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A world shattered. A hope kindled. A love ignited.
When life drowns you in lemons, to hell with making lemonade. I wanted to burn the whole world. But eighteen months from the day my life was torn apart, I’m tired of the anger. Tired of the nightmares. Tired of putting one foot in front of the other just trying to survive.
Three months on a high country sheep station in the middle of nowhere is exactly the reboot I need. A chance to break free. To breathe again. To find a way forward. I put my entire life on hold and head south to Mackenzie Country.
But falling for the captivating young station boss was never part of the plan. Holden Miller might be smart and sexy and push all of my dusty buttons, but we come from two different worlds. I’m not looking for a relationship. I’m not interested in love. I’m done with all that.
But Holden doesn’t care about my rules. Nestled safely in the arms of the spectacular Southern Alps, on an isolated sheep farm at the top of the world, Holden begins knitting my battered heart together one careful stitch at a time. And with every pass of the thread, every braid of the river on our doorstep, I catch a tantalising glimpse of something I’d almost given up on.
Happiness, and maybe even love.
If I have the courage to reach out and grab them.
“Hang on, Tuck.” I lowered the phone from my ear and squinted at the dusty blue Hilux pulling in at the kerb. It had Miller Station stamped on its door, windows rolled down, and music blaring.
The driver killed the volume, pushed his sunglasses up his nose, and leaned across the passenger seat to speak through the window. “Are you Gil Everton?”
“Yep.” I raised a tentative hand in greeting.
“Cool. I’m Holden Miller. Let’s get you on board.” His full mouth curved up in a high-wattage smile that made my stomach do a weird-arse, vaguely familiar flip.
Oh boy. Attraction. Just freaking dandy. Eighteen months with my libido on military-grade lockdown, and it chose that moment to wake up and get with the program. Not only that, but I already knew Holden was gay from my conversations with Emily. Go fucking figure. It was a wrinkle I sure as hell didn’t need in my reboot plan. I hadn’t been laid since Callie’s death and I wasn’t looking to change that state of affairs anytime soon even if I had been able to summon any interest, which I hadn’t . . . for a while. So, yeah, there was that. Which was why my reaction to any man was . . . surprising.
“Gil, are you still there?” Tuck called through the phone as Holden disappeared back into the cab and the driver’s door opened.
I raised the phone to my ear again. “Yeah, but I’m gonna have to—” I stopped abruptly as a ruggedly handsome dark-haired beauty with a mass of lazy brown waves bouncing around his ears emerged from the Hilux. And since I was a hot mess but not dead, I drew in a sharp breath and whispered, “Wow.”
“What?” Tucker interrupted my gawping. “What wow? Gil?”
I cleared my throat and mumbled. “Nothing. I’ll call you in a day or two. Say hi to Gail and the kids for me.”
“They don’t like you either.”
I laughed. “They love me.”
“Fuck it. You’re right.”
“Wait, Gil. Gil!”
I hung up on Tuck’s protest and shot to my feet, by which time Holden had circled to the back of the Hilux and was busy opening the hatch. It gave me a few seconds to appreciate the way his dusty jeans hugged a pretty spectacular arse, and an equally dusty black T-shirt showed off lean muscular arms sporting a golden tan.
Holden caught my eye and that broad smile widened, no doubt because I was standing there staring at him like a total idiot. “First off, let’s exchange numbers,” he said. “I think you only have Mum’s. I tried to call to say I was running late, but whatever I had in my phone didn’t work.”
“Oh.” Shit. Great way to start. “Yeah, I ah, changed my number, sorry. I updated your mum, but maybe you’ve got my old one.”
“No problem. Here.” He gave me his phone and I corrected the number he had stored and then he sent me a text.
I called him back to make sure we were right, and Billy Joel’s “Uptown Girl” rang out through the carpark.
I bit back a smile and raised a brow. “Really? I think I should be offended.”
He chuckled. “Don’t be. Besides, it was before I met you and it kind of fits, right? You’re from the big smoke. You’ve even got your Roberto Cavalli’s on.” He pointed to the label on my jeans and heat rose in my cheeks. “Pretty fancy for a sheep station.”
I narrowed my gaze and fired back, “But you recognised the brand which says you have an eye for those things.”
He grinned. “Of course. They’re a great jean. Just don’t wear them in the woolshed.”
I laughed. “Kind of goes without saying.”
“Are those it?” He nodded to four bags of varying sizes siting in a tidy line at my feet.
I gave a mute nod, because I was well-educated like that, and wiped my hot palms down the front of my jeans.
“Great.” He sauntered over in that loose-gaited way perfected by many farmers like they had all the time in the world. About a metre away, he stopped, lifted his glasses onto his head, and a pair of dark coffee-brown almost black eyes locked with mine.
And just, damn. I was in trouble.
Then he smiled. “Welcome to Mackenzie Country, Gil.”
This is the first book in Jay Hogan’s new Mackenzie country series, following the sheep farm boss Holden with commitment issues and the grieving Gil who lost is daughter in a car accident one and a half year ago, and his marriage soon thereafter. This was such a heartwarming, poignant and addictive reading experience with two amazing main characters to root for, and some added layers of grief and PTDS after the loss of a child. A great start to this new series!
Read my full review here: The Art of Husbandry by Jay Hogan
About the Author
Heart, humour and keeping it real.
Jay is a 2020 Lambda Literary Award Finalist in Gay Romance and her book Off Balance was the 2021 New Zealand Romance Book of the Year.
She is a New Zealand author writing mm romance and romantic suspense, primarily set in New Zealand. She writes character driven romances with lots of humour, a good dose of reality and a splash of angst. She's travelled extensively, lived in many countries, and in a past life she was a critical care nurse, nurse educator and counsellor. Jay is owned by a huge Maine Coon cat and a gorgeous Cocker Spaniel.
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