I thought this review was going to be an exercise in amusing myself because the Cannonball Read shares a hashtag (#CBR7) with a tobacco free chew company that targets bull riders. I have a lot of books on my Kindle that I picked up because they were free or super cheap and I was poor and super bored. When I noticed who we were sharing a hashtag with, I remembered that I had a series of contemporary western romance erotica novels by Lorelei James on my Kindle and I was sure one of them centered on bull riding as a sport. I thought it would be a fun, snarky review. There’s not as much room for snark, though the male protagonist would be a worthy target. It is a much better book than I remembered.
There are a whole bunch of books in Lorelei James’ Rough Riders series. They center on the romantic and erotic adventures of the extended McKay family of Montana. What I remember about the series as a whole is that there are a lot of characters with names starting with a C or K, a lot of g’s get dropped from the ends of verbs, the men are all commanding in the bed room, the word “nekkid” is used instead of “naked,” and I rolled my eyes a lot. If you are looking for some romantic erotica that is better written than Fifty Shades of Grey, these would work. If you can handle jumping into the middle of a series, I would recommend doing so. The first few books are not great and I’m not sure at what point they start getting better, but they do.
So Chasin’ Eight. Chase McKay has sold his share of the family ranching interest to his brothers and is a big league professional bull rider. He has just been suspended from competition because he has become better known for his shenanigans than his riding. Chase is a womanizing douche. Ava Cooper is B list actress whose boyfriend has just come out of the closet and told the world she knew she was bearding – she didn’t. They end up in the same place when they run away to hide and lick their wounds. Chase has sworn off women for a month and Ava is looking for a fling to help her regain her sexual confidence. It doesn’t sound like a very promising beginning, does it? The way the protagonists are thrown together and briefly torn apart near the end made my eyes roll, as they did a few times in the middle, too.
The meat of the book between the contrived meeting and the contrived parting is pretty solid. James has created reasonably three dimensional characters and a grounded world around them. Chase and Ava are both at a moment of existential crisis, so once they meet, their reasons for spending time together make logical sense. Chase needs to get back to basics, and Ava needs to explore something different. They decide to travel the small town summer rodeo circuit under assumed names so that Chase can work on his bull riding without scrutiny. They talk, tease, fuck, and get to know each other and themselves. They get to know other people on the circuit, too and the world of small time rodeo really comes alive.
James obviously knows and loves the ranching and rodeo world of Wyoming, Montana, and Nebraska. She balances the romance of The West with the hard work of living in those wide open spaces. She doesn’t shy away from the dangerousness of the sport of bull riding either. Bull riding is an uber macho sport in which a person gets on a pissed off bull and tries to stay on for 8 seconds and then get off and away without being killed by the bull. I think it’s a stupid sport, but I think most sports are stupid so I’m way outside the target audience. James’ characters communicate their passion for the sport in a way that helps me understand the attraction of riding a bull, but I still cannot understand enjoying watching someone ride a bull. People can be badly hurt or killed. To me it’s like watching car wrecks for fun, someone is getting hurt, it’s a matter of how badly. James is a good enough story teller that I was able to put my distaste for the sport aside and care about the characters’ investment in bull riding. For an erotic romance, Chasin’ Eight spends a lot of time on the issue of safety helmets in bull riding. This is one of the strengths of the book. Helmets are optional in professional bull riding, but you will still see more cowboy hats than helmets with face guards. James works the idea of wearing a helmet in to her male protagonist’s personal growth, and the book is better for it.
Chase McKay is never going to be my dream man. He is the weakest element in the book. He lost me the first time he called a woman trying to do her job “sugar tits.” Though he improves throughout the book, he is sulky and less than gracious when Ava shows him her world, throws tantrums, and as I said, is kind of a douche. That said, the erotic part of the romance is hot and steamy if macho, dominant men are your thing. My mileage on that varies. The romance part wasn’t quite my bag, as Chase wasn’t my kind of guy. Still, it was a better book than I remembered, with solid world building and well drawn characters. I would not judge you if chose to buy this book.