I like romance and boys loving boys in my books.
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"Kyle" is the first book in a new series called Legacy Ranch.
This is a well-written hurt/comfort/healing romance with two likable young men cast as the MCs, both of whom have seen some terrible stuff in their relatively young lives. At 22, Jason has lived on the streets for a while, selling himself to survive. He's been trying to save some money to start a new life, but those plans come to a screeching halt early on in this book. He's taken to a halfway house of sorts, and then ends up on the ranch owned by Jack and Riley from the Texas series.
This is where he meets Kyle, 26, whose horrific sexual abuse by another rancher still features prominently in his nightmares. Kyle keeps mostly to himself and only interacts with the rest of the people on the ranch when he absolutely has to. He's been tasked with building the barn and housing for Legacy Ranch, a place intended to give hope to young men such as Kyle and Jason.
I expected the romance to be super slow burn, and got what I expected. Neither Jason nor Kyle are emotionally healthy enough to embark on a relationship, and at first, the two aren't more than co-workers. But sleeping in a barn in tents, surrounded by horses, and the physical labor of building a new house for Jack's plans for Legacy Ranch begins their bond.
Both men have their own demons to slay, and there are plenty of missteps on their road to recovery and moving into the future. Trust is difficult, obviously, considering that those people you trusted the most let you down in a terrible way. Kyle's past abuse has manifested itself in severe anxiety around other men, which is evident when he looks at other men by quickly calculating their threat level, and he'd rather be left alone. He also has some mood swings, some of which are caused by fear and some by guilt.
Jason doesn't have the same hang-ups as Kyle, but he's basically given up on life and ever finding love. He's standoffish, aloof, and doesn't have any trust in anyone doing anything for him out of the goodness of their hearts.
What I really liked in this story was the realistic development of the romance between Kyle and Jason, including the physical contact they have with each other. The author did a great job letting them move at their own pace, and careful of each other's triggers. There is no immediate roll in the hay here. However, I would have liked to see a bit more realistic healing for them both, something that involved professional help, because I have a hard time believing, in Kyle's case, that someone so horribly abused would be magically healed by finding love. The two men have many conversations, and they do help each other work through the emotional and psychological scars of their pasts.
Using horses as therapy isn't far-fetched at all, and I liked that the author gave both Jason and Kyle a horse of their own to care for, even if Jason is initially a bit reluctant and scared of them. There are many moments in which it's thanks to the horses that the two make progress. As with many hurt/comfort/healing stories, it's often two steps forward, one step back, but they do make it in the end. This is a romance after all.
I haven't read the Texas series, but I didn't have any trouble with discerning characters that appear in this book from that series. This can certainly be read as a standalone novel.
** I received a free copy of this book from Signal Boost Promotions. A positive review was not promised in return. **