Z A Maxfield is one of my favourite romance writers. She manages something that so many don’t – believability. Her work just rings so true, so genuine, so authentic that it’s impossible not to love it, especially since it’s so well-written, above and beyond most romances.
My Cowboy Freedom is the fifth book in her Cowboys series. The first two were set around the J-Bar Ranch (I liked the first book, My Cowboy Heart, but the supporting characters from that book who really irritated me, got their own book in My Heartache Cowboy which I skipped) whilst the remaining three are set around the Rocking C Ranch.
I haven’t (yet) read the third book, My Cowboy Homecoming, although I will. The first book in this series that I read was the fourth book, My Cowboy Promises, which I loved. I will say that although you could read My Cowboy Freedom without having read Homecoming or Promises, it would definitely benefit have read them, at the very least Promises whose characters feature heavily (props to ZAM for having one of my favourite characters steal one of the chapters with his scene! Declan and The Joy of Gay Sex!).
Enough preamble. Freedom tells the story of Sky(ler) who after eight years in prison has gotten a job at the Rocking C, following in the footsteps of his cowboy Daddy. He’s been given a few grand by his prison lover, ‘Nando, who looms large throughout this book, having provided so much security and affection for Sky throughout the years, something he is now bereft of on the outside world.
Rock is a big guy, but he was hit by lightning and now has seizures and a watch dog called Maisie (and ZAM characterises her so well, I felt like giving her a Best Supporting Actor Oscar). His family are super-religious – touring tv pastor religious – and they’re not happy with him being gay, at all. Given his special needs, since being hit by lightning, he’s treated like a child by everyone at the Rocking C and by his parents. He has little autonomy and despite his boss Sterling, a vocal homophobe, knowing he’s gay, he’s not allowed to be how he is at all. He is trapped by his parents’ wishes and by his condition, despite being in his twenties and a fully-grown man.
This book is, in a lot of ways, about how other people see you, and what that can do to people’s impressions of you; Sky, the murderous ex-con and Rock, the ‘retard’ that was hit by lightning, as one character calls him in the book. As such, Sky and Rock’s romance are against all the odds, and is beautiful, tender and heartfelt. It’s a slow burn that when it gets together throws certain things on its head (for example, Rock, the guy who has seizures and needs a dog being, well, Sky’s Rock, the warm pair of arms around him).
A great, great supporting cast with welcome returns for Andi, Ryder and Dr. Declan from Promises. I wonder if there will be any more books in this series, as this feels like a concrete and definitive end to the story of the Rocking C. Perhaps, if there’s a book six, we will return to the J-Bar, or go to another ranch [Update: I’ve just noticed that Andi is getting her own book next year, an m/f romance that is billed the start of a new series] . Either way, Sky and Rock were the most beautiful romance out the five books, written with a depth and heart rare in the field of romance. Here’s to ZAM and her cowboys!