Jody Bates just wanted to fit in and forget his past, but you can’t escape everything.
Jody Bates had a hard life as a kid, but he’s moved past that and is making a home for himself at the Mossy Glenn. Sometimes he smarts off, but he’s young, and he’s learning.
What he hasn’t learned yet is that you can never completely escape your past.
Jody has a few blank spots, things he can’t quite remember. Like a lot of kids, he did some stupid things and figures he’s lucky to have come out relatively unscathed. Sure there’s a scar here and there, but on the whole, he’s doing just fine.
But something that happened brings about an enormous change in his life. Jody finds himself with a kid he didn’t know he’d fathered, and memories trying to surface about the drug-filled night the child had to have been conceived. Jody, at twenty, is overwhelmed and more scared than he’s ever been in his life.
Noel Cuthbert needed a change. He was tired of the bar scene, tired of getting dumped. He seemed to have a six-month expiration date per relationship. The last guy almost broke him in more ways than one, and moving across the country had sounded like a brilliant idea when he’d first thought of it.
Now he’s in Ashville, Montana, and his Aunt Gertie is doing everything she can to talk him into staying. She needs his help, and Noel needs to be needed.
And he’s never seen anyone who needs him more than the young man who walks into Gertie’s day care with a screaming baby on his hip.
Riding & Regrets was a heartbreaker of a novel for me. I found myself wanting to cry for Prissy’s early years and being shuffled around by a mother who wasn’t prepared to be one. This, of course, made me want to bawl when Jody’s love for his daughter grew exponentially considering how little time passed from her sudden arrival in his life to the beautiful ceremony in the epilogue – yet another event that left teary-eyed. Also heart wrenching was Noel’s past and what he endured at the hands of a man who was supposed to love him. While there were plenty of tears to go around in this installment, they were both sad tears and happy tears and I found the overriding theme of the book to be extremely hopeful despite the heartbreak both men endured before finding their happiness.
I was excited to read this book after the way the ending of Fences & Freedom mentioned Jody’s previously unknown child showing up unexpectedly. It wasn’t the idea of a gay man having a child that caught my attention, but rather that the child’s existence was unknown AND unexpected. Granted the unknown wasn’t a total surprise because that kind of thing happens regularly, but the unexpected had my interest peaked and as the story played out I understood why Jody was so thrown by the appearance of his child – he didn’t remember having sex with the mother, or any woman for that matter. Fortunately the child looked so much like him that he never disputed that he was Prissy’s father and he threw himself fully into being the best father he could be for his little girl. While his bosses and the other hands at the ranch were far more supportive than he ever could have hoped for, Jody understood that he was going to have to put Prissy in daycare while he worked at the ranch. Enter Noel, the nephew of the daycare’s owner, Ashville’s newest temporary (maybe) resident, and the man who may just save Jody from becoming an old fuddy-duddy.
While the attraction between the two men was obvious, Bradford didn’t allow the men to hook-up immediately. The author actually keeps their early interactions true to form for a new parent by Jody being so busy that days and days pass between conversations, dates, and taking it further with Noel. I loved this. Yes Jody is only twenty, but he’s a new father working full-time who is now a single parent as well. It stands to reason that he would be too tired to go trolling for dates as well as having no time for them either. But when Noel finally makes his move on Jody, oh my goodness was it hot! I enjoyed the symmetry between Noel’s inability to forget the horrors of his nightmare relationship and Jody’s inability to remember the events of the night he conceived Prissy. It enabled them to provide a level of comfort and understanding to one another that I think helped cement their relationship. Watching Jody and Noel fall in love and build their family was a wonderful experience, which was topped off by getting to see Jody threaten Noel’s tormentor and Noel face down his tormentor. And I must say that I loved how that whole scenario played out. Watching the entire ranch fall in love with Prissy was so sweet too. I’m looking forward to reading Broncs & Bullies soon because I’m dying to see what’s up with Duke and Frankie.