Title: Worth the Coming Home
Author: Lisa M. Owens
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
Length: 65,763 words, 244 pages
Genre: m/m, Contemporary, Western, Romance
Heat: 4 – Spicy & Smutty
Sex Frequency: 4 – Very Often
Keywords/Tags: Emotionally/Physically Damaged (PTSD), Closeted, Cowboys, (ex)Military, Co-Workers, Kink, a bit of BDSM, HEA
Rating: Really, Really Liked It
Reviewed by Nikyta
For Josh Brooks, it’s a summer of wishes come true. First he gets his dream horse from a rival trainer. Then his brother’s Army Ranger buddy, Dane Keller, comes to work on the ranch and Josh meets his dream lover too. Dane is hot, competent, and fresh out of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell. Everything would be perfect—except nobody knows Josh and Dane are gay.
All Dane wants is a quiet life in a less claustrophobic closet and a ranch job where he can earn a living. But when his best friend’s little brother, the one who wrote the letters that kept their spirits up in Afghanistan, turns out to have grown up in all the right ways, Dane can’t help wanting more despite his fear of commitment.
While Dane and Josh are busy trying—and failing—to keep their hands to themselves, someone else is watching, biding his time. Then he strikes, first at Josh and then at the prized horse. When all of their secrets and fears are exposed, Dane is determined to protect Josh, even if it means leaving him behind.
This is an extraordinary book. Simple but it won’t be for everyone because it deals with some discouraging (some would say) elements. In fact, it won’t be for a lot of people. It deals with the after affects of going into the war and spending a few tours there, coming home damaged emotionally and physically.
This story starts out with Josh Brooks training his newly acquired horse, Hurricane. Then Dane Keller, his brother, Jesse’s Ranger buddy, walks onto his family’s ranch looking for a place to stay. The attraction between Dane and Josh is obvious from the start but they’re both in the closet. Josh is so far in the closet he has the whole town thinking he’s going to marry his best friend, Sarah. Because of this, Dane gets mixed signals from Josh. It’s not long before Dane finally makes his moves on Josh. To Josh’s surprise, Dane is more forceful then he thought. Dane’s extremely dominant, controlling and has Josh both in fear and arousal. Josh likes it but he’s scared at the same time. Dane gives Josh everything he’s wanted but he threatens the very life he’s made for himself.
The morning after, things become too intense when Dane suffers a bout of hallucinations and ends up hurting Josh physically. What follows is both hot and cold moments from Dane. Dane will ignore Josh for days then show up at his house looking for control and sex. Dane makes it clear it’s just sex but Josh soon develops feelings for Dane even with all the problems Dane has especially when a simple injury triggers Dane’s episodes. Their life starts to unravel when they realize someone is spying on their ranch. With that spying, this mysterious person sees Dane and Josh together. From there it’s one thing after another. First Josh gets outed in a bar and gay bashed. His brother turns on him with disgust and no one will talk to him. To add insult to injury, someone is trying to either kill him or his horse and they can’t pin it on anyway. Things get even worse for Josh when Dane decides to end things, leaving Josh devastated. Josh soon realizes who his real friends are and who exactly he can count on while trying to mend his broken heart and the yearning he still has for the emotionally distant and dangerous Dane.
This might possibly be one of my favorite books this year. It has angsty elements but the way it’s handled, I wouldn’t exactly classify it as angsty. It’s intense, harsh at times but captivating. I was sucked into the story and the extreme passion Dane and Josh have for each other. Their own brand of love was so different from the sweet and light things I’ve been reading lately that I was drawn to it. Dane is very, very controlling to the point of almost being cruel. In fact, he is cruel and asks almost impossible things of Josh to endure. It’s torturous in a way because Dane is also possessive. While he doesn’t want to have a real relationship with Josh, he won’t put up with Josh being with anyone else, which Josh finds out quite fast.
I loved these characters, though. Dane is raw and the way he battles the episodes caused by PTSD is heart-wrenching. The way Josh handles it all is commendable, though. He sticks through the worst of it but still ends up loving Dane during it all. This is told in first person from Josh’s POV, which allows us to get to know Josh rather well. He’s a very well developed character. Dane is also a well developed character but he’s mysterious, too. We know things about him that made me really like him but we don’t know everything. When Dane leaves, he not only devastated Josh, he devastated me too. It ripped my heart out.
The plot has more suspense than I was expecting. A lot of little conflicts happen that all are aimed at ruining Josh’s life. It’s sad what he has to go through all because someone was jealous of his abilities. We get to see a lot of things within this story, though. Teenage crushes, trespassing, injuries, possible abuse depending on your perception of it, bigotry, heartbreak, unrequited love and more. There’s so much going on but it all comes together nicely to make a really good story. Actually, it didn’t even feel like there was a lot until I analyzed it all in the end. The only issue I had with it was the sex. While extremely hot, it was just too much for my liking. It’s all about control for Dane which is why I labeled it as a little bit of BDSM. He also makes Josh go through some few slightly kinky things. It’s, well, scorching.
All in all, this was a very well written story. It touches on topics that are intriguing and not often written correctly. It’s intense and passionate and sometimes harsh. It won’t be for everyone but I encourage those brave enough to try it. It’s a phenomenal story and most likely one I will re-read one day.