Thursday, May 29, 2014

Review by Jodi: Let it Ride by L.C. Chase

Title: Let It Ride
Author: L.C. Chase
Publisher: Riptide Publishing
Rating: 4.5/5 Smooches


This title is #2 of the Pickup Men series.
Pickup man Bridge Sullivan is the kind of cowboy everyone wants—as a brother, a friend, a lover. People think he’s straight, but Bridge isn’t one for labels, and when a sexy male paramedic jumpstarts his heart, he charges in with all guns blazing.

New York City transplant Eric Palmer grew up in foster care. While he always had a roof over his head, he never felt love or a sense of belonging . . . until he joined the California rodeo circuit as a paramedic and found a band of brothers who took him in as one of their own. Now, one in particular is making Eric’s pulse race.

When things heat up between Bridge and Eric, Bridge has to prove to Eric he’s not just experimenting with the rougher sex, while Eric must overcome his fears of being unwanted and cast aside. He knows that trusting Bridge may be the key to his happy ever after, but getting in the saddle is much, much easier than learning to let it ride.


“Whatever happened in the past is the past. You can’t let it dictate your future.”
-        Bridge Sullivan

Hot cowboys. Hot sex. Angst. Humor. Who could ask for anything more? Let it Ride is the second book in the Pickup series, and L.C. Chase has done a great job developing this story and further developing the characters. Bridge Sullivan is a pickup man for a California rodeo circuit. Eric Palmer is a paramedic who takes care of injured cowboys. The two men became friends in the first book in the series.

Eric Palmer is not a cowboy, but he feels as though he finally fits in somewhere with this group of men who have welcomed him into their family. A New York transient, Eric is not used to fitting in or being part of a family. He is friendly, shy and more than a little wary of becoming too close to these men.

Bridge Sullivan has been best friends with his fellow pickup men Kent and Marty for years. These men travel, work and live together. They don not keep secrets from each other, most of the time.

Bridge, who appears to be a ride hard, play hard cowboy, has a bit of a reputation bedding women on the circuit. Almost 30 years old, he has never mentioned to his friends that he once fooled around with a guy in college, and he definitely is not sharing the erotic dreams he has been having for the past few months.

Bridge’s eyes snapped open, and he stared hard at the ceiling while the faint, bittersweet odor of cum tickled his nostrils and his chest rose and fell in double time. His heart continued to pound as the fading remnants of the best wet dream of his entire life left him feeling more than a little unbalanced. A dream featuring a man—and not just any man, but one man in particular. Eric Palmer, the paramedic he’d met on the rodeo circuit the previous season who’d become fast friends with Bridge and his two best friends since childhood and fellow rodeo men, Marty Fairgrave and Kent Murphy. Eric had been on his mind too often over the past months . . . and as far more than just a friend.

He sucked a ragged gulp of air. “Oh my God. I’m gay.”

It has taken Bridge a year to understand his feelings for Eric and come to terms with what those feelings mean. Not only is he ready and willing, albeit nervous, to jump into a romantic and sexual relationship with Eric, but like with everything else he does, Bridge jumps in guns blazing. With blinding clarity, Bridge realizes “Shit. I’m Eric-sexual.”

Eric has no doubts about his sexuality. He knows he is gay. When he turned 13, he told his parents he was gay, and they promptly threw him out of the house. Eric’s life has been a constant turmoil of disposable households and relationships.  He is not embarrassed to be gay, but he has been burned multiple times in relationships – both familial and romantic. Not only is guns blazing not his style, but he is terrified of getting involved with Bridge romantically and jeopardizing their friendship and the relationship with his new close circle of friends.

He knew better than to believe someone like Bridge would want him—at least not for more than just sex. Jeremy had made that painfully clear when he’d chosen another over him, even after professing his undying love. Like Ron before him, who Eric had also foolishly believed had loved him. Nope, he couldn’t go there again. As long as he kept his heart locked down, no one would ever be able to hurt him again, and if it were Bridge . . . the heartbreak would be devastating.

With this cast of characters, Chase has established a close family dynamic. Eric is honored to be part of this group, but with his experience in foster homes and bad relationships, Eric doesn’t see himself as a real part of the family. He knows, in his heart, that he is disposable.

He may have felt like he’d known the affable cowboys forever, that maybe he finally belonged somewhere, but in the back of his mind, he was still Disposable Eric. The kid whose parents said they loved him but kicked him to the curb; the new kid in the foster home who would always be the first one turned out if there was a rift between him and the established friends. If he let his original attraction to Bridge resurface any more than it had already, let something happen between them, he’d lose more than Bridge when it took its usual route south. He’d lose all of them because there was no way Marty and Kent would choose him over Bridge. No way anyone would choose him first.

Fuck, how did he let himself get in so deep with these guys? He knew better than to let his guard down and believe in fairy tales

Bridge is a strong character who appears to be tough and in control. He is described as being “The man was solid. A rock in the eye of the storm. No matter what happened, he stood by his friends.”  

It is Bridge’s vulnerability and humor that draws in the reader. His nervousness and shyness around Eric makes him an endearing character. This group of rugged cowboys warn Bridge not to toy with Eric’s feelings, but they do not seem to see how truly vested in Eric Bridge has become.

When Bridge first decides to make his move, he is nervous and tentative. He hides behind a somewhat innocent fa├žade of openly flirting.

Eric jumped down from his barstool and met Bridge in front of the pool table. Bridge held the cue stick out for him but didn’t let go when Eric grabbed it. Their gazes locked for an extended beat, and then Eric stepped into Bridge’s space. That spicy-citrus fragrance drifted into his nostrils, teasing his senses and triggering a rush of endorphins in his brain.

“If I didn’t know any better—” Eric’s voice was low, his accent thicker. His hand slid down the shaft of the stick until it rested above Bridge’s, and the contact sent a burning spike of arousal careening into Bridge’s cock. “—I’d think you were flirting with me.”

“Maybe you don’t know better,” Bridge said, quietly enough for only Eric to hear, and then grinned when his eyes widened ever so slightly. Bridge let go of the cue stick, dropping his hand to brush Eric’s thigh as he walked past him without looking back.

Eric has been hurt too many times not to be wary. The ugliness of Eric’s past is too overwhelming for him to accept Bridge’s words and actions at face value.

He knew better than to believe someone like Bridge would want him—at least not for more than just sex. Jeremy had made that painfully clear when he’d chosen another over him, even after professing his undying love. Like Ron before him, who Eric had also foolishly believed had loved him. Nope, he couldn’t go there again. As long as he kept his heart locked down, no one would ever be able to hurt him again, and if it were Bridge . . . the heartbreak would be devastating.

For a little while, Eric tries to keep his walls up, but the more Eric learns about Bridge, the more intense the attraction becomes, but Eric’s fears about getting involved are too rooted in his heart and brain for him to overcome them. As a reader, it is easy to see both Eric’s dilemma and his rash and heartbreaking reaction to Bridge’s enthusiasm.

Either way, sooner or later Bridge would see what everyone else had seen: that there was something inherently wrong with Eric. Why else would everyone he had ever loved, or had thought had loved him, kick him to the curb? He wanted what Bridge and his friends had—that unconditional camaraderie, that belonging, that confidence that he was wanted and loved. But the more he wished and prayed for love, the more elusive it seemed to become. All he knew of that mysterious emotion was pain. Every time he’d let himself believe that maybe this time would be different was when it’d all come crashing down again.

The climax of the story is dramatic and heart wrenching.

Eric and Bridge are likeable, sympathetic, well rounded characters. Chase does a great job pulling roping readers into this story.  The narration is descriptive, intense and well written. The dialogue in the story is free-flowing and humorous and helps bring a sense of realism to this story. Chase does a great job offsetting the tension with humor.

Chase constructs a wonderful story with Let it Ride. Although the conflict in this story is not as dramatic as it is in Pickup Men, the climax is devastating. These characters are lighthearted in some respects, but thanks to Chase’s writing ability, their emotions run deep.  This simplistic, angst-filled plot is enhanced by Chase’s wonderful character development and smooth dialogue.

Thank you to Net Galley and Riptide Publishing for providing a review copy of this title in exchange for my honest opinion.

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