Retired bull rider Jason Waters is about as tightly wound and uncomfortable as a cowboy can be. He fits every surface assumption about a rodeo athlete more accustomed to thousand pound pissed off animals than people: lean, quiet, calm, conservative, and unfailingly polite. Unfortunately for Jason (and luckily for us), a promise to a fellow rodeo buddy puts Jason in the position of posing naked for a hot-rodeo-boys calendar: a calendar Simone Levine is shooting. Simone’s unique combination of artistic mischief and harmlessness cuts through the Jason’s polite shield, and he unexpectedly reveals a secret he’s carried for years. And so they begin with a nude photo shoot and a naked confession.
One of my favorite things about Tiffany Reisz’s work is the way she takes a familiar romance novel premise and twists it down excellently unexpected paths. Picture Perfect Cowboy occurs in the Original Sinners universe, which generally guarantees a certain level of character depth (oh yes, that pun is intended) as well as varying levels of smut. This story doesn’t disappoint, as it turns out Jason is terrified his own predilections make him a terrible and depraved man. Simone, on the other hand, is an occasional professional at King’s NY club and a personal friend of Mistress Nora. Who better to help Jason relax and be who he is, by proving that a little depravity doesn’t make him a bad guy?
Again, the romance theme of the “good woman is all a rake needs to be reformed” is revised to a more modern and entertainingly smutty adventure. Reisz doesn’t skimp on the varying erotic scenes. True to form, some are pure sexiness while some skate the edge of downright uncomfortable, and there’s really no predicting which scenes will have either effect on any reader. If you aren’t an expert on spanking after this, you weren’t paying attention.
What’s really interesting in this story is Jason’s evolution, both in emotional growth and technical skill. I love that Reisz always delves into the how/why of a character’s kinks, and though some of the motivating factors can be judged as awful (through no fault of Jason’s own), the end result is an acceptance without judgment of his needs as an adult. Simone (with a little help from Nora and Soren) actively encourages Jason to accept himself and navigate the twisty ethical and emotional effects of desires he’s been ashamed of as morally terrible due to his upbringing.
In addition to his internal struggle, relationship conflicts arise as outside parties are introduced to Jason and Simone’s private world, and the vast lifestyle differences between a Kentucky horse rancher and a New York professional kinkster interfere. Picture Perfect Cowboy is a lot of relationship packed into a pretty short package. Tiffany Reisz covers both traditional romance novel issues as well as BDSM kink with the same excellent style in the other Sinners books.
My only complaint is the traditional market length of this story necessarily leaves little room for more, and I wanted more. The best possible danger of writing is convincing readers the characters are real people you want to hang out with: this is an absolute success. I hope this becomes a bit of a series since at least one other character has some clear Sinner potential, because I thoroughly enjoyed Simone and Jason’s love story. Also, I’m not going to lie, I’d love to find out how Jason and Griffin get along.