Title: Nowhere Ranch
Author: Heidi Cullinan
Narrator:: Iggy Toma
Run Time: 6 Hours and 3 Minutes
At a Glance: While I feel some of the vocals could have been more distinct, Nowhere Ranch and Iggy Toma are the perfect merger of story and narrator.
Reviewed By: Lisa
Blurb: Love will grow through the cracks you leave open.
Ranch hand Roe Davis absolutely never mixes business with pleasure – until he runs into his boss, Travis Loving, at the only gay bar within 200 miles.
Getting involved with the ranch owner is a bad idea, but Roe’s and Travis’s bedroom kinks line up against one another like a pair of custom-cut rails. As long as they’re both clear this is sex on the side, no relationship, no interfering with the job, they could make it work.
Shut out by his family years ago, Roe survived by steadfastly refusing to settle into so much as a post office box. As his affair with Travis grows into more than just sex, Roe’s past catches up with him, threatening the thin ray of happiness he’s found, reminding him it’s well past time he went on his way.
Even a loner gets lonely, and at this point, there’s nowhere left to run. The shame and sorrow of what he’s lost will stay with Roe wherever he goes – until he’s ready to let love lead him home.
Review: Heidi Cullinan’s Nowhere Ranch hooked me at sentence one: “My name is Monroe Davis, and this is the story of how I found home.” That fifteen word paragraph is the single most important clue that this is going to be the story of a lost soul looking for somewhere safe to land, for someone to trust, and then, of course, we discover the beautiful irony that his somewhere will happen to be Nowhere and that the someone will be called Loving.
Nowhere Ranch is Roe’s story, told in his voice. Roe paints the picture of himself in bleak strokes of the brush as he describes his leaving the only place that’d ever meant home to him. Roe is a young man who has been so let down by life and family that it’s left him the epitome of the lonesome cowboy—a loner who seems only to be biding time existing from one day to the next, drifting from one place to the next, because letting people in means they can only hurt and disappoint him. Making himself vulnerable means leaving himself open to feelings and entanglements that he neither wants nor needs. Roe is hard-edged but as his story continues, we see that he is also brittle. He takes readers along on his journey through heartache and hardships, and when he discovers that he and his boss, Travis Loving, share one essential component, we watch as they discover a reason to begin building something less than a relationship but a connection nonetheless.
Through their mutual need to dominate and submit, through Roe’s need for rough and dirty sex, and Travis’s love of giving it to him, we watch as their physical communion becomes the metaphor in Roe’s life. We watch as the disconnect of the act becomes the connection of the emotional thread between them as Travis not only begins to get under Roe’s skin but begins to work his way into Roe’s heart and his body in the most profound and trusting way possible. We watch as Roe’s family, after five long years, begins to creep back into his life and chip away at the hard-won acceptance that his “wrong” is the only way he’ll ever be. And we watch as a compassionate and tenacious friend storms Roe’s impenetrable walls and helps him to see that family is who we choose and home is the people we let in.
Nowhere Ranch is a novel of firsts for me. It’s the first book I’ve ever read by the author, and it’s the first audiobook I’ve ever listened to performed by Iggy Toma. While I feel Roe and Travis’s voices could have been a bit better delineated in tone, cadence, or perhaps even accent, Toma captures Roe to perfection—his rural patois and his youth, especially in relationship to the educated and older Travis, shine through.
I’m not sure whether Cullinan’s writing complements the narrator or the narrator complements the writing in this case. The author’s writing style is as warm and inviting as her characters are endearing and sympathetic, while the timbre of Toma’s voice is rich and so easy on the ears. Whatever the case, if you don’t mind a little kink and a lot of compassion in your reading/listening experience, I can recommend Nowhere Ranch without reservation.
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