Rating: 3.75 (rounded up to 4) out of 5
British actor and now successful American TV star Wesley Tremayne remains deeply in the closet. Afraid that coming out would hurt his burgeoning tv show and career just when he is at his most popular, Wes has never met anyone he wanted enough to make that change in his life. But a day at the races with his friends and fellow actors changes everything. He spies an attractive man down on the field only to lose sight of him. Only when he and his friends decide to buy a race horse at a claiming stake for publicity, does Wes find out that the attractive man he saw is a horse trainer , one they persuade to train their new horse after they bought him.
Horse owner/trainer Evan Taylor is having troubles of his own. His relationship with his documentary journalist lover is on rocky ground, and several of his horse owners have pulled their horses from his barn without giving him reasons for their actions. Evan left his own acting career behind in Hollywood and never looked back after he become a horse trainer with his own barn. With his experiences in Hollywood still painfully fresh all these years later, the last thing Evan wants is to deal with a group of actors who bought a horse on a whim. Still, after they meet his demands, they appoint Wes as their go between and everything starts to change for each of them.
Wes and Evan fall first into friendship, then attraction pulls them into something far deeper. But Evan still has a boyfriend to content with, even a absent one and Wes remains in the closet, a barrier to any future relationship with Evan who won’t be anyone’s secret, not even for a man Evan is growing to love. Wes must decide if Evan is the one man for whom he will climb out of the closet for. And Evan? Evan faces several enormous decisions of his own before he can move forward….including telling Wes about a past that continues to haunt him and solving the mystery of the dwindling owners.
Out of the Gate is a story framed by the horse racing world, from the title and gorgeous cover to the many racing locales found within. That specific framework helps to boost this novel out of the already full field of romance stories by giving it a unique foundation for Lynley’s romance and unusual profession for one of her main characters. It feels authentic, grounded as it is in fact and the author’s fondness for this sport and the people who spend their lives inside of it. It was this aspect of Lynley’s story that drew me in to begin with as I was unfamiliar with this author prior to this story.
From Lynley’s bio it is certain that horses in many ways have been a constant in her life…but what was surprising is the racing element and the time the author spent at the track with its riders, trainers, owners and yes, horses. That is a route that few women horse aficionados take. Normally it might be hunters or dressage or anything other than Thoroughbred Racing. I loved this aspect of the story especially as Lynley’s conception and attention to detail in her story made this a standout among the many romances I have read lately. From the horses you meet inside with their gentle nuzzling and desire to run to the assistants and “boys” who ride them, each and every one comes to life within this story. The reader will feel as though they have walked past the stalls, smelled the aroma of fresh hay and horses direct off the track. Just a wonderful job on this author’s part to make the reader feel a part of the racing scene so important to her story.
Lynley provides some wonderful characters to go along with this terrific locale. Wesley Tremayne is a lovely character. Like many other actors, he has stayed in the closet to protect himself and his career. He wants to stop hiding but has never met a man important enough to put his career on the line for him. Tremayne becomes instantly relatable due to the rationale behind his closeted status. With so many actors in the news lately because they are coming out and acknowledging their homosexuality this feels very current and brings us into Wes’ mind frame when we first encounter him in the story. I loved Wes, even when he is indecisive about leaving the closet, we understand his fears. The women friends here are terrific characters as too. From Julia, his friend and”beard” to Vanessa, their wealthy friend and cohort and even Nicky Holloway, Evan’s assistant trainer, none of these woman comes off as a cardboard creations but important secondary supporting characters. I appreciated their personas as much as their roles.
If I have some quibbles it would be with two male characters here, one of them being Evan Taylor. I loved Evan the trainer. And his romance with Wes is endearing and sweet. That worked incredibly well. Where I felt the characterization was uneven was with Evan’s past and the demons he is fighting. I wish Lynley had given us more of a foundation for Evan’s problems. I don’t mean vivid descriptions but something more pressing than a small one time relating of facts and a few scenes of frailty. Something of that power and pain needs to have the same amount of framework behind it that all the other elements Lynley provides in her stories and I just didn’t feel like that happened. The same goes for Evan’s film producer boyfriend, Gary. Gary is particularly hard to pin down. His actions comes across as almost sadistic yet then he acts as a concerned boyfriend/ex partner. His persona is a little too fluid to be reasonable although he does work well as a villain. I wish he had as many layers to him as the other characters. Even one insubstantial character can take away something from the others around him and Gary does.
Lynley provides her story with several mysteries. The one that will have the most impact comes to a dramatic and quick resolution towards the end. The action is wonderful and the result satisfactory. Did I wish for a little more? Yes, but Lynley pulls all her plot threads together and provides a denouement that brings all the problems and drama the characters have been through to an ending the reader will love.
As I said this was my first story by E.M. Lynley but it won’t be the last. I loved her ability to bring me into her characters world and their messy all too human lives. If I had a request, it would be for Lynley to return to the track and horse racing for another story and romance. All this did was wet my appetite for more stories with a similar setting. I think you will feel the same and recommend this story to all lovers of hot men and contemporary romance.
Cover art by Reese Dante. Wonderful, wonderful cover. I love the racing in the background and the tone of the design and coloration.
ebook, 270 pages
Published April 21st 2014 by Dreamspinner Press (first published April 20th 2014)
ISBN 1627986839 (ISBN13: 9781627986830)
San Francisco, CA (United States)