Title: Somebody to Love
Author: Merry Farmer
Rating: 4/5 Smooches
For Phineas Bell, love has not only been out of reach, it has been impossible. In a world where men who love other men are anathema, he has poured his love into his work, his town, and the friends who accept him as family. But when a handsome new lodger takes over his home and his heart, breaking all his careful rules, Phin must choose between playing it safe and letting love in.
War hero Elliott Tucker is the answer to Cold Springs’s prayers for a sheriff worth his salt. But with every single woman in town throwing themselves at him, Elliott has eyes for only one person: Phin. The sparks are hot between then, but in spite of Elliott’s best efforts, Phin’s heart proves the toughest nut to crack. A love that starts with fire threatens to burn them both…
… until a shocking abduction throws Phin and Elliott together on the trail of ruthless kidnappers. Will their efforts to save a child wrench them apart or will it prove that at last they’ve found somebody to love?
He [Elliot] was supposed to be the seducer. He was supposed to be the one to set the tone, determine the pace, and take what he wanted. At the moment, all he wanted to do was fall to his knees and give Phineas Bell everything he had, forever.
Somebody to Love is the sixth book in the Montana Romance series by Merry Farmer. As Farmer noted in a recent interview, “the series is set in the late 1890s. The first book in the series, Our Little Secrets, takes place in 1895 and each successive book is set between then and 1900.” Somebody to Love takes place at the turn of the century: The Industrial Revolution is in full swing, technology is changing, and admitting to being a homosexual could get you killed.
Sheriff Elliot Tucker knows how homosexuals are looked down on in society, from experience. He has built a fortress around himself to hide that part of him. Thanks to the classification of being a war hero, Elliot believes that he is safe from people’s prejudices. To the world, he presents the façade of a stereotypical alpha male. He is vain, cocky and very full of himself.
A veteran of Teddy Roosevelt’s Roughriders, Elliot has put his career of being a door-to-door salesman long behind him when he swaggers into Cold Springs as the new sheriff. He is hell bent on being in control and his intimidating and attractive physique seems to demand respect, as well as some head turns. He has no intention of revealing his innermost secrets and desires. All bets are off though when he meets mild-mannered banker Phineas Bell.
A locked door separated the lobby from the main section of the bank. Phin managed to unlock it with Eloise still in his arms, then stood back to let Christian through.
A second man came with him. Phin had never seen him before. He was tall with broad shoulders and dark, curly hair. He carried himself with palpable confidence that shone through in his bright, dark eyes. A few of the ladies in the lobby stared at him through the open door whispering behind their hands. Yes, Phin definitely would have noticed this man.
Before Christian could introduce him, the man stepped closer to hold out his hand with a warm smile. “Elliott Tucker, at your service.”
Phin’s heart thumped against his ribs at that smile, at the glittering mischief in the man’s eyes, at the scent of sandalwood and musk. He felt the tell-tale rush of blood to places generally ignored, delicious and dangerous.
Of course Elliot realizes Phin and he have similar leanings right away. However, when Phin confesses to liking men, Elliot is floored. He has never met anyone as open and honest as Phin, and that makes Elliot rethink his plan of immediately seducing the banker. Elliot decides to help Phin go back into the closet and redeem his reputation in the eyes of the townspeople. He seems to assume that Phin will be grateful for his help and jump into bed with him. Not only do things not go as planned, but they skyrocket out of control quickly and very humorously.
Elliot renting a room from Phin is a convenient detail that seems to cement the lawman’s plans, but readers quickly see the hazardous potential for everyone involved.
He slid closer, thumping Phin’s back and leaving his arm draped around his shoulder like they were old friends. Phin’s skin prickled with hope even as his mind rebelled. He kept his expression in the perfect mask of neighborly contentment, smiling from Christian to Michael. Christian looked as pleased as a picnic. Michael raised one eyebrow over his glasses. At least Phin wasn’t the only one who saw the potential train wreck on the horizon.
It is difficult not to smile when meeting Phin, especially when he is engaged in conversation with his niece Ellie. Phin is a gentle man, who has a depth and compassion to him that is slowly revealed to both readers and Elliot. Phin’s honesty is both a positive attribute and a fault. Family and friends are important to Phin as is being honest. He does not hide who he is from the townspeople, and he does not use people as cloaks, unlike Elliot. Although the townspeople do taunt Phin, they also seem to afford him respect, which is a bit lost to Elliot at the beginning of the book.
Phin is not unaffected when he meets Elliot. There seems to be an instant attraction there, but, of course, Phin does not want to reveal his feelings. He is convinced Elliot would be appalled, and Phin, in turn, would be scandalized.
There was absolutely no good reason whatsoever for Phin to read anything more into the introduction to Sheriff Elliott Tucker than what was there. The man was outgoing, friendly, bold, and intelligent—qualities that any competent town sheriff should have. He should be swimming with joy that they’d finally found someone worthy of the position.
There was no reason for him to have completely lost all powers of concentration for the afternoon or to be suddenly conscious of parts of his body he’d largely ignored either.
But the words in his newspapers had become so much blur in the hour since Elliott Tucker had stood in his office and shook his hand, and his blood seemed to have developed a will of its own.
His skin was flushed and warm. His palm still tingled where Elliott’s fingers had brushed it. He stared at it, wondering if it had all been a trick of his imagination, a result of denying his basic urges for so long. It’d been years, decades since he’d been with a man, but he’d always considered a disciplined regimen of redirected thoughts and self-gratification to be enough to pay Nature’s toll. The thought that it wasn’t, that the sight of one well-built, smooth-talking stranger walking into his office and smiling could dredge up every urge he’d deliberately put aside, was disconcerting, to say the least.
The fact that this story is set in 1900 in a small, western town adds intrigue and charm to the characters and the plot. Farmer has written an engaging story that draws the reader in from the beginning. The characters in the book are multi-dimensional, and even without having read any other books in the series, readers will appreciate the charisma of these characters and their connection to each other.
Both the romance and mystery of this story vie for center stage in the plot: corruption, kidnapping, criminal enterprise, a dramatic fire and a well-timed bar brawl all have the power to keep readers on the edge of their seats. Despite the mysterious sisters and their nefarious plot, this story is charming in an old western movie way. It is interesting that Farmer has used women as the villains in this story. Although that seems a bit odd for the time period, it fits with the comments the characters make about the people at the mining company being crafty.
Of course, when Elliot and Phin finally fall into each other for a first kiss, the heat is palpable.
He closed his eyes and pressed his forehead against Elliott’s neck. Five seconds. Just five seconds of falling apart, then he would pull himself back together, stand tall, and do what he needed to do to get to the bottom of things. At least now he knew what he was up against, and that he had an ally in his sheriff.
He drew in a breath and lifted his head. Before he could even meet Elliott’s eyes,
Elliott clasped the sides of his face and drew him close for a kiss. Their lips met and a jolt shot straight through Phin’s gut. Elliott was soft at first, drawing out the brush of their mingled breath, the tenderness. After a heartbeat of hesitation, he pressed closer, slanting his mouth over Phin’s and sucking on his bottom lip. He drew back and met Phin’s eyes. Far more than gentle concern lit their depths.
“I thought you might need that,” he said, breath ragged and eyelids lowered with desire. “I hate seeing you in distress.”
Words didn’t seem right. Phin leaned into him, reaching out and returning the first kiss with a desperation that rose from the center of his soul. He opened his mouth against Elliott’s, gasping when Elliott let him in. The taste of him was solid and sensual. He closed his arms around Elliott, digging his fingertips into the corded muscles of his back and pulling him closer. Elliott kissed him with a powerful need, like a dam breaking, his tongue sliding along Phin’s.
After years of chastity, Phin met him passion for passion, exploring, tasting, feeling. He couldn’t get enough of Elliott’s mouth. The hard and soft of it thrilled him, the intimacy of tongues and lips and teeth searching for each other heated the blood in his veins.
Farmer’s prose are beautiful and descriptive. The town of Cold Springs is welcoming and aptly a direct contrast to the barrenness represented by the mining town of Anaconda. Farmer uses irony, symbolism and humor in an appealing fashion within the pages of this story. The dialogue works well in this story and helps deepen both the plot and characters, even though it may not be one hundred percent authentic for the time period.
Thank you to Merry Farmer for providing a review copy of this title in exchange for my honest opinion.