Review – My Heartache Cowboy (The Cowboys #2) by Z.A. Maxfield

My Heartache Cowboy cover image
Publisher: Intermix
Publish Date: Out now
How I got this book: ARC from the publisher via Netgalley

Can love conquer all?

Jimmy Rafferty and Eddie Molina go way back at the J-Bar ranch. They’ve worked together, bunked together, camped out, and drank together.

So how has Jimmy failed to notice that Eddie is gay? Eddie has not failed to notice that his friend has a serious drinking problem, and he’s determined to help Jimmy kick the booze cold turkey.

Taking him up to a snowbound cabin to detox, Eddie is confronted with Jimmy’s fierce denial. But the pains of withdrawal are nothing for Jimmy compared with the heartache of denying his true feelings and his deep longing…for the one man who cares for him more than anyone else on earth.
This blurb came from the author’s website.

Last September I read a story called My Cowboy Lover and totally fell for the characters. While two people found love, another realized his best friend had a serious alcohol problem and was capable of verbally harassing other people based on their orientation. Eddie, regardless of his feelings towards Jimmy, felt out of their years of friendship he owed Jimmy a chance to sober up so he could find a new job if necessary. Jimmy didn’t believe he had a problem with drinking nor did he thing that anything he said was mean, it was just a joke and no feelings should have been hurt. I couldn’t wait to see how these two men were going to work through their issues.

I was surprised by this story. It contained some elements I expected, but Maxfield added a surprisingly important supporting character whose inclusion altered the entire flavor of the story. Jimmy and Eddie had gone from what appeared to be a close friendship to a strained atmosphere as each realized they really hadn’t known the other. Jimmy was shocked to find out Eddie was gay, his comments were offensive, and the people around him thought he had a problem with alcohol. Eddie was upset to see what his friend was becoming and saying as his drinking increased. He was determined to give Jimmy a chance at finding a new job even if it meant costing their friendship. Then there was Eddie’s long time friend and fairly regular lover, Don. Don was an older man, a doctor and a recovering alcoholic. He seemed to be both the voice of reason/experience and a source of tension. While I liked certain aspects that he brought, I wasn’t quite comfortable with other aspects.

Jimmy’s journey from alcoholism was pretty much what I expected. He became sober and went through withdrawal because of forced isolation by Eddie. Jimmy experienced bouts of anger, resentment, depression, and dependency. Some of them took a higher toll on his friendship with Eddie than others. While things seemed to be going well I kept waiting for the other shoe to drop because for a good portion of the story Jimmy really didn’t believe he had a problem. Until he believed he had a problem and wanted to change for himself I felt there was a good chance he would start drinking again when given the chance.

Eddie was even more complex than I expected. Yes, he wanted Jimmy to have a fighting chance at finding a new job if necessary and he cared about Jimmy as more than a friend. What I found out while reading is that Eddie had a negative history involving people he loved and alcohol so Jimmy’s increasingly self-destructive ways were triggering all sorts of memories and fears. As a result I think Eddie reacted strongly in some situations and also needed a buffer for his emotions, hence Don’s deeper involvement.

Don had a complicated life. He and Eddie knew what they were to each other. He was a recovering alcoholic who understood a lot of what Jimmy was experiencing. I loved how he shared his past with Jimmy, tried to get him to see things from Eddie’s point of view, and cautioned him about becoming too dependent on Eddie. However, I had an issue with how he instigated sexual contact with Jimmy. Everything was consensual and pretty smokin’ hot but I felt that Jimmy wasn’t in the right mindset to really know what he wanted or how it would affect his life. It was obvious Don cared for Eddie and wanted him to be happy. I also felt he would have been extremely happy to have both Eddie and Jimmy as regular partners in his life but he didn’t really make the effort. In essence I felt bad for him because he was left out of the relationship but I wasn’t happy that he initiated the relationship to begin with.

My Heartache Cowboy left me with mixed feelings. I liked how Jimmy had to work to prove himself to Eddie towards the end of the story. I felt the way Jimmy wanted Eddie’s presence around to relax and feel comfortable was indicative of how he felt long before he admitted having feelings. The sex scenes between the men with or without Don were very intense I just wish I had felt better about Don’s inclusion given Jimmy’s state of mind. Don was crucial in Jimmy’s journey but I also thought his wisdom was negated in a sense by the complicated tangle of the relationship, level of emotional connection, and past history with alcohol among the three men. As a result of my mixed feelings I didn’t enjoy this installment as much as I did My Cowboy Heart.

I give My Heartache Cowboy a C.

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