“How had this happened? How had they gone from fishing buddies to lovers to fathers in the matter of two weeks?”
In a word: Read the thing. This was actually a lot funnier than I was expecting. Not so much in the story’s events, but in the narration. I laughed a lot reading this. It’s also written in Texan slang, so that took a bit of getting used to (though not so much because it was the same when I read Trial By Fire, another Dreamspun Desires book by the same author). The story picks up immediately when rodeo cowboy Hoss McMasters discovers that someone has left an infant on his front porch. Unable to find the baby’s mother, and not wanting to get the baby lost in the foster care system, it’s decided that Hoss will care for the baby until the authorities can figure out what to do in the long term. Hoss knows nothing about caring for human babies, more used to livestock, so it takes some help from family and friends to keep everything from going to shit. Hoss’ best friend Bradley is the one who helps out the most, so it’s no surprise when long-held secret feelings get revealed and the two of them fall hard for each other. It’s also no surprise that they both get really attached to the baby. So much so that it doesn’t matter whose baby it turns out to be, Hoss and Bradley want to raise her together as a family.
THIS POST CONTAINS SPOILERS
The Series: Two Cowboys and a Baby is number 30 in Dreamspinner Press’ Dreamspun Desires series. Dreamspun Desires is a series of unrelated standalone novels written by a variety of authors. They’re kind of like gay Harlequin Romance novels with slightly outlandish plots, quick romances, and interesting plot twists.
The Couple: Wyatt Earp McMasters III, or Hoss, somehow, is a gay rancher and rodeo cowboy. He’s perpetually single and lives alone on the ranch he runs, and when he’s not on his ranch he’s competing in rodeos. There isn’t much going on in his life, and it doesn’t look like anything will come along and shake things up. And then one morning he finds a baby on his doorstep. Hoss is a good rancher, but he doesn’t know anything about baby humans, so he alerts the authorities in the hopes that they’ll be able to find the baby’s mother. Of course, all that comes from that is that he ends up with temporary custody of the baby. Helping with that is Hoss’ long-time best friend, Bradley Germaine, who Hoss may or may not have been in love with since they were teens. I got a bit confused about whether or not Hoss has always had a thing for Bradley, but it’s made totally clear that Bradley has been in love with Hoss since high school. Bradley, like Hoss, is a bit of a cowboy, but he doesn’t own a ranch or do rodeos like Hoss. He lives in a little trailer in the back of Hoss’ property and sometimes helps out with the ranch when he’s not doing odd jobs around town. I think the general consensus about Bradley is that he isn’t very bright, but I think he’s fairly smart. He doesn’t have much ambition, though. Like Hoss, he’s fairly content with the way his life is going, except for the part where he’d rather be with Hoss instead of just his friend. I thought the way that the two of them decided to get together was a bit odd. Having to take care of the baby together seems to have lowered their inhibitions, somewhat, because they somehow find themselves talking about how Hoss came out to Bradley in high school and Bradley hadn’t taken it well. And then Bradley goes on to say that he hadn’t really reacted well because he was in love with Hoss and hadn’t wanted to admit it to himself. And then Hoss, who may or may not have been also in love with Bradley for years, suddenly starts seeing Bradley in a whole new light in which the other man is suddenly attainable. And then they flirt a bit and then suddenly they’re together. It seemed like it happened really quick, though it really wasn’t, but whatever, they’re cute together. I was actually surprised about the misunderstanding and third-act breakup that happened because I really wasn’t expecting it. Hoss and Bradley really were good together, even with the stress of a sudden baby. But I guess they, like me, were also thrown by the plot twist that came up. But of course, they find their way back to each other in the end. Because they love each other, and that baby, and they’re a family.
The Baby: It’s an ordinary morning on the ranch until Hoss discovers an abandoned baby on his front porch. The baby, eventually named Shayanne Renee McMasters, is only a couple of weeks old and shows up with no note and with nothing more than the bassinet she was sleeping in. There is also no sign of whoever dropped her off; it’s like she dropped from the sky. Shayanne as a character doesn’t really do anything plot relevant. I didn’t really expect her to; she’s practically a newborn, there are limits to what she can do. She’s adorable, but she’s mostly a prop to inspire reactions in the people around her, specifically Hoss and Bradley, who are her main carers. She also there to provide the mystery to the book’s plot. Where did she come from? Who are her parents? How did she get on Hoss’ porch? We never do find out who her mother is, or how she made it to Hoss’ porch (dropped off in the middle of the night seems most likely), but the identity of her father is revealed in a plot twist. Turns out Shayanne is Hoss’ biological daughter, except that Hoss has never before had sex with a woman and he’s never donated sperm.
The Side Characters: Most of the story is centered around Hoss and Bradley taking care of Shayanne and becoming a family. But there’s quite a few minor characters wandering around while that’s going on. Firstly, there’s Hoss’ mother, who is mostly a force of nature. Also most of the male characters are varied levels of terrified of her. Momma McMasters takes no shit from no one, which includes the law, apparently. The law, in this case, being Hoss and Bradley’s childhood friend Sheriff Dunny Pooter. I’m from Canada and this name is practically a redneck stereotype to me, so I found it a lot funnier than I probably should have. Sheriff Pooter, however, is not a stereotype, not a humorous one at least. He’s a good friend to Hoss and Bradley and is somewhat helpful with the whole baby situation. I actually really did like the relationships the sheriff had with Bradley and Hoss, he’s a pretty good guy (even though his ‘I am the man I don’t take care of any babies including my own’ thought process made me twitch). The other prominent side character is Hoss’ dog Joanie. Joanie is a working dog (she helps herd livestock) and she’s actually the one who first found Shayanne on the porch. She was quick to become protective of Shayanne, and she interacts with her the most over the course of the story.
The Sex: Only one sex scene, which surprised me. It takes place near the middle of the story, after Hoss and Bradley have spent some time dancing around each other and the fact that they both want each other but are a bit too afraid to act on it. They do eventually get their shit together and have one sex scene that’s completely written out. I especially liked the part when Hoss thinks about how different this sex is to what he’s used to; in that he’s with someone he really cares for and he is able to go slow and take his time (as opposed to frantic handjobs or blowjobs in semi-public places with the threat of bad things happening hanging over their heads if they get caught). Actually there’s an undertone of background homophobia (among all the ridiculousness going on) that made me a bit sad for Hoss and Bradley.
The Writing: I’ve read only one other of BA Tortuga’s books (Trial By Fire, also a Dreamspun Desires title) and I didn’t really like it at first. I like it fine now, but one of the problems I’d had was the language the story was written in. It was written in cowboy slang (I guess is the term), and used a lot of terms I was unfamiliar with and so it was sometimes a bit hard to understand. Two Cowboys and a Baby was written the same way, but I had an easier time with this one. Whether that’s because I’d already read something like it, or the language was different, I dunno. What I do know is that I liked this book right off the bat, even before the story proper started. This book is funny, I laughed quite a bit while I was reading. Just the way things are worded, and the stream of conscious like narration made for some very funny lines. I enjoyed the story (even if the whole misunderstanding between Hoss and Bradley that happened later on made me roll my eyes), it was cute and I definitely didn’t see the twist coming. It’s still somewhat of a ridiculous plot, though, and the humorous way in which it was written made it a more entertaining read. (I may still never get over Sheriff Pooter’s name though.)
[Two Cowboys and a Baby was published March 15, 2017, and is available both in print and as an ebook]