Throwback book…Bareback by Chris Owen

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Bareback (Bareback #1) by Chris Owen
4.1 of 5 stars average rating · My rating 4 out of 5 stars

 

Published July 1st 2003 by Torquere Press

 

 

Tam inspired me to give this one another try when she posted it as one of the great “older” books of m/m. Let’s just take a moment to recognize that a book from 2003 is still making lists and furthermore I remembered something about it. That’s pretty impressive. I do have the greatest memory for books after a few months. Some I remember forever but most just blend together. This one I actually remembered something about. I recall that the book is about cowboys who fall in love and that one cheats in the sequel book. I gave it 4 stars but I remember LOVING the book to pieces. However, I hadn’t written a review of it and I didn’t want to read anyone else’s review before diving back in so I was fuzzy on all the details of the book.

To summarize, Jake is the foreman of a ranch and likes to live his life quietly. He has a past he’s not proud of and would rather blend in with the furniture than make waves. That’s why he’s especially frustrated with a ranch hand named Tor that seems to irritate him on a daily basis. That irritation is taken to an explosive level one night during a rainstorm and the two are practically attached at the hip from that moment on. However, life as a couple of gay cowboys isn’t going to be easy.

This review may contain spoilers for anyone who is upset by that.

Almost right away I wondered why I had liked the book so much. The first scene is a graphic sex scene between Tor and Jake, their first, and the next 120+ pages are more of the same. The two have sex together and with others and that’s all there is. I suppose it’s setting up the relationship as you can see Jake and Tor become more possessive of each other and dependent on each other as time goes on but I was pretty much sick of the non-stop sex very early on. I’m sure when I first read this in 2009, I didn’t mind the sex fest much at all. Indeed since it was published in 2003, I think the online genre was almost exclusively erotica with some splash of romance thrown in so I can’t fault it too much.

I do think it’s too much sex in the current genre, which balances sex and relationship building much better, and I definitely was done with all the sex before the real meat of the story came in. However, at the halfway point the characterization and drama set in. Here is where I remembered why I loved this story so much. The passion of the men shines with their loving and fighting. The supporting characters are nice, albeit forgettable, but they offer a break from the constant intensity of Jake and Tor’s relationship.

I also had forgotten how the story used time so smartly to depict the relationship. There are large leaps in time where only a scene or a handful of scenes will characterize that time. For example, the story will say autumn and show a scene of how Jake and Tor were fighting at the time. How their relationship wasn’t easy and eventually how it all fell apart. It was a nice way to show the passage of time, in this case 4 years, without belaboring those years while showing the important details, both good and bad.

Mild spoiler – here I forgot that Tor cheated. I remember he did but I thought he did it in the second book. So I was surprised when the clues started in and realized it would happen in this one. I felt just as emotionally involved and connected this time around. I even shed a tear! I felt so bad for the emotionally raw Jake and could sympathize with his pain. I knew the book had sucked me in at that point, yet again. I am a fan of angst so I liked to see Jake wallow in his pain for a bit. It felt honest. I don’t mind cheating in romance books, it’s not a deal breaker for me. Since it leads to some of the most honest angst that actually makes me like it more, as long as it’s not instantly forgiven.

When the friends start in on Jake about how to communicate, I thought the plot device was really heavy handed. It was more of a hammer banging home the point that Jake had a part in the relationship’s demise so he’s partially responsible for Tor cheating. I felt it didn’t lay enough blame on Tor’s decision to cheat and how, regardless of the state of the relationship, that will create a serious trust problem. I never felt as though they resolved that issue very well. Instead the book focuses on repairing the relationship in general and not the individual issues.

Overall I surprised myself by enjoying this book a second time. When I started it again I didn’t think I’d like it all that much again. After the sex stopped happening every second, I could immerse in the drama and the passion of the relationship on more levels and my enjoyment grew exponentially. The writing is at times very simplistic but it suits the rustic theme and stoic narrator. I’m debating on reading the second book since I feel as though the couple and writing finally hit their stride at the end of this one. However, the characters are best suited to angst so if they’re living happily ever after – as nice as that is – it could be slightly boring. They’re at their best fighting and loving each other with passion.

 

 

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6 thoughts on “Throwback book…Bareback by Chris Owen

  1. Tam says:

    Nope, wasn’t me. This was a DNF for me. I know! Heresy! I think it was Jen. And not because of the cheating thing which I know turns a lot of readers off, I just couldn’t get into it. You know, I might have gotten turned off by the first 120 pages too. I remember skimming a bit, but it never really caught me.

    Ah well, different strokes. 🙂

  2. This is one of my all time favorite books… whenever I need angst, it’s at the top of my list. That seen where Jake says his marriage is over… jeez, it tears me up. Great review.

    Have you read all the shorts with these two? Those are pretty great as well.

    • YES! I totally got tears when he said that. I also teared up when he first realizes Tor is actually cheating and when Tor admits it’s been going on for months. The raw emotions in those scenes is just chilly and soo effective.

      Speaking of angst have you read Promise Rock by Amy Lane? I cried BUCKETS reading that. I want to read it again but I loved it so much the first time I’m afraid of ruining that feeling.

      • Can’t believe I typed seen instead of scene 😦 The scene you speak of also made me have a frog in my throat. It was so incredibly well written.

        Anyway, Amy Lane is my Tear-Jerker Queen, love her. Nobody makes me cry like Amy Lane. I’ve read all her stuff and I re-read them as the mood strikes. Promise Rock is amazingly good every time I read it. A Solid Core of Alpha, Talker and Chase in Shadow were others that were pretty raw.

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