Extreme Bull by Catt Ford
Inside and outside the rodeo arena, Jeff Stratton and Clay Harris are rivals with tempers worse than the bulls they ride. So Clay is shocked when Jeff taps that wild energy and kisses him, sparking an undeniable urge for more of each others’ bodies.
But when they discover they might want more than casual sex between competitions, Clay’s greatest fear is recognized: He is scared of being identified as gay. He’ll have to cowboy up if he hopes to hang on to Jeff on the circuit of love.
This is a typical cowboy story about competitive rodeo bull riders that experience an unexpected attraction. This was ok, but the poor characterization and unrelenting head hopping lead to difficult reading and an overall disappointing book. Usually I slide this off by saying for anyone who likes cowboys you can get by the mistakes, but really, there are many better cowboy books out there that lack these problems. I’ve liked the author’s work in the past but don’t recommend this book unfortunately.
The plot is about two heterosexual cowboys that fight a sudden and powerful attraction to each other while struggling to come to terms with their sexuality and their relationship. The writing is decent but not outstanding or anything special to call attention to the descriptions or the story building. The rodeo world is rather easy to depict with some authenticity and yet the author gives only the barest amount of detail and lets the drama and angst between the men shine through without much success. This isn’t horribly bad, but the feel, the grit, the dirt and visceral feeling to the rodeo was missing, this could have taken place anywhere else.
The other unsuccessful writing element was the point of view changes. Often I comment about head hopping negatively as I don’t particularly like it, and it’s more of an inherent problem within same sex books where the pronouns are easily confused. Here the author used the pronoun “he” for the men interchangeably but did so in a way that was impossible to tell which thoughts belonged to each man sometimes. This was especially difficult as the narration jumps from Clay to Jeff and back again sometimes sentence by sentence in additional to alternating paragraphs. Unfortunately this led to a jarring reading experience.
Furthermore the characterization was flawed. Part of this was due to the head hopping so the reader has a difficult time trying to discern which man was feeling what, but the general point was that neither man was comfortable with being homosexual yet couldn’t fight their attraction. Unfortunately the characters and their appropriate actions would flip between the two men, giving a disjointed picture to both instead of a full characterization to either. Clay was especially problematic as he responds eagerly and well to Jeff’s advances, going so far as to be the aggressor most times, yet in the light of day he freaks out and says he’s not gay and refuses to talk to Jeff, only returning each night for more sex and comfort. This read more as a straight man being lured by gay sex rather than someone who was truly gay.
Both Clay and Jeff are willing to get each other off in the night but then are very careful not to be exposed or even identified as gay. The aggression both men have is at odds with the vulnerable need they express. While this is supposed to show a softer side to the men and support the statement they’re in love, it felt awkward and disingenuous. Just as their final declaration of love and being “boyfriends” felt out of character and untrue. This declaration and resolution prompted largely by outside circumstances rather than an emotional understanding as well.
The plot is decent if not inventive but the story suffers from being poorly put together. Taken in pieces it’s not bad but together the point of view changing and lack of thorough characterization left this as a miss. As I’ve liked the author in the past, I can only hope future editions will be more polished and readable.
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