Friday, June 20, 2014

Review by Niki: Uncommon Cowboys Series by Jan Irving MASSIVE REVIEW

Niki loved this series so much that she reviewed it all at once! 

Series Title: Uncommon Cowboys

Individual Book Titles:

1) Straight Cowboy

2) Shifter Cowboy

3) Shy Cowboy

4) Wounded Cowboy

5) A Plain Ordinary Cowboy

6) A Cowboy in Ravenna

7) Lonely Cowboy

Author: Jan Irving

Publisher: Totally Bound

Rating: Overall series rating 5/5 Smooches

Straight Cowboy (Uncommon Cowboys #1)


Joshua Ryan did a stint for much-needed cash as the ‘straight cowboy’ in gay porn movies but he doesn’t think of himself as gay, so why does he want to do the things to Matt James he once did in front of a camera?

Cowboy Joshua Ryan can’t stop his erotic thoughts about Matt James, the hearing-impaired guest he’s taking into the foothills in search of wild horses. Matt James has dreamed all his life of coming out west. He’s at first taciturn with Josh, afraid he’s as close minded as some other hands they encounter on their excursion, but when Josh reaches for him unconsciously in his sleep, Matt has a tough time hiding his desire for a ‘straight’ man.

Reader Advisory: This book contains light hearted bondage.

Publisher's Note: This book has previously been released as part of the Saddle Up N'Ride anthology by Total-E-Bound.

Niki-O’s Down-Low on Straight Cowboy: 5 beating hearts + 5 sweet smooches, baby

Okay. I have to admit something right up front. I adore Jan Irving’s work. I truly believe the woman is a bonafide genius with the written word… and I’m not sure if that makes me judge her according to a higher standard or if I’m wildly predisposed to think everything she creates is pure spun sunshine after a lifetime of overcast skies and drizzle.

Truth be told, it’s probably a little of both. Also, I didn’t originally set out to review this entire series. Because I mean, who the hell does that. It’s like a reviewer’s marathon or something and only… oh, right. I’m in training to do a half-marathon by next spring. I guess I am the kind of crazy person who does this kind of long haul stuff, both in the physical world, and in the world of the mind. Well, now that that fascinating little peek into my crazy-pants psyche is over, we can get down to the far more exciting business of talking about Jan Irving’s fascinating Uncommon Cowboys series.

Book number one is one that I’d actually read quite some time ago, and then forgotten I’d read. (silly me) So when I read book number two in the series, Shifter Cowboy, and was *desperate* for more the book was hauntingly familiar from the first page. Straight Cowboy was a sweet little nugget of a story that rang true to everything I know about the deaf community.

Wait. What the heck does the deaf community have to do with the story? Well, one of the main characters, Matt James, is hearing impaired. He has a cochlear implant, but was raised deaf. And like every person of my personal acquaintance who is deaf culturally, he is keenly observant of the way other people look, use space, and simply move. When I got to the point in the book where Ms. Irving made this readily apparent, I wanted to stand and applaud. It was so spot on for everything I know about deaf culture that I was honestly moved to tears.

Add in the fact that the two main characters were sweetly flawed and I was hooked from the word go. The book did every single thing I demand of a good read: it transported me to an exotic locale (high in the foothills where wild Mustangs still roam), sprinkle magic about (there are a few truly magical scenes in this book… I dare you to try to read them without holding your breath and feeling like you’re in a sacred place), and leave me feeling warm, snuggly, and thoroughly satisfied at the end.

One character struggles with admitting to himself that he’s gay… it’s plain as the nose on his handsome face right from page one, but of course, it’s a wee bit difficult to see the nose on your own face, now isn’t it? I found his struggles, while not always a picture perfect example of what we’d perhaps *like* our characters to do when coming out of the closet, absolutely believable. He tugged at my heartstrings as he worked out his place in the world and how he could fit there while still liking the man he’d become. The other character, my sweet Matthew, has his deafness and the isolation inherent in that to struggle with. I’ve already said I love the way Ms. Irving handled this, but I’m not sure I remembered to say that the way she wove her words together for this character reflected perfectly my idea of how those raised in deaf culture tend to think about and react to the world at large. That right there is a fine piece of craftsmanship. Bravo, Ms. Irving, bravo.

Overall, I found the pacing in this story pitch on, the intensity of emotion appropriately amped up by the character’s physical isolation while looking for the horses, and the resultant fireworks between the two were in a word, spectacular. I highly recommend this little gem, whether you’ve loads of time to read or mere minutes squeezed in-between other tasks. You’ll be glad you took the time to meet the first of Ms. Irving’s Uncommon Cowboys.


Shifter Cowboy (Uncommon Cowboys #2)


When cowboy and wolf shifter Cody Marshal wakes on a country road scratched, naked, and lacking his favorite pair of boots he doesn’t expect the caring touch of his rescuer, Adrian Le Roy, or the way it makes him feel, man and wolf.

Veterinarian Adrian Le Roy knows something is strange when he finds cowboy Cody Marshal sleeping off an apparent bender in the middle of the dirt road leading to Adrian’s new practice out west. For one thing, Cody is scratched and bruised and he’s completely naked. When he runs off into the woods Adrian can’t shake the feeling he’s walked into some kind of primal dream.

Twice a month Cody wakes up somewhere bare-assed, lacking even his favorite pair of boots. As far as he’s concerned, being a wolf shifter sucks. Even worse is his desire for Adrian, his gentle new employer who has no idea the beast he risks inviting into his bed.
Reader Advisory: The stories in this series are connected solely by theme. They can all be read as standalone titles and read in any order.

Niki-O’s Down-Low on Shifter Cowboy: 5 beating hearts + 5 scorching smooches

You know that cute little quote about how some books are made to be nibbled, some swallowed whole, etcetera? Yeah, so I devoured this one. Jan Irving’s unique authorial voice, her straight shooter, cleanly written, impeccably paced writing always gets me, but hey, she threw in SHIFTERS and D/s themes. Holy hot flash, every shiny red button in my psyche beeped, whistled, and fully engaged for this story. Okie, dokie, so that’s why *I* fell in love with this story… now we need to get to why I think you will too.
The characters make sense. I mean they make sense in their world, the way their psyche’s interact makes sense, the way their emotional realities collide, recoil, and then align makes sense on a gut deep, soul deep level. I found myself transported again, enmeshed in and enamored by the little world of the good doctor’s veterinarian practice, his farm, and his more than he seems at face value hired man.


The chemistry between the two jumped off the page, twirled me around, and lit the sky with magical, Northern Lights style lights. I couldn’t catch my breath, couldn’t read fast enough to find out what happened next—a sure sign of brilliant pacing and spot on balance of conflict with resolution, and couldn’t read slow enough—because sweet merciful gods of literature please let the magic of this story never, ever end.
The initial attraction between the main characters… erm, you may need a moment alone. And then you may need another. *fanning self* Once you get past that bit, you’ll be absorbed by a strong desire to kick Cody in his very fine arse for crimes not to be mentioned (they’d contain spoilers) and then you want to kiss him for pulling his also fine head out of his arse. Throughout it all you’ll 100% adore the hot doc, empathize with Cody, and root fervently for a happily ever after for them both.

Don’t fret. Jan Irving knows very well how to deliver one hell of a read.


Shy Cowboy (Uncommon Cowboys #3)


 Cass Drake is in love with his best friend, Tom Black, and content to keep it to himself until Tom is brutally attacked and Cass will do anything to protect him—even letting Tom mark him as his human mate.

Cowboy Cass Drake puts himself on a crash diet shortly after he meets Tom Black. Built like a linebacker, Cass has always been self-conscious about his size and his shyness isn't helped by all the teasing he endures in the bunkhouse. But his quiet new friend Tom actually seems to be flirting with him. When Tom is attacked one night, it's Cass who comes to his rescue. Tom has a thing for his innocent cowboy but he also has secrets that could put Cass in danger.

Reader Advisory: The stories in this collection are linked solely by theme. Each story can be read on its own and the stories can be read in any order.

Niki-O’s Down-Low on Shy Cowboy: 5 Hearts + 5 Melting and Tied Down Kisses

What made this installment of the Uncommon Cowboys really pop for me? The rug-pull moments. Wait. Hold on. Let me turn and chase my tail for a moment while I try to figure out how to tell you what made this story so incredible without giving away any of the salient plot points.

Eureka! Characterization. Jan Irving spins gossamer strands of brilliantly hued emotion, nuancing them with fine, delicate brushstrokes of motivation and deep psychological need. Her characters don’t come to life, they are already breathing, moving about, leaping on and off the page at will. From the moment I met Cass, my heart wanted to curl around the big, tender cowboy and protect him from all the fools of the world who could not see his true worth. I ached with him over his crush on Tom, I peered around his side to shoot venomous looks at the other cowboys who treated him to unkind words and mean-spirited jabs. He is so vividly drawn you are forced to respond to him much as you would to a flesh and blood person upon first introductions. He is real. You can smell the unique smell of his skin, taste the flavors of his drinks, and feel air rushing in and out of his lungs. For me his innate sweetness made becoming Cass’s champion a no brainer.
Tom was harder to get to know. His spiritual and emotional wounds were grave enough to seem visible on the surface of his skin, and he hid much of himself away upon introduction. Still, there was a pull, a longing to get to know him. Plus, Cass adored him. How could I not like someone Cass showed such affection toward?

Yeah, there’s a bad guy, and some merely annoying assholes, and Cass? Cass is the guy I’d want by my side through all that. Plus we get to see Cody and Adrian again. *doing a little giddy dance there, because I lurve visits from former main characters whom I adored in their own books*… and through all of it, the lynchpin for everything are the beautifully evoked characterizations of Cass and Tom.
I firmly believe that the greatest strength of this particular book lies in the flawlessly etched portraits of these two men’s souls. Take the time to sip this one slowly. It is a rare vintage.


Wounded Cowboy (Uncommon Cowboys #4)


When Charlie Danvers finds Luka, a beautiful scarred man with silken black hair and feral green eyes, naked and freezing in an April snowstorm, he takes him home to his lonely cabin, unaware the man who can’t sleep in a bed or use cutlery is far more than he seems.

Wolf-shifter Luka is dying. He survived captivity and abuse from the brutal pack that killed his family, holding out because of dreams of a man with big, gentle hands. When Charlie Danvers finds a beautiful scarred man with long silken black hair and feral green eyes, naked and freezing in an April snowstorm, he takes him home to his lonely cabin and will do anything to heal him.

At first, Luka is afraid, even of Charlie. He has nightmares and can’t sleep in a bed like a normal person and he can’t even figure out how to use a knife and fork at Charlie’s table. But Charlie’s patience is rewarded as Luka slowly comes out of his shattered pain, helping Charlie take care of the other wounded creatures on his nature reserve.

Reader Advisory: The stories in this series are connected by theme and characters. They can all be read as standalone titles or in the order they were written.

Niki-O’s Down-Low on Wounded Cowboy: 5 Hearts + 5 Bittersweet Kisses

What makes Wounded Cowboy special?

I’ve got two words for you. Shifters and redemption. Those are good words, yeah? You remember the bad guy from book three? That Oogie-Boogie man who created all kinds of havoc and mayhem? He’s back. Except this time, we get to hear the story from his side. There were extenuating circumstances we knew nothing of. There was true evil, and betrayal so deep it’s hard to fathom, so deep it should have broken Lukas… yet though damaged, though bowed, he is at heart unbroken. Learning to love Lukas is a harder journey than we’ve yet taken with characters in this series, but oh, the rewards are greater too. We get to see such beauty in his soul… and how the heck did Jan Irving pull this rabbit out of her hat? With poetry, and a little broken winged bird. She’s crafty, that one.

Also, she had help in the form of Charlie Davers, our other main character.  Charlie, unlike Lukas, is easy to love. Easy as falling off a log. He saves the wounded critters of the world… is it any wonder then that he develops a powerful yearning to heal the wounded man whom fate has gifted him with?
Once again, Jan Irving’s clear, crisp writing, economy of words—always just enough, never too few nor too many—and brilliantly drawn descriptions will leave you shaken right down to the soles of your feet. Hang on. This one’s a rough ride. In the end though, the view of tomorrow is well worth the price of admission.


A Plain, Ordinary Cowboy (Uncommon Cowboys #5)


Since he was hunted because he is different, Deputy Micah Danvers has lived a plain, ordinary, boring life until he rescues mysterious Sasha at a country fair—only problem is, the sexy minx who has shifter Micah tied up in knots isn’t a woman, but all man.

He was hunted because he is different. Now Deputy Micah Danvers is ‘normal’ at all costs. He left behind the wounded boy he used to be and he’s dating a nice woman. He’s got a good job and a ramshackle cabin to fix up.

But when plain ordinary cowboy Micah rescues exotic Sasha from bullies at a local fair, it turns out Sash isn’t a woman like he thought. Unconventional Sash is not afraid to stand out—he thrives on it from his nights of dancing around a fire in the nude to the rare breed sheep he’s trying to rescue from extinction. Shifter Micah aches for Sash, but he’ll have to leave the shadows to claim a man who is unafraid of tempting the wolf.

Niki-O’s Down-Low on A Plain, Ordinary Cowboy: 5 Hearts + 5 Smolderingly Exotic Smooches

Micah and Sasha are one of those pairings for whom you hold your breath as they pass. There is in this paring something downright magical. Jan Irving evokes in Sasha a fierce vulnerability that is more finely drawn for the tension of those two opposing forces. Sasha is the true strength of this story. He glitters and burns like the rarest gem from the first laser-lace etching drawn with precise words and teasingly evoked emotions. Sasha is less a character and more an act of god. He’s a comet, and the story trails along in his wake, a brilliant flash of light across the night sky. This story is showier than any of those before in the series, filled with emotions and interactions as vivid as the dyes Sasha brews up out of smashed bugs from Mexico. I found myself constantly surprised and thrilled by the events unfolding—and I love when a story drags me along willy-nilly, barely leaving me time to peer about for flaws. I’m not sure that I would have found any even if Sasha had left me more than a moment to look. If I were forced to choose only one of the Uncommon Cowboys stories, this would be the one I took to a desert island with me. It is by far my favorite feel good story of them all, because Sasha by himself is magic, and Sasha with Micah is hot sexy magic. All in all, there is nothing either plain nor ordinary about this story.J


 A Cowboy in Ravenna (Uncommon Cowboys #6)


 Ranch foreman Trinity March has always protected the boss’s son, innocent young human Chace Davidson, but can Trin keep the dark creature inside him from finally claiming Chace?

Foreman Trinity March has always taken care of the boss's son, impulsive, passionate Chace Davidson. He knew Chace was his mate the moment he taught him to ride but he figures he's not good enough for Chace.

Chace aches for Trin but when he runs off to Italy to lose his embarrassing virginity Trin follows, just like always, under orders from Chace's father to 'straighten' Chace out. Good luck, since now that Shadow shifter Trin knows how much Chace aches for a lover, he just might take what he has always wanted.

Niki-O’s Down-Low on A Cowboy in Ravenna: 5 Hearts + 5 Blisteringly Bound Kisses

This story was beautiful. And hot. And full of surprising flashes of culture. And hot. Did I mention the hot? Jan Irving has done it again. Oh my, has she ever done it again. A Cowboy in Ravenna delivers all the incredibly hot shifter goodness that I’ve come to crave from the Uncommon Cowboys… and then shifter Trin March takes it to a whole new level. Again Ms. Irving’s finely honed wordsmith skills are on display. I found the writing seamless, a pure evocation of the emotions of the main two characters as well as of the sights and sounds of Italy. The differing weight of the air, the strange mix of the familiar and unfamiliar the incredible beauty of the places Trin and Chace visited… they weren’t described so much as Ms. Irving pulled me through time and space and set me in the center of them.

Added to the lush descriptions and authentic feeling dialogue between Chace and Trin is the burning spice of their mutual need for power exchange in their sexual relations. The buildup to sex, the sex itself, the reactions afterward… everything pushes the story forward flawlessly.

And oh, my, goodness. Did I mention that the story was hot?


Lonely Cowboy (Uncommon Cowboys #7)


Navy SEAL Simon Morrison came home broken. But quilter Tate Stevens is slowly healing him. If only Simon’s secret didn’t endanger them both.

Tate… I fell in love with a man I didn't understand. You know how that is? Simon Morrison has long silver blond hair in a ragged ponytail and blue eyes more alive than I've ever seen, like he's walked with death so everything else has burned away. He's a warrior who came back broken, who hides in the shadows. And there's something dangerous about him, but I didn't understand until the night I ran after him and they were waiting—the other wolves. They tore into me and I died. My name is Tate Stevens and I died but something keeps me here. I can't leave my warrior behind, no matter how much it hurts or how whatever it is I am becoming confuses me.

Simon… I came back from Afghanistan with one goal, to find a place to die. But slowly, watching Tate working on his art quilts, it got so it didn't hurt so much. I felt the colors coming back. He is my light. He is my heart. They tried to take him away from me while I screamed his name. And now he thinks he's a monster. He is so alone. I have to find a way to bring him back to his light…

Niki-O’s Down-Low on Lonely Cowboy: 5 Hearts + 5 Yearning Kisses

Simon is a character dear to me for every one of the friends and family members whom I have known to go off to war and never make it all the way home despite the presence of their physical selves. I found him so very real, so tangible and true to my own experiences as a soldier… his silences and dark fugues were so accurately depicted they made me weep. My bones still ache when I think of this story. The heart-rending gulf that carrying those black places war creates within one’s soul are natural creators of loneliness. It is no wonder Simon is alone, and very nearly unreachable. The way Tate is created, the passion that pours from him into the quilts he creates are one of the few things I can imagine reaching someone so terribly wounded by war… and look.

In Lonely Cowboy, Ms. Irving has created characters so viable they transcend the page, touched tropes so powerful they set fire to souls, and honed her words so finely they are left with a razor edge that cuts with beauty and with sorrow. Fearless, she does not hold back from the impossible, she does not shy away from the unlikely. Instead she bares the soles of her feet and the heart of her soul and plants both firmly in the rich soil of our imaginations, tends them with a warm regard for detail and a river’s worth of labor. Her toil however, is only evident in the overwhelmingly natural feel of her stories… she has worked, and worked, and worked again until they have ceased to be things worked and become instead organic, things grown from the rich land where her muses dwell. She carefully transplants them onto the page, and then you and I are able to reap the bounty she has taken such care to bring to us. 

As with all the other books in this series, Lonely Cowboy can be read alone, but I would strongly advise you to read the entire series in order, as doing so adds another layer of meaning to the stories.


Buy Link

No comments:

Post a Comment

Please be respectful of others with your comments. Hate comments will not be tolerated.