My rating: 5 of 5 stars
4.5 stars. I'm trying to ration the rough riders series, but like with brownies, it seems impossible to have just one at a time. But like with sweet treats, I know that these are best in moderation! This is a sinful treat meant for mature readers, it's cowboy romantica at its absolute finest, but it's smoking hot, so if you prefer a milder treat, you may want to skip it. James keeps managing to hit my favorite tropes, and this is one my favorites--the May/December Romance with the inexperienced heroine, AJ, having had a crush on older guy, Cord her whole life. When both find themselves at loose ends for the summer, it's the perfect chance for AJ to finally make her move on Cord. She keeps her deeper feelings to herself, and they start a smokin' hot fling. The love scenes are off-the-charts hot, but they don't push the boundaries as much as some of the other rough riders books do. If you enjoy hot contemporaries and wouldn't mind a higher love scene to narrative ratio, this is a great introduction to James' great voice. Her real strength is a dialogue--she really captures the dialect of the west. I can totally picture her cowboys because their voices sound so real. And she does a great job with characterization as although all the McKay brothers are Alpha heroes to the max, they don't feel like carbon copies of each other. AJ feels like a mature 22 year old, which is significant because often times in May/December plot lines the age difference feels like just a number because heroine seems the same as women hero's own age. She's lively and spunky and reacts to things like a younger woman would, but has enough emotional maturity to make readers believe in a lasting HEA. The last few chapters show a lot of growth on Cord's behalf, and this is what makes James so special in the world of romantica--she brings a lot of emotion to the table and offers real plots, not just window dressing for love scenes. AJ and Cord are probably my favorite Rough Riders couple so far, and this is a winning read.