Rating: 5 stars for the series
We’ve looked at JL Langley’s wolf shifters and her Sci-Regency series, so let’s finish up back where I first started my love with all things JL Langley. And that would be with her cowboys which is fitting with an author who resides in Texas and has a state of imagination to equal it. Tomorrow I will be talking about why I love The Tin Star, the very first Langley book I read. I have always had a soft spot in my heart for cowboys. I think it come along with my love for horses and never left. I spent a summer as a junior wrangler at a dude ranch called Stupid Charlie’s in Colorado at the impressionable and yes, hormonal age of 15. And if I had had a dick, I would have had a raging woody all summer long from being in the middle of a crew of young,handsome (aren’t they all at that age wearing chaps and boots) cowboys more experienced than I was at that age. I fell in love with a bay horse named Senagita and a cowboy (all of 16) named Lane and wanted to take both of them home with me at the end of the summer. Needless to say, my folks said no to both. Aw shucks was I heartbroken, although I can’t begin to tell you whether it was over the loss of the horse or the boy. All I know is that I was inconsolable for the longest period of time until I found a local stable to hang out at, Susan a fellow hunter, and a horse we both loved called Tiptop. But I never stopped dreaming of cowboys and would go to the rodeo whenever it came to town (oh yes they did, even in DC).
JL Langley’s Ranch series gives me plenty of cowboys to love and hang out with, from Jamie and Ethan of The Tin Star to Grayson Hunter and Shane Cortez of The Broken H while bringing back so many fond memories of life on a ranch. As she does with all her series, she populated her Ranch books with characters flawed, human and still memorable, ones we give our hearts and affections to easily and completely. In addition to the cowboys, we also get wonderful idiosyncratic animals too. There is a horse named Spot who plays keep away and a female dog called Fred who steals each and every scene they are in. Gather them all together in a small town in Texas surrounded by family and friends who comes across as equally authentic and realistic as the main characters and you have a series that will mean as much to you as your first cowboy hat and boots.
The Tin Star (Ranch Series #1) stars Jamie Killian as the youngest son of Jacob Killian of the Quadruple J and Ethan Whitehall, owner of The Tin Star ranch. The Quad J borders The Tin Star and the two families have been intertwined their entire lives. John, Jamie’s older brother has been Ethan’s best friend so as long as they can remember, even going off to college together. And hopes had run high between the two fathers that one of the Whitehall boys would marry Julia, the Killian sister and bring the ranches together. But Ethan’s brother was killed overseas on a tour of duty and Ethan, well, Ethan found out he was gay, something the older Killians were fine with but that Jamie never knew. Until Jamie comes out to his father and is kicked off the ranch he thought he would never leave. When Ethan offers Jamie sanctuary and tells Jamie that he is gay as well, then the sparks really begin to fly as Jamie has harbored a crush on Ethan from the moment he knew he liked boys instead of girls.
Ethan has always been circumspect about his sexuality, neither hiding it or rubbing it in the face of their conservative town folk. But when Jamie comes to the ranch to live, Ethan finds not only a friend but a lover for life in the form of his best friend’s brother. But the sparks of hate are flying in town too. Former ranch hands are looking to get even with Ethan for being fired and homophobia presents itself as stores won’t sell grain to the newly outed Ethan. Langley makes us feel the hatred rising off Jacob Killian and other townspeople so far gone in their homophobia that all reason and humanity becomes lost. But where there is the worst of human beings on display, JL Langley is quick to show that others can come forward with their tolerance, and objectivity to welcome Ethan into the town’s fold, and Jamie too no matter their sexuality. Powerful stuff made real by Ethan and Jamie’s situation as they work towards a loving relationship and a future together. Great story, great characters, great book.
The Broken H involves several of the people we meet in The Tin Star. Grayson Hunter was one of the sheriff’s investigation the crimes of hate on The Tin Star. The Broken H is Gray’s family ranch, owned by his parents and run by Shane Cortez. Shane Cortez had been brought onto The Broken H by Gray’s father when Shane was a young boy. Gray never knew the entire story but accepted Shane’s presence and was soon following him around everywhere, a clear case of puppy love. But then one summer changed everything between the two men and Gray left the ranch and went to college. His parents knew something had happened but never pushed either boy for answers. Now Gray has returned to town and accepted a job in the Sheriff’s office. It also means a return to his family, The Broken H, and to face the man he ran away from all those years ago, Lovers reuniting after time spent apart draws me like a moth to a flame and JL Langley’s treatment of this theme will push all your buttons if you love it too. There is misunderstandings, and one person trying to protect the other, and above all a deep abiding love between the two men involved. That’s just so wonderful.
And lurking just behind all of this is the theme of the awful price GLBTQ youth pay for coming out to those who mean the most and won’t accept them, their families. Over and over gay youth are kicked out of homes and families due to hatred concerning their sexuality. Some survive when others intervene, some do whatever they can to exist on the streets, and some just don’t make it. The plight of gay youth discarded because of who they love is brought home more forcibly when characters we have come to love have the same backstory as they do and we feel what they have gone through by the power of an author’s writing. We see Ethan, Jamie, John, Aunt Margaret and many of the other townspeople we came to care for in the previous book and we get a glimpse of a possible couple that people want to see united. That would be John and Royal. JL Langley has put the cut pages from the book on her website and they will make you want more, so much more of John and Royal. She tends to do that with her peripheral characters because they are bursting with life as much as the main couples to our continued appreciation and joy.
The Christmas Tree Bargain is the third story in the series. It was published as a stocking stuffer by Loose id. A heartwarming short story, it brings together all the cast of characters from the two novels at Christmas time. We get to catch up in their lives on a very special occasion. This story is not to be missed if you love the other two as much as I do.
So there you have it, the Ranch series by JL Langley. Her fans have been screaming for more, especially John and Royal’s story but so far to no avail. She says she’s busy with Sterling and Rhys, Trouble and Rexley, and Bannon and Lord Demon among others. Since I want all those stories too I wouldn’t think of interrupting her. If they start speaking to her, I know she will listen, eventually. I’m good with that. I have these books and all the rest to reread until a new one comes out. Pick out a series and start from the beginning and I know you will feel the same.