Two Marked Men by Roland Graeme
The town’s name was Repentance, which, judging by the behavior of some of its inhabitants, seemed a bit premature. They were still too busy sinning to have given much thought about repentance just yet.
Henrique Vermudez has barely been in Repentance an hour when he is forced to kill a man in self-defense. Suddenly he finds himself the target of the dead man’s brother and his bank-robbing gang in search of revenge. But Hank Dawson isn’t the only one out for blood.
Also in town is a cowboy named Oren, a secretive man with a scarred face who understands only too well what the lust for revenge can do to a man. Oren and Henrique share a connection besides both being marked for death, and their fledgling love—as well as their lives—will be threatened by the single draw of a gun.
My rating: 1 of 5 stars
Sadly I think this has killed any urge I had to read a western erotic romance for a while. While this story tries very hard to stay true to the setting, I found the writing sluggish and awkward. The prose constantly pulled me out of the reading experience in negative ways while the sex scenes actually turned me off. There are numerous sex scenes and I sadly didn’t find even one erotic or enjoyable to read. The theme is nominally about redemption, but the resolution is kind of weak with many issues still unresolved. The men involved don’t actually change much either and combined with the writing style that didn’t appeal to me and tells you the story versus showing you, I can’t recommend this.
The story is told from Henrique’s third person point of view as he describes riding into town and meeting a man named Oren. While the two become easy friends, a belligerent drunk keeps trying to pick a fight with both men. Unfortunately this altercation ends with Henrique killing a known criminal and the men leaving town to lay low further west. As the two travels, they find mutual desire and respect leading to a relationship and thoughts of the future. That of course is tested when men from their past find them.
The writing tries very hard to stay within a western, folksy feel. On the one hand, the description of the desert heat and hard working days invoke a classic cowboy tale with numerous small details that fit well within the 1880 time frame. Unfortunately the dialogue between the men feels stilted and the prose often jarring. Part of this frustration is the abundance of exclamation marks on everything. With over 400 “!” used, this punctuation soon loses its emphasis and becomes annoying instead. Furthermore, the prose often made me cringe or roll my eyes, frequently disrupting whatever flow I’d gotten into with the story.
This uncomfortable writing continues with the sex scenes, which I found not only awkward but also unappealing. I soon skimmed these scenes because I disliked the dialogue used, the prose choices, and none of it felt erotic or interesting. Here’s an example that combines unfortunate dialogue and the writing style in a sex scene:
He pushed Henrique’s arm away from his body, and licked his hairy armpit. “Oh, you’re the color of dark clover honey, fresh from the honeycomb, and you taste just as sugar sweet on my tongue!”
“And you’re all pale where you ain’t suntanned, Oren, like cream. Just pretend I’m a big ol’ hungry tomcat, lapping up all that cream!” Henrique retaliated by using his tongue on Oren’s body in turn, making him squirm. “Gonna wash you all over with my tongue, lick you clean, scrape the skin right off you,” the tomcat purred.
Besides the unappealing writing, the characters felt flat and boring. Although Oren initially says it’s too soon to talk of love, the very next day they’re declaring their love for each other. Henrique is claiming he’ll love and protect Oren regardless of their words the day before that it was too soon to talk of that. Henrique also comes across as a man slut, willing to screw anything and even cheats on Oren. This is a confusing aspect since their fidelity isn’t talked about but rather assumed. Since Henrique feels guilty and tries to ensure Oren never finds out about the indiscretion, I can only assume they don’t have an open relationship. Thus when Henrique is thinking about cheating on Oren again at the end of the book, it just typifies how little the man has changed and remains and ultimately unlikable character. He’s brusque and aggressive, very one dimensional with unattractive dialogue during the sex scenes.
Oren unfortunately is no better as he alternates between being the strong, silent type with bouts of extended angst and tears. The flipping between personalities kept jarring me since neither felt natural to Oren and the story doesn’t really identify the true nature of the man’s character. He remains the underdog, used to keep the tension with the outlaws alive without really becoming interesting on his own. Oren perhaps learns the most with his final resolution, but he ends up loving Henrique much more than Henrique loves him and the final dichotomy is unsettling.
Overall I didn’t really enjoy this offering at all. I found the prose choices awkward and while they did convey a folksy, western feel – they also made me cringe a lot of the time. The sex scenes didn’t work for me with the almost clinical language juxtaposed with the supposed dirty talk between the men. Not to mention the fact that all the men are hung like horses and gay or accepting of gays. This creates an overwhelming positive and supportive gay community, which just doesn’t feel right considering the time frame. Unfortunately I’d recommend giving this one a wide berth.
4 thoughts on “Two Marked Men by Roland Graeme”
Oh, too bad! I’d started to get used to Dreamspinner publishing really quality stuff. Plus, when the erotic m/m western is done well, it’s very interesting to read. I will take your advice here and steer clear of this one.
Sorry to be so late in replying!
DSP has definitely gotten better with their quality of stories but this one kind of brought home to me that trying unknown authors at dreamspinner is still a dangerous proposition. I may stick to well known authors from them for a while.
This just sounds just horrific. I’m so sorry that you had to read it.
I think it ruined me for westerns for a while….. oh god.