Rating: 4.25 stars out of 5
A real man needs a real love…
Ryder Dent is a true-blue cowboy. A devoted son, husband and father, but one who is living a costly lie. When they were both young, Ryder and his closest female friend Andy thought they’d found the perfect solution to both their problems—she was single and pregnant, and he was secretly gay—so they got married and raised Jonas together.
When Ryder gets hurt at a party, his son’s new pediatrician comes to the rescue. The connection between Ryder and Dr. Declan Winters is sudden, powerful, and undeniable. Ryder loves Andy and the family they’ve created together—but they both need more. Can they pursue their hearts’ desire without destroying the life they’ve built and losing the son they love?
I have come to love Z. A.. Maxfield’s Cowboy series, each story provides such an interesting group of characters and couples all loosely intwined. And most are having to deal with issues of acceptance…of their themselves, sexuality, and their ability to love. My Cowboy Promises, the 4th in the Cowboy series, connection’s to the previous story is that the ranch that Tripp Triplehorn and Lucho Reyes went to work on is owned by a powerful, controlling rancher Sterling Chandler, father to Andrea, wife of Ryder Dent and mother to their son. But as usual in a ZAM story, what you see on the surface is illusion, the reality and truth lies somewhere underneath for them all.
What an awful, stressful situation the readers get dumped into. Ryder Dent saw his life’s (and father’s expectations) explode when, as a teenager getting ready to go to college, instead marries his best friend in high school, a girl pregnant with a rodeo star’s baby. That the rodeo star wants nothing to do with either Andrea or the baby goes without question as she’s underage. Instead Andrea turns to her best friend to save her and they marry to the dismay/disgust/condemnation of their parents and community. But these kids are hiding an even bigger secret…Ryder is gay and Andrea knew the truth before they got married.
Now its five years later, and while both love Jonas, their son, neither Ryder or Andrea is particularly happy. Maxfield is able to let us intimately into Ryder and Andrea’s lives, see the stress and exhaustion both young people are going through as well as the continuing condemnation of parents and community they continue to live with. All that while still trying to lead lives of courage and stability for their growing son. It’s just feels all so real. Ryder at 23 is just realizing the extent of his sacrifice. He’s lonely, he’s working at his father’s store shouldering all the responsibilities and duties but none of the recognition and gratitude one would hope for from his disapproving parent. He shares a bed (platonically) with Andrea in the small house bought for them by her wealthy father who never lets them forget that fact or how much he despises his daughter’s choices. Andrea too is beginning to hate their lifestyle. She’s always been a bit wild and talented and wants to sing as a career, something her father would never allow. The only bright spot in their lives? Jonas a boy everyone loves deeply. But as Ryder is not his real father, that too becomes an intense source of pain and stress, especially now that the difference in their eye colors is being remarked on in town.
I think reading this story, delving into the lives of Ryder and Andrea, most of us will recognize the gritty authenticity of lives lived with the “quiet desperation” that Z. A. Maxfield presents us with here. Dead-end jobs, disapproving parents, pressure to conform to small town values and expectations, along with any potential way out of their situation feeling almost impossible. That theme has been a reliable source for books, songs and movies for ages and it always works because that scenario resonates with those listening, reading or watching it unfold. And mostly because there is a part of us, all of us, somewhere inside those characters at one point in our lives. How I understood these people and cared about them from page 1.
The status quo of their lives, already shaky, shatters completely when the town doctor retires and a new GP moves into his practice and house. That would be Dr. Declan Winters, who has his own demons to exercise and naivete when it comes to small town pressure and disapproval. Declan was a little more of a stretch for me. I found it a little unrealistic, at first, that given he had met with the older town doctor, been filled in on the town’s prejudices and still thought the doctor was overstating the situation. But maybe that’s because I am so familiar with small town life, something that “big city” folk might find charming on the exterior until reality intrudes. Perhaps Declan is not such a stretch after all.
Through dialog and scenes Maxfield brings this increasingly rocky situation to life. We have a gay new doctor in town, one who is quick to recognize the attraction that Ryder feels towards him, an attraction that confounds him when he has to treat Ryder and find out the cause of the wound is an accident by Ryder’s son. We understand it when he believes Ryder is straight, why not? Everyone else does. Then there is poor Ryder,dealing with his “gayness” for real for the first time in his life when he can’t get the good doctor out of his mind or nightly dreams. It’s a situation where hurt feelings, expectation, and miscommunication abound. Then throw in an unhappy wife, a son with questions and it gets downright explosive. What a manner in which to examine your sexuality, come of age and come out as the person you truly are. That’s the fight in front of Ryder for most of the story.
I think some readers will get a little frustrated with Ryder’s inability to “grow some spine” as his and Andrea’s father exclaim. But remember his age, the time and place of his youth. He’s respectful and one accustomed to shouldering responsibilities for everything that comes his way. And he’s young. I found him to be the most real character here. I understood him and his background supports beautifully his actions throughout the story. Great job, ZAM.
There will be places you will need to bring out the tissues and other scemes as hot as the Texas sun. Did I love this story? You betcha! In fact, I love the entire series and highly recommend them all. But My Cowboy Promises? This might be my favorite story yet of the series. Grab it up today and decide for yourself.
Cover art by ?. I* like the cover, in fact I like all the covers for this series, from the design to the color scheme.
Expected publication: June 16th 2015 by InterMix
seriesThe Cowboys #4
The Cowboy Series Include:
- My Cowboy Heart (The Cowboys, #1)
- My Heartache Cowboy (The Cowboys, #2)
- My Cowboy Homecoming (The Cowboys, #3)
- My Cowboy Promises (The Cowboys, #4)