Ever since his discharge from the military, injured veteran Ashton Covert has been running his family ranch—and running himself into the ground to prove he still can. Ben Malton knows about running too. When he takes refuge in Ashton’s barn after an accident in a Wyoming blizzard, he’s thinking only of survival and escaping his abusive criminal ex, Dallas. Ashton has never met a responsibility he wouldn’t try to shoulder. When he finds Ben half-frozen, he takes it upon himself to help. But deadly trouble follows Ben wherever he goes. He needs to continue on, except it may already be too late. Something about Ben makes Ashton feel whole again. But before they can ride into the sunset together, they need to put an end to Dallas’s threats. Ben can make a stand, with Ashton’s help—only it turns out the real danger could be much closer to home.
The story starts out promising with the strong cowboy with a protective streak who is immediately touched by the misfortune of a mysterious city boy on the run from his dangerous ex. Ashton is there to help Ben and is willing to keep him safe from the first, even when that means bringing danger upon himself and his friends. This felt a bit rushed for me. I’d have liked them to have had more time to form a connection to justify Ashton jumping in so quickly as Ben’s selfless hero. As they prepare to face Dallas, Ben’s crime boss ex, they grow closer and start to fall for each other. Ben’s background story was left too vague, and I never felt truly convinced of his dire situation over the years nor his supposed gullibility. And so I couldn’t really get behind the romantic plot between Ben and Ashton. They both also could have been drawn with a little more nuance and depth. These MC’s that have known pain and disappointment, which affords the author plenty of opportunity for character growth, but Ben and Ashton still seem too much like formulaic stereotypes, and their struggles sometimes veered dangerously close to self-absorbed ‘whiny’ territory. There are several secondary characters in the story to help create a world around our two MC’s, both to give that sense of finding family and to increase the suspense and dangerous vibes through Dallas and his goons. The first worked out well, but the latter fell a little flat, mostly because Dallas is a bit of a letdown as a villain. The author did have some surprises up his sleeve as the criminal aspect of the plot thickened, which was a nice plus.
Number of stars out of 5: 3