Read my reviews of the previous books in the Wild Heart Ranch series:
Fox has been building the potential for a relationship between Ant and Erik from the very beginning of this series, along with centering elements of the series itself on a throughline of Ant’s character development, making these characters perfect for this epic finale. Being in Ant’s head as a narrative voice is exactly as delightful as I thought it would be. It would have been easy to fashion Ant after his mentors, who are fan-favorites from previous series set in this same world, but it’s immediately obvious that he is unique, not merely a mini Anders or Hopper.
Ant and Erik being roommates (insert jazz hands here) as a standard romance trope is perhaps the least interesting thing about the journey they take to become more. Despite Erik’s mission in life, his natural caretaker tendency has slotted Ant firmly into a role that keeps him off limits, which does nothing but stress them both out. This story starts with a metaphorical bang, with Ant forcing a bit of mental reset for Erik. I have mixed feelings about whether he deserves the brutality that comes along with it, but I was glad for the push he needed to be honest with both Ant and himself.
This book isn’t a story about healing. It’s a story about thriving. With bonus signature Fox “murder swoon,” as Ant and Erik cut the promised bloody swath of vengeance that leads to some excellently morally gray moments and lots of natural crossover potential with other familiar faces. The highs and lows of their nontraditional road trip force excellent character development upon both men, relationship-wise and regarding Ant’s needs as an individual coming into his own. The vulnerability they show each other along the way is as important as the strength they also draw from each other.
Though Ant does get himself into a spot of trouble near the end, there was no real relationship dark moment between him and Erik. However, I would also argue that the inciting incident at the beginning of this book also counts as the dark moment for the relationship that has been naturally building all along. The external plot they are involved in is also heavy enough that I was okay with enjoying the triumphant ending without unnecessary angst. Fox indulges in a bit of narrative heavy-handedness that did take me out of the story, but it was also so perfect for the character(s) and the overall vibes of the world she has created through multiple amazing series that all I could do was grin and add Ant to my list of personal favorites. With apologies to Erik, though he will also not soon be forgotten (and Fox does get points for spelling his name correctly).
Disclaimer: I received a digital review copy of this book from the author.