This title may be purchased from Amazon
When David Garcia’s family suffers a loss, he comes back to New Mexico to help, leaving his life in Austin behind. He knows he has to make the best of it, so he uses his skills as a teacher to set up a daycare business on his parents’ ranch and start helping out local friends and family who need a babysitter now and then. It’s the perfect job for someone who also needs to run the small family ranch and make money to keep it afloat.
When rodeo cowboy Wiley Marquart decides to start a family, he sure doesn’t expect the barrel racer he made a deal with to up and leave him high and dry in New Mexico with both of his girls and nothing but a check once a month. He loves his kids, but starting a ranch from the ground up is tough, and he needs someone to watch the girls when he has to work the back forty or deliver a trained horse. So when he meets David, the relief if immediate. And it doesn’t hurt that after a false start or two, he likes the guy.
Between navigating family pitfalls, work disasters, and two ranches, David and Wiley start to forge a friendship, and then a lot more. But can they find a way to mesh their lives without dropping any of the balls they’re juggling, or are they destined for disaster?
B.A. Tortuga is a prolific author of contemporary m/m romance, but I’ve never read anything of hers before, so when Back in the Saddle came up for review, I decided it was time to give her a try. I mean, hot cowboys, single dads… what’s not to love? Unfortunately, quite a bit.
The plot, such as it is, is a simple one. Teacher David Garcia leaves his life in Austin to go home to the family ranch in New Mexico after his brother Andy is killed in the line of duty and his father has a heart attack. He loves his job teaching at a school for kids on the autistic spectrum and his life there, but doesn’t think twice about heading home – temporarily, he thinks – to help out.
Former rodeo rider Wiley Marquart is left – almost literally – holding the baby when his ex-wife dumps their three-year-old twin girls on him without notice and heads off on the road with her country-singer girlfriend. He adores Liberty and Sierra, but being abruptly left with sole custody isn’t what he and Ash agreed; they were friends who acted as each other’s beards on the conservative rodeo circuit, and as they both wanted kids, Wiley wanted to settle down on a ranch, so they decided to get married and co-parent. But now Ash has upended his life – how is he supposed to do everything that needs doing around the ranch while being good father to two kids under five?
As luck would have it, Wiley’s nearest neighbour has started up a daycare facility from his parents’ ranch, and he comes highly recommended, so Wiley decides to give it a try the next time he needs to be kid-free to run some errands. The girls take to David right away and Wiley is not long behind; friendship and mutual attraction blossom, David is the bestest most dedicated childcarer to ever childcare (he’s practically perfect in every way!) Wiley and his girls are soon spending more time at the Garcia place than their own and… it’s a romance, you know where it’s going.
The story is pleasant enough but it doesn’t bring anything new to the table. Wiley and David are bland and barely two-dimensional, and everybody is so very earnest – every scene is described down to the last detail, whether it’s making breakfast or making the bed; the dialogue feels completely unnatural and everything is explained in great detail, and the repetition of phrases like “You rock!” whenever someone does something good and “Yum” whenever food is discussed stick out like sore thumbs. I don’t know anyone – let alone two grown men – who would say “Yum” about food unless they were taking the piss. And as for the “yummy” when one of them is looking at the cock he’s about to suck for the first time… I just about stopped myself from snorting tea out of my nose.
And then there is the kids’ dialogue. This is a lesson in how not to write three-year-olds talking, from the “pweeeeease” to the “mitter” (mister), using “her” instead of “she” (“her coming? “Her said…”) to ridiculous phrasing like “You am happy”, “Mitter luffs you!” Ugh. They sound like no three-year-old I’ve ever encountered.
The one or two potentially interesting things about the plot are never developed. David’s grief over his brother’s death is not explored and nor is his sense that his parents would have preferred Andy over him, because Andy was the (straight) one with kids who was always intended to inherit the ranch and keep it in the family. David’s parents clearly love him and they’re close, but when they decide, pretty much on the spur of the moment, to buy an RV and go travelling because they want to escape the painful memories (about Andy) associated with the house, ON THE VERY DAY THAT DAVID HAS AN ACCIDENT AND BREAKS HIS ARM, I was appalled at their selfishness. They just bugger off, leaving him to run his daycare business and the ranch on his own when he’s injured and on pain medication! WTF?? What sort of caring person does that? Okay, so Wiley is on hand to help out, but he’s working his own place as well, and basically ends up doing the work of two, and I couldn’t believe they didn’t even consider delaying their departure, or at least offer to wait until David was feeling better. And then, towards the end, they declare they’re giving up the ranch for good and leaving it to David with the proviso that they can stay there when they need to, and not once do they ever ask David what he wants. Again – WTF? Lucky for them David has fallen for Wiley and they’ve decided they want to make a home and family there, but they didn’t know that was on the cards when they made their plans.
Back in the Saddle was disappointing to say the least. There’s no romantic chemistry between David and Wiley, all the characters are unmemorable, the kids are unbelievably twee and the whole thing is dull and overwritten. I don’t think I’ll be rushing to read anything else by this author.