To Hell You Ride by Julia Talbot
Big Roy is a hard rock miner with a not so secret love for the theater, so when he hears a new troupe of actors are coming to the Telluride opera house to put on a Shakespeare play, he saddles his mule and makes the trek into town to see it.
The play doesn’t disappoint, but the beautiful lead actor, Sir Edward Clancy, certainly does. Clancy is rude and arrogant, and Roy figures he’d never have a chance with such a man. He’s wrong, because Clancy needs some entertainment himself, being stuck in a Hellish mining town for the long, snowy winter.
Come spring, though, Clancy knows he’s going to want to move on, and he thinks Roy will be easy to forget. Then tragedy strikes, and Clancy has to rethink his entire life. Can these two strike gold?
To Hell You Ride is a play on the city name, Telluride where the story takes place in some unnamed Western time. Here Big Roy Marsh is a hard working miner that takes the trip into town every week to see each new production. This love threatens to be tarnished after a run in with the rude lead actor, Edward Clancy. When Clancy’s reputation is besmirched in an article, Clancy takes it upon himself to confront Roy. The sexual sparks fly between the two men even as they’re not sure they like each other.
This is a pretty decent western with a lot of great setting detail. The attention to the small details shows the author’s strength in creating a vivid atmosphere. From the dirt streets to small luxuries of a hot bath, the somewhat isolated city comes into sharp focus in this novella. The setting is never in doubt and the various characters that move in and out of scenes help solidify this repeatedly. If nothing else, I can recommend reading this novella for the love of such a setting.
While the setting works, the characters are decent but ultimately uninspiring for me. I can’t complain too much but they never really moved from the outlines on the page to breathing, interesting characters. Big Roy is a classic Western man, working hard and keeping to himself. He likes Clancy for his pretty looks and their sexual chemistry, easily falling for the other man despite his faults. Some of the best scenes involve Roy with an understated intensity and depth of emotion that is shown in the quiet moments and subtle detail rather than big expressions and wild actions.
Contrasting Roy is Clancy, an arrogant often rude actor who worked his way up to money and is determined to live as if his life was never another way. Clancy’s treatment of Roy is at first dismissive and rude, using the man for his wishes but Clancy soon finds himself falling for Roy. Of course Clancy can’t admit this and it takes a dramatic event at the end to give the happy ending, but the gradual change that occurs is nice to see. Clancy doesn’t change entirely and his philandering ways likely continue all his life, but that’s part of his charm for Roy who can love the man regardless.
Overall this is a sweet romance with a good setting. Nothing really stood out as exceptional and fabulous for me and the characters were decent and likable. The story has a lot of editing errors and focuses on a few unimportant characters but overall a nice, sweet story that is pretty forgettable. If you’re looking for a decent Western, check this out.
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