Review: Texas Christmas (Texas #5) by R.J. Scott

Standard

Rating: 4.75 stars out of 5

Texas Christmas coverWith the holidays upon them, Jack and Riley Campbell-Hayes are stressed out. Jack and Riley are anxiously waiting for the courts to decide if they will be able to adopt Max, the twins are growing rapidly and they still haven’t found a nanny. Meanwhile Jack’s sister Beth is about to give birth after a dangerous pregnancy, and their new employee, Liam, is having trouble adjusting to life on the Double D .

Liam Frazier loves his life working with the horses on the Double D Ranch.  His bosses are wonderful as are the other ranch hands he works with.  The trouble?  His abusive past that won’t let him go.  Now Marcus Walker, co owner of the surrogacy agency that helped Jack and Riley find a mother for their children, is flirting with him and Liam doesn’t know how to handle it.  He finds Marcus attractive but his abuse is a barrier he doesn’t know how to get past.

When Liam’s past follows him to the ranch, it puts everyone in danger.  It will take Marcus and the rest of the Double D family to help Liam  face those who hurt him so he can move forward.

I have enjoyed this series from the beginning story, The Heart of Texas, which introduced us to Jack Campbell and Riley Hayes. I have been with this couple through their rocky start with a fake marriage and tumultuous family histories, their declarations of love, the murderous events that took place and the fire that almost cost them their lives and home.  In the previous story, Texas Family, Jack and Riley’s family had grown to include twins as well as the children and partners of the rest of their extended family.  It was a joyous layered story that took us through the surrogacy issues for gay families and introduced us to Max, a young foster child with autism.

Texas Family was a book packed with relevant issues and new characters.  It also left us with some unresolved elements, specifically those that focus on Max’s adoption fight and the new ranch hand Liam Frazier.  I am happy to report that with Texas Christmas, R.J. Scott ties up all those loose ends happily and on a perfect note for a book about families,friends, and the holidays.

Jack and Riley’s relationship is still the foundation upon which this series rests and they are still working on their marriage here, adjusting to the twins, their daughter getting older, and all the other stresses life can put on a marriage.  It’s a healthy, sexual and deep relationship and the author relays that beautifully.  But I have to admit its the newest member I wanted more of.

I was entranced with Max from the moment Scott introduced him to Jack and Riley.  The little boy clutching his Thomas the Tank Engine toy caught at our hearts.  RJ Scott did not shy away from the issues of adopting a child with autism.  Max’s emotional issues, his inability to deal with certain social situations, the manner in which he communicates, and well, everything about a life with an autistic child is relayed realistically along with the love.  There is a magical moment that RJ Scott brings to life as Max explores a sensory room Jack and Riley have created for him.  The wonder of a child caught up inside his mind is revealed in such a way that we feel we are on the floor with him, holding our breath as Max explores with a quiet joy a place created for him out of love.

Liam Frazier is another special character and his story is brought full circle as well.  But as his started in pain and abuse, those elements reappear to be dealt with before he can move forward.  The elements where Liam decides he needs outside help to deal with his abuse, the frustration Liam feels as he tries to deal with Marcus and a real relationship have a feeling of authenticity to them. Liam brings out our empathy and our compassion.

There are several scary and heartrending scenes.  But they serve to heighten the satisfaction the reader will feel as all the elements come together to give Jack, Riley and all the others a Christmas to remember.  Consider this story and this series highly recommended!

Here are the stories in the Texas series in the order they were written and should be read:

The Heart of Texas (Texas, #1)
Texas Winter (Texas, #2)
Texas Heat (Texas, #3)
Texas Family (Texas, #4)
Texas Christmas (Texas #5)

Cover by Meredith Russell.  The cover is adorable and perfect in every way.

Book Details:

ebook, 189 pages
Published December 12th 2013 by Love Lane Books
ISBN13 LLBTEXAS5
edition language English
series Texas #5

Review of Ralston’s Way by Talia Carmichael

Standard

Rating: 4 stars

Morgan Ralston and his brother Gibson have always run their family ranch the Ralston way meaning Morgan’s way.  Then Gibson decides to go into the horse breeding business and with the new business comes new partners and new ways.  The expanding business calls for an upgrade in their computer systems at the ranch and Blayne Dalton computer guru has been called in by his old friend Gibson to overhaul their computer needs.  But Gibson has more surprises for his brother.  In addition to the cute computer nerd, Blayne, Gibson has brought in Blayne’s brother as a chef, his other brother as a horse trainer and their father as a partner.  Soon the Ralston ranch is flush with new ideas, new people in the Dalton family. And Morgan can’t help but notice that very cute and very gay  computer guy who always seems to be where Morgan needs to be.

Now Morgan has always run things his way but with his brother determined to change things and Blayne’s attention not only to detail but to Morgan too, what is a cowboy to do?

Ralston’s Way is the first in the Prentiss’ series from Talia Carmichael about two interlocking ranching families and their friends.  I am always a sucker for gay cowboys and this pulled me in from the start.  Morgan and Gibson are running the family ranch by themselves having lost their parents.  When Gibson starts a horse breeding venture, he pulls in his friends from the university, a trio of brothers and their father, as partners.  Talia Carmichael seems to be building a series with families dealing with loss in one way or another. Morgan and Gibson Ralston have lost their parents, Paxton Lawson, father to  Blayne and his brothers, has lost his husband to cancer and brought his  family to Texas to try and recover.  And more peripheral characters that have larger roles in subsequent books all have holes in their lives from losing someone important to them.  I really like the community she is building here.

Talia Carmichael does a splendid job with her characterizations and plot lines.  Her characters are people easy to care for and take interest in.  And while the courtship between Morgan and Blayne is brief, it is also intense.  I really enjoyed watching this couple get together and can’t wait to see what the author has in store for each of the brothers as well as Paxton Lawson, a wonderful person deeply wounded in his grief.  Despite its short length, this is a wonderful story full of characters I loved spending time with.

My only quibble here is the short length of the story.  It is only 80 pages and its volume needs to be increased to really give the story and its characters their due.  My issue with the length of this story is one I reiterate over and over with regard to Total E Bound Press’s authors whether it is Lavinia Lewis, Bailey Bradford or Carol Lynne so perhaps this length is a required number of words from the publisher.  At any rate, the shortened story does their authors a disservice in my mind, as stories of excellent promise come out as stunted instead of flowing naturally to the length needed to do the book justice.  Just my opinion.  If someone can tell my why so many 80 page books, I would be grateful if no less frustrated.

But this looks to be a promising series.  I started with the second book and immediately went back to the beginning to get to know them all right where it all starts.  You will want to start your journey here too.

Books in the series are:

Ralston’s Way (Prentiss#1)

Long Hard Ride (Prentiss#2)

Art work by Posh Gosh.  Love the cover, the only thing that  strikes me as odd is the way the black band with the Prentiss name on it cuts across the torso of the cowboy, making his belly  seem (dare I say it?) pregnant.  An odd mis step from a wonderful cover artist.