Title: Heart of Stone
Author: Ari McKay
Genre: Historical Romance, Western Romance, M/M Romance
Sensuality Rating: Erotic
Source: review copy provided by publisher
Published: June 2013 by Dreamspinner Press
Stone Harrison never knew he had an aunt; he certainly never expected her to bequeath him one of the largest spreads in central Nevada. But something about Copper Lake Ranch and its foreman, Luke Reynolds, speaks to him, offering a chance for the home he’s never really had.
Luke wants Stone to succeed as a rancher and put the legacy of his shiftless father behind him, but he’d also like Stone to share his bed. Unfortunately, Stone is convinced that the world is a harsh place that will never accept two men sharing their lives. Much to Luke’s dismay, he refuses to risk Luke’s life despite the intense attraction they share.
The tension between them escalates when a series of calamities strikes Copper Lake. An unexpected and unwelcome visit from Stone’s dandified cousin, James, only makes things worse. Stone’s ability to run the ranch comes into question, but the threat of losing it means less to Stone than the threat to Luke’s life. Stone will do anything it takes to protect the man he loves—even if it makes him a murderer.
Reviewed By: J9
In a Nutshell: I really liked this MM historical western with sexy cowboys and villainous relatives.
The Set Up: Stone never knew he had an aunt until he gets a letter bequeathing him her ranch. Stone is just a cowboy with his honor and work ethic so he feels obligated to make a go of the ranch. He doesn’t expect the ranch’s foreman, Luke, to share his forbidden attraction. While Stone and Luke struggle to see if they can build a life together, Stone’s citified cousin, James, visits the ranch and inexplicable calamity follows.
Why I Read this Book: There is never enough MM historical romance in my world.
What I Liked: This is a classic historical western romance with the exception that both leads are men. Stone is the silent, stoic cowboy who has faced prejudice from being American Indiana and on account of his mean, lazy father’s reputation. He’s got a chip on his shoulder to prove himself a better man so the ranch is a gift he intends to make work no matter the cost. Luke is the classic warm, emotionally-accessible hero who knocks at Stone’s emotional walls. This is a classic formula for westerns and it’s an oldie because it’s a goodie, in my opinion. The inclusion of the men’s sexual preference and what that means to them building a long-term relationship is the romantic drama that is slightly different and I really liked how that was handled. I don’t mind modern sensibilities in MM historical romance but this novel didn’t quite fall back on that but instead had Stone worry about the life-threatening consequences the men were risking. The resolution to this part was very different than I thought the set-up hinted at but I liked it even more for it.
What I Also Liked: This is again the classic historical Old West ranch setting that I enjoy. Stone and Luke work the ranch together and bond over calamities that befall the ranch. Sure, it’s not rocket science who was behind the ranch’s troubles but even the resolution to that was different than I expected.
What I Didn’t Like: This isn’t a book of erotica. Stone and Luke have a sexual relationship but it doesn’t happen into well into the book and then peters (ha!) out as Stone has to make peace with the relationship. I normally like my romance a lot more erotic than this book offers but it had such good emotional intimacy that I didn’t mind. In fact, the men develop their emotional reliance upon each other almost more than the sexual relationship for fear of reprisals and that made sense in context of their characters and the setting. Still, it may not be for every reader but I enjoyed this more-story-than-sex romance.
IMO: I really enjoyed this MM romance with its unexpected twists and strong romance set in the Old West.