk a fine line with this romance that is nontraditional on multiple levels. Thomas is not trying to replace his dead lover. Sam travels to New York City with one goal and replaces it with a new outlook on life. Finally, the power exchange element is delivered with intention between the characters rather than to spice up already heated encounters, proving that the authors understand the inherent value of making the lifestyle a true part of the characters rather than merely a facet of their existence.
It took a lot of work to break to write this review once finishing the book for a second time, instead of hurling headlong into the next. But if you’ll excuse me, I have a date with a pocket cowboy and a delicious Dom to take up the rest of my afternoon.
Razor’s Edge (Book 2)
The brief review I wrote after my first reading:
This book picks up the continuing romance between Sam and Thomas. The romance itself, especially their emotional connection, is solid. Unfortunately, the way they connect through BDSM is a frequent conflict as they both (as Sam puts it) struggle to create a shared language for their dynamic. It doesn’t help that the mystery of who killed Sam’s brother continues to haunt them, as the target appears to shift to Sam, but they are nowhere close to solving the problem.July 2021
One of the things that I most appreciate about this series is the element of realism that infuses each storyline. In terms of the external conflict, New York City is a busy place. The odds of catching a killer diminish greatly after the original time frame, and a weird stalker/vandal will not be high on the police’s priority list either. Sam and Thomas are also not amateur detectives who are equipped to solve this mystery on their own. Thus, they are forced to live in half-fear of the person who may or may not have killed Sam’s brother/Thomas’s former lover.
In the meantime, all they can do is live their lives, which includes strengthening the bonds they have started to build between each other. I touched briefly on this in my original review, but the themes that struck me most about this book (and the series as a whole) are the ideas of “shared language” and “work that matters.” In this case, these deal specifically with Thomas and Sam building toward a unique BDSM dynamic that fulfills both of their needs and wants. However, the ideas can be extrapolated for any healthy relationship, which will always require work and communication. The romance and want that exist for this couple are not the problem – it is fulfilling the needs that Thomas has as a Dom and Sam has as a person with, likely, undiagnosed high-functioning anxiety (not confirmed in the books, but it takes one to know one).
The dark moment packs an emotional wallop that multiple storylines have led to this point. Payne and Tortuga could have left us with much more of a cliffhanger than they did. Still, they certainly reminded us that Sam and Thomas’s relationship and overall safety are in a much more precarious position than we’d like them to be.
No Ghosts (Book 3)
The first time I read this book, I only gave it 4.5 stars. Here’s my review:
Sam and Thomas grow closer together during a road trip, then have to figure out how to maintain that connection once they’re back home in New York City. The issues that have continually tripped them up are mostly resolved, thanks to some external support for both men, and by the end of this story, I know that their happily ever after is solid. The conclusion to the ‘murder mystery’ element of this book wasn’t a surprise, though the actions that occur did not lack tension.July 2021
There’s something to be said about revisiting books that touch you because a second trip allows you to savor the story rather than rushing through to the conclusion. Everything I wrote previously is true, but I was especially able to absorb the constantly evolving relationship between Sam and Thomas. Not with new eyes, but with eyes better equipped to see the entire picture. A particular thread through this story is how James, the victim of the murder mystery, kept the different parts of his life contained in separate boxes, so much that I continue to have certain questions about him. Sam might be James’ little brother, but he leads a vastly different life that continues to upend the connection he experiences with Thomas (bringing Thomas home to Texas with him is part of that). Once again, love isn’t the problem. The conflict of book 2 is amplified here because both men experience new trauma without the complication of a traumatic brain injury and hospital stay. They have to rely on their friends to see them through because they are part of a community, and their lives cannot exist in a vacuum.
I found myself much more satisfied with the “conclusion” to this love story on this second read. Sam and Thomas are definitely riding into the sunset together, but not because their story is over. They may have achieved that balance between their wants and needs, but I have faith that they will continue the good work of keeping their relationship solid.
I’m going to have a quick visit with the companion story to this amazing trilogy, then go back to keeping my fingers crossed that these characters show up in future works by these authors.
The Soldier and the Angel (Book 3.5)
I won’t lie; I think my original review for this book is pretty straightforward:
You probably don’t need to read the full “Cowboy and the Dom” trilogy before this book, but I’m glad that I did in order to have the full context for all of the characters. Bowie and Angel are a perfect match, which is a bit of a surprise to both men. But it’s not until these fiercely independent men are separated that they begin to understand the depth of their connection. There is plenty of sexiness in this book, but the deep emotional connection between these two men is what really makes this story shine.July 2021
For all that I’ve been thinking about Sam and Thomas for weeks, I might enjoy the love story between Bowie and Gabe/Angel even more. Their book is one-hundred-percent romance, with no external plot to take the attention away from how these men burrow under each other’s skin. The attraction between them in the main trilogy was obvious during their brief encounter, and the confirmation that they hooked up privately made me grin like a loon. So, the way they come together a second time isn’t a rushed relationship so much as the inevitable conclusion of a slow burn that occurred mostly off-page.
The way they fit together is beyond easy. Even the power exchange dynamic that grows between them is a sweet sort of low burn. We didn’t need another book about a Dom learning how to adjust his worldview, and Gabe was never as high-protocol as Thomas anyway. Gabe never expected Bowie, but he ends up with no choice but to love the other man. Instead, the conflict is on the other side—Bowie has spent so much time relying only on himself that he never quite figured out how to express anything different even when it was fairly obvious.
So, we end up with two stubborn men who fail fairly spectacularly at communication once their connection becomes more tenuous. Luckily, our favorite pocket cowboy comes to the rescue in his own fashion, and the resulting happily ever after is as stunning as a storm over the ocean.