Saturday, May 25, 2024

A.M. Arthur - Lucky Break

Shawn Matthews never imagined he’d be living out of his car, trying to make ends meet, but life doesn’t always go your way—he knows that better than most. When an accident leaves the Clean Slate Ranch shorthanded, Shawn is enlisted to help cook and finds himself bunked next to the sexiest cowboy he’s ever laid eyes on.
The first time Robin Butler spots the new chef, he thinks he’s seeing an actual ghost. Shawn is the spitting image of his late husband, and it spooks the hell out of him. The former rodeo-star-turned-ranch-hand does his best to avoid the soft-spoken cook—except it’s kind of tough when the man makes the best damn grub this side of the Mississippi and has a boy-next-door charm that’s impossible to resist.
Even though the tension between them practically sizzles, Shawn doesn’t do hookups and Robin isn’t ready for a new relationship. Besides, Robin can tell Shawn’s been hurt and deserves a partner who isn’t saddled with a tragic past. But chemistry doesn’t lie. Maybe finding each other—and a second chance at love—is the lucky break they both need.

Comment: I got interested in this book after seeing a positive review. The fact one of the main characters is homeless, trying to make ends meet while helping his grandparents made me eager to see how the author would turn this character's luck around and put him on the road to a HEA.

Shawn Matthews is a young man working as a baker chef in seasonal business and he is treated fairly, but he sends most of his money back home to his grandparents and there isn't enough for rent. He has lived in this situation for two years until kind people around him decide to help. At the same time, while helping out at a ranch to help a cook with a medical issue, he meets Robin, one of the hands and he can't help but feel attracted to him. However, Robin is a widower and Shawn reminds him of his late husband, which means they don't start with the right foot right away. As the days go by and their proximity increases, will they be able to let go of their past disappointments and fears and start something that could be special?

This story is #4 in the Clean Slate Ranch series and I have not read the previous installments. There are many references to the main characters in those stories, even though the structure of this book stands on its own. Since the characters live and/or work close together I didn't find it intrusive and was, in fact, an interesting way to understand some dynamics. Consequently, I don't think it's necessary to have read the others to follow this one.

At first, I was quite excited to read the story. Usually, when done well, plots revolving around characters making ends meet, or down on their luck while trying to have their life on track and so on are intriguing to me. I thought Shawn was a sweet young man, who clearly had some awful secret about his past and why he is living so far away from his grandparents whom he loves, and I hoped he would fall in love with another great guy and things would progress naturally to a better life for him. This does happen eventually, but the road there wasn't as amazing to me, from a certain point on.

While Shawn is homeless, his vulnerability and pride made for a common combination which I think worked out well for his attitude in life. He wasn't needy nor greedy to make demands or to deceive others and I was, obviously, rooting for him. I don't think it's a spoiler to say that his luck does change due to several reasons and his coworkers and employers help him, which meant that, the way I saw it, an important part of the set up was fixed and I thought the plot, then, would be about him falling in love, getting more confident, but these would be slow developing things, which we could see at the same time Shawn went though changes.

Although this does happen, I gradually started to lose most of my interest because when Robin enters the picture, I just could not see the supposed sizzle between them. Robin is a man with his own issues and I wasn't too keen on seeing their romance because it failed to engage me. Plus, Robin is older, has a different life experience and it is true this doesn't have to be a deal breaker, but here didn't impress me. I should say that the guys do speak a lot about what they want or not, about what works for them or not and this is certainly refreshing but their chemistry just wasn't there, for me.

As things move long, and the guys start dating, they try different situations to do together, from top of my head I can immediately remember they try clubbing, because Robin likes it and used to do it often and even had a f* buddy, then they find another character who was protagonist in a previous book, clubbing along with them but not with his partner, which fine, couples don't need to do things together all the time, but... it was a setting that put me off. At this point I thought the story would be more focused on the characters' work at the ranch and more specific situations related to it, and then this scene comes along... I didn't like it that much, especially the vibe it hinted at.

Towards the end of the story, most elements one would come to expect happening, do: each protagonist deals with his past fears, they decided to become a couple, they become intimate, they interact with others in key scenes to advance their lives and work, they conclude they could be happy, etc, etc. 

I was happy for them and I liked the overall feel of the book, I can see the tight community of friends, who sometimes call themselves family more often than not, but a few details here and there, some plot choices and situations just didn't vibe with my taste and it's one of those things, it was readable, I liked the elements that interested me in the first place, but reading this does not make me interested in reading the previous one and, considering the writing style, probably not the following ones either.
All in all, good enough, but not as great as I wished for.
Grade: 6/10

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