Lucky Break is a perfectly nice, fluffy holiday story about two men suffering streaks of bad luck who finally find happiness by being around one another.
Shawn Matthews has just finished his first season as sous chef for the Tango Saloon, situated in Bentley Ghost Town. The town is about to shut down for the holiday season to give everyone a break to be with their families, and Shawn – who’s been dealing with homelessness for the better part of two years and is currently living out of his car – has nowhere to go. His family – especially his beloved grandparents, to whom he sends the majority of his salary in gratitude for their having raised him – is too far away to see. When his co-workers offer him companionship, he fears they’re asking out of pity, and declines to spend time with them outside of work.
When his car’s transmission chokes, he walks to the cabin of his co-worker, Mack. Mack has always looked out for Shawn and had already invited him to stay at his house over the holiday, so he’s happy to put him up until his car’s back on the road.
Photographer, ex-rodeo star and ranch worker Robin Butler is Mack’s neighbor, and he loves the outdoors and outdoor living on the Clean Slate Ranch. Estranged from his own family, he considers himself responsible for the ranch’s elderly den mother, Patrice, who’s been having spills and falls lately, the latest of which lays her up, meaning she won’t be able to cook for the ranch’s upcoming holiday season.
Patrice’s injury also means that Shawn’s talents as a chef are required on the ranch. Soon he and Robin are flirting up a storm, seeing one another all the time, which causes both men to develop hearty crushes. Shawn is embraced eagerly by the men of the Clean Slate and he in turn embraces ranch living. By the time Christmas rolls around, Shawn finds himself fitting in – and crushing on Robin.
But for Robin, looking at Shawn is like staring straight into the past – literally. Shawn looks exactly like Xander, Robin’s late husband, who died three years earlier when he was thrown from his horse. Even without the complication of Shawn resembling Xander, Robin has been deeply scarred by losing him. How can he trust himself to keep another man safe? And how will Robin react when he finds out about the depth of Shawn’s poverty?
Lucky Break is a big old fairytale of a romance where sweet things happen to deserving people after long periods of suffering. Lots of good food is eaten, bulls are ridden, souls are bared, and happy endings are guaranteed. It’s a nice mental vacation.
Robin and Shawn are interesting contrasts. Shawn is more of a good boy, and Robin has been around some, a romantic, still stuck in the past and on his husband. Both have been through a lot, and both manage to do the work necessary to grow past their scars.
Some readers may not be able to get past the fact that Shawn resembles Xander – a plot point that’s very awkward, although if you can climb past it, you should be able to enjoy the book.
The book feels a hair overlong, and many of the supporting characters fail to pop out and stand up on their own. A late-book jealousy subplot might have best been cut.
But Lucky Break is a very nice romance with a very nice couple that feels very Christmassy. You could do worse than enjoy an afternoon with it.
Note: The book contains elements of homophobic violence and sexual assault.