Rating: 3.5 stars out of 5
Destin Bellingham has inherited a problem. Thanks to his late playboy father, Destin faces putting a For Sale sign on his family’s historic horse farm. Getting his talented stallion, Black Sambuca, into the Grand Prix show ring would put Bellmeade back on the map—if only someone could make “Sam” behave like a show horse.
Disgraced top rider Tonio Benedetto has his own problems, but he can work magic with difficult jumpers, so Destin hires him despite his bad-boy reputation. The street-smart, openly gay loudmouth from Miami and the closeted, buttoned-down son of Old Dominion Virginia make a rocky pairing, but time is running out to save Bellmeade from bankruptcy.
Opposites attract, sparks of tension grow into flames of passion. But if Tonio fails to tame Sam, will true love become a lost cause too?
I really enjoyed this latest romance from the States of Love line at Dreamspinner Press. Raising the Bar (States of Love) by Leigh Dillon hits a number of chords with me, starting with the state (Virginia) and horses, a long time love. I’ve been around shows and show barns here in the East all my life so the world she writes about is vert familiar. I have the horses and being in Maryland? I know the scenery she’s talking about (and the towns) in Virginia like old friends.
The author did a great job with both.
They serve as a backdrop for the romance between Destin Bellingham, breeder and farm owner, and rider Tonio Benedetto. I liked both the characters. Also had my issues with the instant love relationship between them. I don’t always have that if the author can make a great argument for it and has a basis or chemistry between the characters. I’m just not sure that I got that entirely here in this story.
The relationship between Tonio and the Sambuco Black? I believed in that 100 percent! That rocked! Dillon had that relationship down pat. That man and horse got each other and the reader knew it. What a great character Sam was! Boy, have I known a horse or two like him in my time. Not with his talent but his attitude and smarts. Makes you both want to kill them and laugh your ass off.
The one between Destin and Tonio? Needed some work even though they were jumping into bed, and love and total commitment. Didn’t quite believe it in one month’s time.
Had the book and the relationship stretched over a longer length? Absolutely because the ground work (as you do with any horse) had been laid. And the epilogue, which took place in the Spring showed the growth that I wished we could have been present to watch.
The only other thing? If you are going to have a element in a story, like Destin and the Maserati, then close it out. Don’t leave that aspect of the story open. Even a line to finish that thread off is preferable than to leave it hanging.
I think Raising the Bar (States of Love) by Leigh Dillon has so much going for it. A dynamic relationship between man and horse, a passionate one between two men, and a bright future. At 91 pages, that was a lot to enjoy. The States of Love line from Dreamspinners Press is a real hit and this story is another reason why.
Cover Artist: Brooke Albrecht. What a perfect cover for this story. That’s Tonio and Sam to a T going over the jump, and Destin too. Love it.