When Stef gets the chance to prove his devotion, he doesn’t hesitate—despite the risk to his health—and Rand takes the opportunity to show everyone that sometimes life’s best surprises come after the sunset.
We're baaack! Did you miss us?
Red and JL here, back for another squeefest a/k/a Best Buddy Read Ever - Part Deux! This time the emails started flying before we even began to read the book. So grab a drink and get comfortable 'cause we got a wee bit chatty.
Jenni Lea - 5 heartsJL: After the sunset is in! I'll send it to you in just a sec.JL: Oh wait. You already got it. When do you want to start? Right after I finish this?Though, I must confess... I read the copy I have of the 1st edition immediately after we finished Timing. No worries though, I'm always up for reading it again. I like it more than Timing if you can believe that. :)Red: Gah. I know I need the Crack! I might start tomorrow. I'm planning a day of nothing after yoga in the morning. I need a day after this week.YOU DID??? I wanted to wait for this version even if there are no changes to it. I love the cover so much. OOH I get to meet Glenn in this right?
Red: And wait.. better than TIMING?? HOW CAN THAT BE??? Ha.JL: LOL! OK, I'll wait until tomorrow to read it.Red: Might as well start because I made a pretty lewd noise when I opened this book and saw that cover in my hands. No wonder Rand went out of his mind and everyone wanted Stef because... RAWR and UNF!JL: RIGHT?????? mmmm mmmm!JL: OHMYGAWD CAN WE START YET????????No pressure though…Red: LOL says the girl who has read it recently???Yup. Grabbing lunch and heading to my tower to start.JL: No worries! I didn't feel like doing anything this morning besides fucking around on the interwebz. So, it's perfect timing <---see what I did there? Haha
It’s been two years since Stef was swept off his feet at Charlotte’s wedding and he and Rand are settling into their life together on the Red Diamond. The Red Diamond is growing by leaps and bounds and Stef has finally found his niche as a teacher at the local community college. But it hasn’t been an easy road they’ve traveled. They’ve (especially Rand) had to face prejudice and ostracism from the citizens of Winston, Rand’s hometown. Their bad luck, because the next town over, Hillman, has thrown open the gates and welcomed Rand and all he represents with open arms.
Wanna know a secret? *whispers* I like this better than book one. In Timing we got to see Rand and Stef FINALLY pull their heads out of their asses and ride off into the sunset as they start the rest of their lives together, whereas in After the Sunset we get to see, well, what happens after that sunset. I always knew I liked this better but I could never pin down exactly why until this last read. I think hashing it out with Red helped me to understand just what it was that made me read this even more times than I’ve read the first book. I figure it’s most likely because I like established relationships. I’ve been with my husband for twenty years and it’s interesting to me to see other couples who have been together for a while and are still as in love, if not more, as they were at the beginning. Mary does such a fabulous job of showing us just how much these two love each other.Red: They did what to Rand because of Stef? Fuckers. I wouldn't build a school in that town either.But the deputies are cracking me up!Oh goodness, "I had thought at first that it was the money he represented that they were responding to, but it was also the man himself." I am moving to Hilman! They know an amazing man when they see one!JL: I love the deputies, but I especially love the sheriff. Have you met him yet?JL: Prepare yourself for the classic Calmes Time Jump a/k/a Where Stef Gets ADD and Remembers Something. For a Whole Chapter.Red: LOL I love that explanation. We are going to get TMCSS in this one too right? Like, these two aren't together for most of the book? It's the Calmes way and gives the best reunion sex ever.JL: Yep, there's TMCSS in this one. It's not nearly as bad as when it happened to Jory/Sam or Jin/Logan though. It doesn't last as long.
“What are you doing?” I smiled at him, my own hands on his hot skin, having burrowed up under the T-shirt and flannel one he was wearing over it. The muscles in his jaw corded as he shivered slightly.
“I’m lookin’ at you. Christ , I could look at you every day for the rest of my life and never get tired of it.”They’ve been together for years yet they still can’t seem to get enough of each other.
“Say it now,” I demanded. His lips were on my ear.“I love you so fucking much, Stef. You belong to me.”Who knew I would be just as addicted to the man’s words as his actions?
That isn’t to say that they haven’t had their ups and downs though. Stef had to give up a lot when he relocated to Texas to be with Rand and he has abandonment issues from his worthless family so it’s no surprise that he’s kept part of himself back in case things go south with Rand. But, he seems to finally be accepting that Rand isn’t going anywhere and the Red Diamond - and Rand - is the home he really wants. Even if it is in Texas, of all places.
JL: You know that's how Texans really talk, right? We say 'gonna' and 'wanna', we drop the 'g' from the end of our words, we speak in double and triple negatives and our mothers are always 'mama'. I love how she incorporated our way of speaking into her writing. It makes it feel more authentic to me. And a little bit homesick.Red: Nope I had no idea and it's great she did that! I noticed in Bulletproof, when they were in Hawaii she got a lot of the local talk etc down as well. She does really well with that.I adore the whole Rand LOVING that Stef is finally choosing them. Rand just gets him on every level and is so patient with him, waiting for Stef to see that he isn't leaving or asking him to leave. Just waiting and loving his man and letting him know he is there for the long haul. That shit is romantic!
Stef gets an opportunity to prove his commitment to Rand when family comes calling. A cousin needs Rand’s help at their ranch for a few days and Rand, being who he is, agrees to lend a hand, not realizing it’s the same weekend that the rodeo is being held. The very important rodeo that requires the Red Diamond to attend or they lose grazing rights on a prime bit of real estate.
Red: Okay and take two... GLLLEEENNNNNNNN!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!JL: You're about to meet Glenn! I can't wait to see what your first impression is.JL: LOL! Our emails crossed. :)Red: A TEST??? Oh shit. Someone is gonna be pissed when he gets home!
JL: That is an epic scene, when he gets home. EPIC! It's one of my favorite parts of the book.Red: I have laughed so much already!“What are you doing in here?”“I’m mauling Stef. What’s it look like?”Poor Glenn! LOLJL: See? Epic! Now you know why I love that scene so much.Red: I can't help but laugh. Rand is just so point blank about it and Stef is all doing his thing while these people, probably his soon to be in-laws of some sort talk shit about the love of his life and think he works for Rand. SMH.JL: Mary is big on letting people make assumptions of her MCs. I've seen it with Jory and Jin.BTW, Lubbock and Midland are real cities in Texas but Winston and Hillman are not. Just a fun fact I'm throwing out there. :)
Stef decides to attend the rodeo in Rand’s stead (behind his back of course, cause that’s how Mary rolls) and this is where we really get to see just how much they’ve grown, both as individuals and with each other. Yes, there are hijinks and shenanigans. Yes, there’s a dance and a bachelor auction and fights and everyone loves Stef. This is a Mary Calmes book after all. But what I loved most was watching Stef interact with Rand’s family and the rodeo community on his own without Rand there. And I saw him shine. I saw him become comfortable in his role as co-owner of the Red Diamond, taking charge and getting things done. I saw him further his relationships with his ranch hands, letting them get closer to him and not keeping them at arms-length.
“Why didn’t you tell me you missed this rodeo for the last two years?”“Because it had nothing to do with you or us, so why would I mention it?”“Rand, I don’t just wanna know about stuff that affects you and me. I wanna know about everything. And I definitely want to know everything about your family.”"Rand?"“Why?”“Why what?”“Why do you need to know everything?”“Because if I’m really your partner and you want me to stick around, then your family is my family.”“You know I want you to stick around.”“Then?” He took a breath.“Okay.”“Okay what?”“Okay my family is your family, asshole.”
They’ve both matured these past two years and the continuation of their story in this book is one for the ages. Every time I read this story I find myself believing in the world again, believing that there really is true love out there, that there really is such a thing as soulmates. Cause that’s what Rand and Stef are. They are the world to each other. They are each other’s EVERYTHING.
“You’re my whole life.”
Sara - 5 hearts
This begins about two years after we left Stefan and his gorgeous cowboy settling down and setting up a life together. It’s not all roses and rainbows with the men though as they are both strong willed and head over heels in love with one another and that is something so very tangible in this book. With all Mary Calmes books actually. Stefan’s job in acquisitions has fizzled and he falls back on his minor to teach history at a local community college. It was great to have Rand along to help him move into his new office and all that happens there and after will make you squirm and swoon your ass off. It’s impossible not to when you have Rand being so open and honest with his feelings and just wanting to lick the hell out of his boyfriend.
Wow. So this may possibly be even better than the first book and I can’t believe I am saying that. Seeing Stef and Rand this way was like a hug to my hopeless romantic heart and I don’t think I will ever get enough of them. I am so glad I had my girl Jenni Lea on hand once again to squee, laugh, hold my hand and fall in love with these two as a now established couple.
TWO YEARS ago, Rand Holloway and I had gone from enemies to lovers in sizzling style over the course of his sister Charlotte Holloway’s four-day wedding blowout.
Now I know this version has a spanking new cover that I cannot stop staring at because it has the appeal of Stef and when you look at the cover, you get why EVERYONE wants him. But as I began to read this story, I realized how perfect the original cover was right down to the tear on the back of the jersey bearing the number 7. It was bittersweet to see that cover replaced and then I went back to this new one and *fans self* I was okay because Stefan Joss is one helluva gorgeous man.
Red: Daww. the old cover makes sense now. He's wearing Rands shirt, which Rand thinks is so fucking hot and I think they are gonna have the sex on the desk in Stef's office.JL: Yep yep! I really loved the cover for this one and I was upset when I heard it was being redone... until I saw the new cover. Lawd! *fans self*Red: : Shut up! this is totally the old cover now as they walk on the tracks! That cover was so sweet even though I constantly grunt at the new one because it's hot.AND OH MY GAWD! Desk. Sex. Was. So. Fucking. Hot.JL: I TOLD YOU THAT YOU WOULD LOVE THE DESK SEX! I thought you would get a kick out of Stef working at a college now too. :)Red: I love it all.I am crying laughing at this though:You’re gonna have grass plastered to your ass.”“I only care about your ass, Stef,” he said, his voice a deep rumble in his chest.“Now ride your cowboy.”I shook my head. “That’s so cheesy.”Rand is ridiculous and sexy all at the same time.JL: I love how she makes her characters so relatable. I could totally see my husband saying something silly like that.
Red: She really does. Some of it is way over the top but at the root of it all, it's relatable.
I have dubbed what the author does to her couples in a series as TMCSS, which stands for The Mary Calmes Separation Stipulation. It seems to be how the author does her couples once they fall in love, she separates them in the next book and while that used to bug the hell out of me, it gave me a huge “A-ha” moment with Rand and Stefan. You see, to be on your own is tough but it shows strength of character and trust in your partner to do it. Sure both Rand and Stef want to be with each other but the circumstances prevented it and at the end of this book, it brought them closer with a deeper understanding of the man they love. Rand gets how Stefan sees the ranch, as Rand and Stef sees that Rand doesn't sweat the petty shit like grazing land or making his mom uncomfortable about secrets she hasn’t shared. The separation not only makes the heart grow fonder, it makes the reunion ridiculously sexy and intimate and oh so romantic and makes the men much stronger as individuals and as a couple, as partners. So while they may be apart for a portion of the book, it’s what makes them a truly memorable romance.Running was easy; staying was hard.
Red: This book has a different feel to it and it should. I guess that's why I am not emailing as much. The romance is so strong and I had a total A-HA moment this morning in the shower about TMCSS and how brilliant it actually is though it's maddening to have people this in love apart at all.And while this is newer version, it’s really the next book that finally got me to read the series that had been waiting forever for me to get to. I know that As the Dust Settles is a book about Glenn Holloway and I knew that once I met Glenn in this book, he would have a lot of ‘splaining to do and oh boy did he ever. Glenn broke my heart a few times but the last time, a simple declaration to Stefan on the porch of the house on the Red Diamond Ranch gutted me. I know what he wants and I cannot wait to see him want it, fight for it and get to keep it.
JL: Yes, and have you noticed she never does TMCSS in the first book? Only in subsequent books after she's hooked you in on the relationship.
Red: Yup. I noticed and I get it though. She gives you the HEA in the first book but makes the couple work to keep it and that is the separation. It's this thing while they are a part that makes it clear that they love each other so much, they want and need one another but without being who they are on their own, they don't make sense together.
There is so much character development during TMCSS that you miss if you just focus on the fact that they aren't together physically.
I don’t mean to sound ignorant, and I ain’t sayin’ you’re a woman, but with us, with the men, your regard is softer than Rand Holloway’s, and I suspect that’s why you balance him out.But back to Rand and Stefan. Things happen that separate them and this thing was actually fun to watch. We really get to see Stef come into his own about the ranch and the man who is the ranch. We meet come truly despicable characters, see Stefan win over the majority and get a type of family relevance I wasn’t expecting. We see the men who work for at the Red Diamond Ranch see Stefan as a true partner to their boss and we get a whole lot of Bella, Stefan’s adorable and protective Rhodesian Ridgeback. I could write for days what I loved about this and never say enough. There is also a lot I don’t want to spoil because it’s so much fun to experience it firsthand so…
Red: Yup and I adore Bella. She's Stef's armor. Once again, Mary creates a fierce and loyal female... Even if it's a dog.
JL: God, I love that dog! Makes me want to go out and get one. But then I remember I live in a townhome and have no room. :(
Red: Okay, Rhodesian Ridgebacks were my dream dog when I was in high school. I saw one when I took my Basset Hound to the vet. They are gorgeous and sleek and that strip of fur growing up their back the opposite way killed me. It was always like that part of them needed to buck the system.
Red: Oh and I am reading while making dinner because HOW CAN I STOP?
JL: I had to Google them because I'd never seen one and, wow, they're beautiful! I kinda want one now.
I’ll stop before I fangirl my butt off.
JL: HOORAY! !!!!!!!!YOU LIKED THIS BETTER TOO!!!!!!I thought I was the only one!I love your review. You've said exactly what I've been feeling but didn't know how to express.This just proves that we're twinsRed: Yeah, I kept thinking it was better and then realized it was. I loved Rand's exploration and finalization of wanting Stefan but this was so good and so much about all of them. It really does set it up nice for Glenn's book two. I think he is going to hurt me like Aaron did with Parting Shot, you know? Ugh.We are totally twins. We share brains all the across the US!JL: Lol that we do.
And because we are nuts and nothing is off limits...
Red: Off topic: what is the right word for self lubricating holes with Omega's in shifter books? LOLJL: OMG! That is the best question ever! LOL!Ok, but seriously. I have no idea. I didn't know there was a specific word for it.Red: Just making sure if there was so I don't look a total noob when I talk about it.JL: Nope, you're good. Just don't use words like 'channel' or 'fluttering hole' and you're golden.
Find it at Dreamspinner Press or on Goodreads!
For those of you who missed our fangirl sesh of book one in the Timing series, you can check it out right here.