Rating: 4.25 stars
Closeted rancher Derrick Stahlman has always had a thing for professional bull riders. Once a year he treats himself to a small vacation to watch the PBR Finals in Reno and get himself laid in the process. This year Derrick has a chance to watch a young bull rider he has been following on the circuit, Stone Haverty. Everything about that small firecracker of a man turns Derrick on like nothing in recent memory. And a specific kind of memory to take back to the ranch and keep him warm is just what Derrick is pursuing.
Stone has been doing well this year and his rides have put him in the money and top 20 rankings. Stone also happens to be gay, although quiet about it because of the PBR sponsors. When he spots that handsome rancher cheering him on from the fan seats in the stadium, he recognizes a kindred spirit, and a big sexy one at that. The men come together for a couple of days of white hot sex and major snuggling before parting ways with a quiet “come see me if you are in the area” from Derrick. And then at Christmas time, Stone appears at Derrick’s ranch and Derrick has some big decisions to make and maybe make his dream come true in the process.
First a little bull rider history. If you aren’t familiar with PBR (here that doesn’t stand for Pabst Blue Ribbon but Professional Bull Riders, Inc.) then you are missing out on a wonderful group of athletes often overlooked outside certain sections of this country. A professional bull rider is someone who has to remain on the back of a bucking bull for 8 seconds. Within that 8 seconds, the rider will be judged on control and rhythm in matching the movements of the bull, and at the same time, the bull is equally being judged for their performance. their athletic ability to buck off the rider with high jumps and unexpected twists. It is athlete versus athlete, rider versus bull but here the riders average around 5’6″ and a hundred and more pounds versus these amazing bulls weighing in at close to a ton or over. Needless to say, it is the bull rider who often comes off the worst in this contest of skill, will, and might, hopefully walking away with no more than a bruised ego and behind to show for a ride lasting less than 8 seconds, sometimes much worse happens. Not surprisingly, this is a young man’s sport with the average age being in their twenties. Countries like Canada, Brazil, Australia, and Mexico each have their own PBR tours and bull riders from all over the world come to participate in the World PBR Tour.
B.A. Tortuga knows her bull riding. B.A. Tortuga also writes some of the best regional voices in the business. Her characters conversations are flavored with colloquialisms that never fall over the edge into parody. It certainly helps that she knows her roughstock and bull riders like the back of her hand too. Here is her description of Stone Haverty:
“Short, lean, but not bird-like, Stone was a little nut-brown dynamo with a pair of blue eyes that looked like lasers, glinting from under the brim of that straw hat. That callused, scarred hand worked resin into glove and rope, up and down, mimicking an action that made Derrick’s mouth dry.”
Two sentences that so fully describe this man you could pick him out of a crowd. Here is Stone’s first impression of Derrick:
“Solid and broad, with hands that would be rough and hard on a man’s skin…This one looked like he didn’t get to town much. Oh, the boots were clean, and the hat was obviously expensive, but the guy scanned the crowd like he was starving, like he had a powerful itch.”
Derrick is a lonely, closeted rancher from California who collects bull riding memorabilia on his annual trip to the PBR Finals in Reno. He accepts that his lot will be that of a man lacking a real romantic relationship in order to live the life he has on his ranch, although he dreams of much more. I loved solid, grounded Derrick and wanted much more of his backstory. Stone too only gives us hints as to what drives him. He comes from a huge family and is the baby of a family of eight brothers but you get the feeling that there is much more to his story than is revealed here. We get realistic glimpses of the hardships that come with competing on the circuit too, the lack of insurance and rootless existence can mean in the long run.
The sex scenes are hot, desperate in their need, funny and totally realistic. I mean you are laughing along with the men as pants get stuck on boots and clothes refuse to fly off the way they do in the movies. And you will hurt with them too as the injuries arrive. These men breath and bleed, laugh and hump so authentically that you expect them to climb out of the pages.
My only quibble with this story is the length. It just cries out for a much longer version so all the requisite back history of these men and their journey to this point in their lives is layered into this story to finish it out. At 60 pages, it is just enough to “wet our whistle” as it were but not enough to fully satisfy. I hope B.A. Tortuga revisits this couple and lets us in on how they are faring. I loved my short visit with them and am ready for the rest to follow.
Cover: Cover illustration by BS Clay is lovely and pertinent to the story
BA Tortuga. Adding to the Collection (Kindle Locations 83-87). Torquere Press.