It might be a sham to his boss, but it’s all too real to him.
Administrative assistant Jonah Hollis has nurtured a hopeless crush on his boss, millionaire cattle rancher Lincoln Courtwright, ever since he started working for him. But hope is kindled when Linc and beautiful rodeo star Melissa Cutler break up just weeks before the biggest event of the Dallas social season, the Cattle Baron’s Ball, and Linc asks Jonah to accompany him in her place.
Is it all a ploy to make Melissa jealous? Can Jonah fit into Linc’s world? It takes some encouragement from his roommates and his best friend, Caylee, for Jonah to agree. Before long, Jonah dares to believe Linc might just feel something for him… until interfering family and a series of misunderstandings threaten his fragile dream of happiness.
The Dreamspun Desires series is full of sweet, a little sexy, and a little angsty books that hit you in the feels. The Cattle Baron’s Bogus Boyfriend is no exception to this rule. It has what so many of the old Harlequin romances had, a sweet virgin, and a strong sexy cowboy who means business.
There were a few misses in this book, chances at showing growth in the characters, and that did pull the overall rating down somewhat.
What I did enjoy though was that although there was the “evil step-mother”, there were glimpses into her caring loving nature. This was the same with all the characters. Even with the stress and anxiety that they had created amongst themselves, they showed that they cared about the people around them, often with the small things, such as Jonah ordering lunch for Linc, or Linc going out of his way to make sure that Jonah was safe and healthy, even when their misunderstandings drew them apart.
The HEA that these two fought for had a winding road through Caylee, but I honestly loved how they found that happy ending. It seemed so true to how I would have expected Jonah to react to something like that.
3.75 pieces of eye candy
Part of the fun of writing for me is creating secondary characters to help tell the story. The Cattle Baron’s Bogus Boyfriend is told from the point of view of Jonah Hollis, who has a secret crush on his boss, millionaire cattle rancher Lincoln Courtwright. Or a not-so-secret crush, at least to Jonah’s friends in Dallas. Secondary characters, in the form of his roommate Wes and their neighbors Aidan and Sammy, help to reveal information about Jonah without relying on long paragraphs of internal monologue or data dumps of backstory.
The person who knows Jonah best is his childhood friend Caylee Lynch, but Caylee is still back in their hometown of Oktaha, Oklahoma. Though she has an important role to play, we don’t meet her except in references from Jonah until almost halfway into the story. In the meantime, we get to know Jonah through his interactions with Linc at the office and with Wes, Sammy, and Aidan at home.
Jonah’s socializing with his friends shows us that though he’s lived in Dallas for over eighteen months, there’s still more than a bit of the farm boy left in him. Though he’s not the type to draw attention to himself, and he prefers to avoid conflict, he also isn’t a pushover and doesn’t hesitate to put his foot down when he has to. But Wes is a good enough friend that he won’t let Jonah get away with fooling himself about the depth of his feelings for Linc, even when he doesn’t want to admit them to himself.
In creating these characters, I gave them each their own personality and backstory, even if only a part of this makes its way into the novel. Wes is a foodie with aspirations to become a chef. He has a wicked sense of humor, a taste for witty T-shirts, and mixes a mean cocktail. He’s a devoted friend who seems happy to be single, but a part of him hopes for the same kind of relationship Jonah does. Aidan and Sammy are a committed couple but also a study in opposites. Sammy is a willowy, creative—sometimes flamboyant—vegetarian, while Aidan is a more practical, meat-and-potatoes-type guy who has to bring Sammy back down to earth at times. Not all of this may be explicitly revealed in the story, but defining them in my mind made them real people for me and informed their dialogue and actions in a more natural way.
Ideally, a well-crafted secondary character should leave the reader feeling they know him but also want to learn more about him (or her). Maybe that’s why spin-off stories are so popular!
“Are you just getting off work?” Wes asked. The bar was small enough that he could mix the drink order and still talk with Jonah. “What did that slave driver of a boss of yours have you doing this late?”
“Mr. Courtwright isn’t a slave driver!” Jonah was quick to protest. “He didn’t ask me to work late, and when he got out of his meeting, he told me I shouldn’t have stayed.” It’s not like he had anything more important to do, Jonah thought, except for the two nights a week he attended the business class he was taking at El Centro community college.
Wes walked the drink he’d been making to the other end of the bar and started mixing another before answering. “So why did you stay, then? I know you’ve got the hots for him, but if he was in a meeting, you didn’t even get to spend the time with him.”
Jonah flushed, but before he could issue a denial, Wes wagged a finger at him.
“And don’t try to tell me you don’t have the hots for him. I’ve spent too many nights listening to ‘Mr. Courtwright said this’ and ‘Mr. Courtwright did that.’ I like the guy I work for too, but I don’t talk about him constantly.”
“It doesn’t matter how hot he is,” Jonah muttered. “He’s straight. I stayed late to order gifts for his girlfriend to make up for him missing dinner with her because he was working late.”
“You need to forget about him and come out with Aidan and Sammy and me tomorrow night instead,” Wes declared, setting the drink he’d been mixing in front of Jonah. “Try that and tell me what you think.”
“You know I’m not much of a drinker,” Jonah said. “I don’t really like the taste of alcohol.”
“That’s why you’re the perfect taste-tester,” Wes replied. “If you like it, I know I’ve got a winner.”
Jonah picked up the glass of icy liquid and sniffed it. He could smell citrus and a hint of something else, though he couldn’t tell what it was. “What’s in it?”
“I’ve been experimenting with making some vodka infusions. That one’s basil with lime juice and a bit of grapefruit juice, topped off with sparkling water. What do you think?”
Jonah took a small sip and then a larger one. “I like it. It’s tart and refreshing, especially on a hot night like this.”
“Great! If Mr. Stefanotis likes it, maybe he’ll put it on the menu.” Wes grinned. “It’s not working in the kitchen, but it’s a start.”
Jonah grinned back. Wes Paterson didn’t look like anyone’s idea of a traditional chef. His spiked hair was currently dyed a deep blue, though he changed its color every month or so—Jonah didn’t think he’d seen its natural color in the year and a half they’d lived together. He was wearing a colorful flowered shirt that didn’t hide the tattoos on his arms, and both ears and an eyebrow sported piercings. Despite his appearance, he was the best cook Jonah knew, even better than his mother, which was saying something. He was also the kindest person Jonah knew, except maybe for his best friend, Caylee, back in Oktaha. Not many people would take a total stranger under his wing the way Wes had when Jonah first arrived in Dallas.
“So what’s good for dinner tonight?” Jonah asked, turning to look at the blackboard near the front door that was the restaurant’s only menu. While a few offerings, like the three-pepper mac and cheese and the fried chicken, were mainstays, the rest of the menu depended on what produce was fresh and what Manny, the head cook, felt like making that day.
“Aidan raved about the brisket tacos, and Sammy had the mushroom quinoa risotto.” Aidan Jacobs and Samuel Tanner lived in the townhouse that made up the other half of the building he and Wes shared, though the four of them were in and out of each other’s space so much they might as well have all been living together.
“Are they here? I didn’t see them at a table when I came in.”
“They went to do some shopping, but they said they’d be back before closing time.”
Jonah decided on the fried green tomato BLT on whole-grain toast from Lembas Bakery, a local shop owned by a lesbian couple who made amazing breads and pastries. He was just finishing up the last of the homemade potato chips that came with the sandwich when Aidan and Sammy arrived, carrying bags from Urban Vintage, a clothing store down the street.
“Jonah!” Sammy said loudly. “Tell me you did not come here straight from work. You’re giving gay men a bad name, dressed like that.”
“What’s wrong with the way I’m dressed?” Jonah asked. He didn’t think his khakis and pale blue dress shirt looked bad, though maybe they’d gotten a little wrinkled between the long day and the heat.
“Have we taught you nothing, child?” Sammy waved a hand to indicate his and Aidan’s attire. Jonah thought the rich purple V-neck Sammy wore contrasted beautifully with his dark skin, while Aidan’s green-and-white paisley accented his pale complexion and red hair, even though neither of them were shirts he’d be comfortable wearing. “It’s too late to take you shopping now, but I’m coming to look through your closet before we go clubbing tomorrow night. If we can’t find anything fit to be seen with you in, you can borrow something from one of us.”
“I wouldn’t fit in anything of yours,” Jonah pointed out. He certainly wasn’t heavy, but Sammy was half a head taller and at least twenty pounds lighter than he was, while Aidan was built like the construction worker he was.
“Sure you would,” Aidan said. “They just wouldn’t hang on you the way most of your shirts do. You’ve got a good build. You ought to show it off.”
Tight-fitting shirts weren’t very practical for working on a farm, but if Jonah said that, he knew they’d just remind him he didn’t live on a farm anymore. And he didn’t have to dress to hide the fact that he was gay anymore either. But that didn’t make him any more eager to wear clinging shirts and skintight jeans to attract attention in the clubs Sammy and Aidan wanted to take him to. “Maybe I’ll just skip tomorrow night.”
“Absolutely not!” Wes interjected. “You deserve a night out after working late today. And besides, the best way to get over your crush on your boss—your straight boss, as you pointed out to me yourself—is to find someone who is interested in you.”
Growing up in Chicago, Nicki Bennett spent every Saturday at the central library, losing herself in the world of books. A voracious reader, she eventually found it difficult to find enough of the kind of stories she liked to read and decided to start writing them herself.
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Nicki has generously offered to giveaway an e-book copy of The Cattle Baron’s Bogus Boyfriend or any of my backlist titles to one randomly selected comment to this post. So, tell us what you like best about cowboy stories.