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Marathon Cowboys

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Jesse Clayton loves painting, his cowboy grandfather, and his life as an artist with a wild abandon that leaves scorch marks on everything he touches. Budding Navajo cartoonist Lorenzo Maryboy is a hard-working former Marine: staunch, brave, and honorable. Chance brings them together on the road to Marathon, Texas, and passion flares.

Just as always, Jesse puts his art ahead of everything. He betrays their growing trust, and that Lorenzo can’t forgive. But Jesse’s found something he loves more than his art, and what he does to win Lorenzo’s forgiveness is far more dangerous than either man understands.

172 pages, ebook

First published November 13, 2011

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Sarah Black

96 books245 followers

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5 stars
189 (32%)
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232 (39%)
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112 (19%)
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30 (5%)
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Displaying 1 - 30 of 113 reviews
Profile Image for Julio Genao.
Author 9 books2,012 followers
October 8, 2015

i don't need two eyes to see you're in love with my arty-assed son, boy.

i thought the opening and a scene in DC might have gone a touch too far into let's-kick-it-up-a-notch territory, but mostly everything was handled with black's typical elegance.

everything leading up to that was lovely, and balanced, full of indulgent manly-men rolling their eyes affectionately at the golden boy's latest antics.

but the warning—we love him to death, but you need to guard your heart—felt real, and true, and my guts were up in knots the whole time i was falling in love with this family, waiting for the other shoe to drop.

man, what a writer.

almost had me pining away to go have morning coffee in perfect silence with a couple of grizzled cowboys and a stone-faced native.
Profile Image for Heather C.
1,477 reviews215 followers
November 14, 2011
Where, oh where do I begin to express my feelings about this?! After staying up ‘til 3:30 AM on a “school night” to finish, I’m still trying to digest it. Don’t let the title fool you because it isn’t really about cowboys. It is about making statements and connecting with humanity through art. The imagery is vivid and colorful and I can still see Devil Dog and Death of a Grievous Angel in my head. Especially, Death of a Grievous Angel! To be honest, the image just won’t go away. Also, this is probably the first military influenced GLBT book that I have read where the main focus is not DADT. There are no closets in this book and War is the giant elephant in the room.

The romance was sweet with just a smidge of angst. Even thought I did cry a few times, I don’t consider this to be a sad book. Just a few of the scenes had an overwhelming affect on me. Actually, the entire book did. It will be a story that will stay with me for a while.

I did have a little difficulty in the beginning with the dialogue and deciphering who was saying what. Luckily, that smoothed out after the first few chapters. Also, this story had the most complete ending compared to all of the other Sarah Black books I have read so far. And it certainly seemed to be a HEA. It is also very similar in style to Sarah's other books. I appreciate the time in research she has surely invested in putting this story together.

5+ Stars. I recommend it!
Profile Image for ♥Laddie♥ (Lee Lee).
353 reviews124 followers
November 14, 2011
A Book Worthy Of Every Star In The Sky

I've said it before and I will say it again. In my opinion, Sarah Black is one of the best and one of the most underrated authors in the M/M romance genre. With every book her skills grow and this book is her best thus far.

Marathon Cowboys is the story of Lorenzo Maryboy, an ex-Marine and up-an-coming cartoonist, and Jesse a painter. It's the story of how they meet, how they end up sharing a studio behind Jesse's grandfather's house in Marathon, Texas. It's the story of how the threads of their lives become entertwined and how they inspire each other, becoming the food that feeds each other's heart and soul.

Lorenzo and Jesse were two characters that came alive from page one. Jesse was flamboyant, thoughtful, wise and wonderfully insightful. Lorenzo was quiet, still, strong in body and mind, beautifully open and the kind of man who would find a way to be there for the people he loves even after death. Reading about Jesse and Lorenzo was like reading about the beginning of a brilliant and lasting romance.

The secondary characters in this story came across just as strongly and Lorenzo and Jesse. Jesse's grandfather, a famous cartoonist, caught my heart with the way he nurtured and mentored Lorenzo. He's one of the best secondary characters I've ever had the pleasure of reading about.

Sarah Black's writing style is something I've always enjoyed and it was pitch perfect in this story. Her style is sparse and stripped down, so much so that it's damn near elegant. What some authors might use a hundred words to say, Sarah Black says in fifty and she says it in a way that paints a vivid picture. I could see the somewhat dusty desert town of Marathon, Texas. I could feel the emotions of the characters. This book was visceral.

This book took me by surprise. I was expecting a great read and what I got was a book that made me teary, made me smile, made me laugh and made me fall thoroughly and completely in love with it's characters. I recommend this book a million times over.

Profile Image for Yvonne.
721 reviews38 followers
November 18, 2011
2.5 Stars I think this book had something to say about art & artists and how it can consume a person but as a romance, it kind of sucked The writing was fine for the most part, but half the time I couldn't figure out who was saying what. If I have to keep backtracking to figure it out then it will take me out of the story.

While Jesse and Maryboy are interesting characters we don't get to know them very well. Maryboy is a former marine and Native American who wants to be a cartoonist. I don't think we really learn much more than that. Jesse comes across as spoiled and selfish & it's vaguely mentioned he has a past history of using & discarding men & sleeping with his models. He lies to Mary about the status of his relationship with Sam, and doesn't hesitate to use Mary as well. In fact, I think what he does is pretty despicable.

To make matters worse, Jesse doesn't really change the shallow self centered person he appears to be to win Maryboy back. Instead we have the everything is forgiven because someone is in the hospital scene. (I'll have to find that listopia & add this book to that list) Maryboy just crumbles and does everything Jesse wants and that's how the issue is resolved. It was very unsatisfying.

Jesse gets called on his lies about Sam, his manager, and he responds by saying Maryboy is too controlling. There's more but I'll just say that by the last third of this book I wasn't rooting for this relationship. I think this book is OK for those who can get behind the thinking that the end justifies the means, artists are self centered people & it's fine if they use people to get what they want and if you like lukewarm one sided romance.

Profile Image for Sofia.
1,180 reviews213 followers
December 28, 2014

Beautifully quietly written. Black takes pains to slowly give us the characters. Slowly unfolding Maryboy in front of us and whilst doing so makes us think about war, people, and what society, us, make them do. This slow building up simmers out in Jesse's painting which serves as an angry culmination of my feelings. The further hurt of showing our hurts. The juxapositioning of using art to comment quietly or to vividly shock, show outrage.

I would say that I preferred the first three quarters of the story. The exciting ending did not grab me as much as the rest did. But it feels right in my world to think of them sitting quietly on the porch, staring at the stars.

Profile Image for Ami.
5,865 reviews496 followers
November 14, 2011
This is the first story from Sarah Black that I have ever read ... and I'm pretty taken with the story, even if it takes a moment to get myself with the writing. Written in the first person, Lorenzo Maryson, is a retired marine who is also a cartoonist. He meets Jesse Clayton the Third (JC3 to his friends in San Francisco) in a bar brawl. Jesse is an artist and his grandfather, The Original Jesse Clayton (that's how Jesse calls his granddad) is actually the man whom Maryson has contacted to stay, to learn about cartoon and use the studio.

What is charming about the story, it's strangely for me, not Maryson (as the main narrator) but Jesse. His presence is just so strong, he's like an unstoppable force (his grandfather calles him Hurricane Jesse, which is so apt for him). He's out and flirty and flaming (in his way), he wears red sneakers into a bar, he has a tattoo of a rainbow of his ass ... and the way he forces his way into Maryson's life is so easy, Maryson (the Navajo warrior) practically doesn't stand a chance.

I love their conversation about settling on nicknames (Jesse calls Marison "Mary" or "zo-zo"), and the philosophy on art and communication. Jesse is so smart and he can be thoughtful, though he sometimes quickly defuse it by something like this ... "But if I do feel the need to drop to my knees and pray, I sure hope you're standing right in front of me, so I can say a prayer to your pretty brown co*k" *snicker*.

There is enough angst too, not too long but quite significant. In which Maryson feels betrayed with what Jesse has done, which pushes them apart. Those moments just tug my heart and written really well. The climax is dramatic but I love it. I truly do.

Maryson has his appeal too, of course. He's more quiet than Jesse. He's actually 2-years younger than Jesse, but somehow his 'aura' makes him feel older for me, since he takes this protector position really well. I definitely think that he can keep Jesse on the right track without making Jesse loses his freedom. The Epilogue chapter proves that very well.

There is something so subtle and yet thoughtful and tender with the whole story. I can't really explain it, maybe other reviewers will do better than myself. I hope they do, because I know that this one is not decent enough to explain what I feel.

PS: Despite the titles, neither Jesse nor Maryson are cowboys :). But the cowboy theme is intricated to the story nicely, and you need to read it to understand.
Profile Image for Kaje Harper.
Author 76 books2,537 followers
April 20, 2013
This is a book about two men who are artists but whose world-views are miles apart. Lorenzo Maryboy is out of the Marine Corps after several tough tours of duty, and trying to turn the cartoon he did for fun and stress-relief into a profession. But as much as he enjoys and values his cartooning, he has other deeper values that involve loyalty and honor and human lives. Jesse Clayton is a painter, who lives life lightly, and whose deepest focus has up until now been reserved for his art.

These two men come together in the art studio owned by Jesse's grandfather. They fall in love, but for Maryboy, that involves a consideration and trust that trumps all other issues - he puts his lover ahead of everything else. For Jesse, art comes first - speaking out with his paintings, and displaying the burning talent and emotion that carries him through life is still paramount. And when those priorities clash, both men are going to get hurt.

I adored the beginning of the novel and the set-up of these characters. The conflict was clear. Jesse's not always the most sympathetic character - he pushes Mary into a relationship pretty fast, and it doesn't seem like it goes as deep for him. but that's realistic for an artist, who reserves his deepest passion and loyalty for his art. He's colorful and vivid, and the kind of talent you stand in awe of, but that doesn't make him easy to be in love with.

When the crisis blows up, it was well done. I was on tenterhooks to see how it would be resolved, without Jesse stifling his art or Mary having to sacrifice the consideration and trust he should have been able to expect. Unfortunately that resolution is short-circuited a bit by the dramatic events of the climax, leaving the ending sweet and positive, but a bit unsatisfying.

This is a book I will probably reread for the wonderful characters, especially Maryboy. There is a dangling plot thread at the end, but that seemed realistic. I do love this author's style and language, and her strong ex-military men.
Profile Image for Vanessa North.
Author 42 books514 followers
December 10, 2013
Another thought-provoking read from Sarah Black. I love the insight she gives in this book into military life, and i'm fascinated by the artist characters, and how they use art to tell their greater truths. The descriptions of Jesse's art, in particular, reminded me of some of the editorial photography of David LaChapelle, whose work is very dynamic and occasionally grotesque, but always big and bold and completely wild. As social commentary, this book works for me in the way LaChapelle's photography does, a series of juxtapositions, bold colors, and striking words.

As a romance, this book had one of the darkest "black moments" i've read from Ms Black. Maryboy's anguish over what he felt was a very deep betrayal was palpable, which made the eventual reunion with Jesse extra sweet. The playful buildup of the relationship was sweet and when it did turn intense, the emotion was there.

One thing Ms Black does differently from other authors, a sort of calling card of hers, is an extraordinary amount of kitchen blocking. (By blocking, i'm talking about the description of physical movements of the characters through a space) Black uses the kitchen and food or meal times frequently in her work as a time when families settle down to solve their problems. She describes in detail who is cooking, where the characters sit, what they are preparing, how big the portions are, etc. These moments tend to tell a lot about the dynamics of the relationships between the characters and how they are progressing, and i find myself watching the meals to figure out who is taking care of or comforting the other characters at the table, how the dynamic has shifted from the last meal.

All rambly thoughts, now, so I think i'll stop here. I enjoyed this and would recommend for those looking for a book where social commentary is part of the fabric of the plot.

Profile Image for MsMiz (Tina).
881 reviews110 followers
November 14, 2011

This story hit me just right. I have always appreciated Sarah Black's writing style. She does not waste words and the ones that are there are perfectly positioned for a very vivid interesting story with characters there are so deeply drawn.

The story opens in Alpine Texas at a bar where we get to meet the two main characters JC3 and Maryboy. Two guys that could not be more different, yet seem to fit together like puzzle pieces. Maryboy is just out of the USMC and JC3 is an artist. The story then moves to Marathon Texas where Maryboy is getting mentored by The Original. The story the unfolds as we meet some very rich secondary characters and watch the relationship unfold between JC3 and Maryboy at the same time each of them is trying to find themselves in their art.

This story is filled with interesting facts, really deep meaningful discussions about art, war, American heroes, believes, and just everything about living itself.
Profile Image for Maya.
282 reviews69 followers
February 17, 2015

“What artists do, their job in the world, is to see clearly. To lift up the blinders of money and greed and apathy, and then force everyone else to see what they see.”

Gorgeous book.

Made me feel. Made me think.

At times a bit too sentimental for my taste but I felt it suited the characters and the story.

Transported me to a world I knew very little about, and made me want to stay. I’m sure it’s no coincidence that the author chose Marathon, Texas – one of the places in America that experience the darkest skies - as the setting for this story.

After days of creating art and falling in love, and evenings spent sipping coffee in silence on the porch, the storm that hit around the 75% mark nearly destroyed me. But it was so worth it.

Profile Image for Bubbles  Hunty Honest & Direct Opinions .
1,314 reviews271 followers
November 15, 2011
I was going between two and three stars and will go with three. The imagery and the whole artist process was beautifully written and for that I will give three stars. It also had some really funny parts and I loved the nicknames everyone had

The writing was confusing though, which for first person POV it shouldn’t have been so bad. Like if more than two people were talking I’d get confused who was saying what and it kind of jumped around a bit.

I didn’t like the relationship it was too one sided and the characters weren’t developed. Even getting Mary’s POV we still know nothing about him except he grew up on a reservation and was in marines. Jesse was a total stranger and did nothing to deserve Mary

ETA I wanted my first sentence to be in bold like the other reviews on here :P
Profile Image for T.A. Webb.
Author 33 books625 followers
November 17, 2011
Lorenzo Maryboy is home from war. An aspiring cartoonist, this Navajo Marine is on his way to Marathon, Texas to meet up with a potential mentor. After two tours of duty in the Middle East, he is ready to start his new life.

Jesse Clayton III is out'n'proud. A recognized artist, he is on his way back to his grandfather's home in Marathon to get back in touch with his roots and start a new series of paintings inspired by the strong men there.

When Maryboy saves Jesse from a beatdown in a redneck bar in a small town outside Maarathon, they discover they have a lot in common. Both are headed to Marathon. Both are artists. Both like men...

Maryboy is used to rules and order and regulation, and when he finds himself falling for the unpredictable, volatile Jesse, he decides to approach the situation like a war game. Strategize, plan, stay the course. Of course Jesse is having none of that - he makes his own rules, and his art comes first.

This book started with a gallop and NEVER let up! Sarah Black has created two unforgettable characters who storm through this story like a Texas twister.

What makes this book fly is the care with which Ms. Black builds her characters. It would be so easy to make Maryboy as much of a cartoon as the ones he draws. Or have Jesse be the mindless twink he appears at first blush. And The Original a caricature of the old crusty redneck that populate so many other books. But these characters are made from sterner stuff - the love with which they were crafted shows in not only the shading of all of them, but in the care with which the dialogue is written.

"Jesse reached down, cleaned the sand around the shrine. 'I came here when my grandmother died.' he said. 'I was about seven, I think. Maybe six. We put her picture inside, and a prayer card, and I lit a candle and prayed that the virgin would make sure my grandmother got into heaven, even though she had spanked my butt the night before she died, and kept me from those cookies.' That was the moment, watching Jesse pick dead leaves from the shrine, that I fell in love with him."

God, does it get much better than that??? It's called draw the character, give him great depth and true words to say and real things to do, and stay true to him. So few get it right - Ms. Black does.

And the quirkiness - so good. " 'Make it so', I said, quoting Captain Jean-Luc Picard and pointing down the long, dusty road back to Marathon. 'Failure is not an option.' I wondered if a street map of San Francisco would look anything like the Borg." Holy Jesus, that send shivers down my spine.

A little over halfway through, I felt absolutely freaking gob-smacked. Hit over the head with a two by four. The story hit fifth gear and just...took me along for the ride. And guys, I went WILLINGLY. In good hands.

And then...

"Inside this house, we were warm and loved. A couple of old men sat on the porch, enjoying the silence, keeping watch do we could sleep."

I died and went to heaven.

Join me - read this book.

Profile Image for Trisha Harrington.
Author 2 books124 followers
March 24, 2013
I'm not sure where to start off with this book. So I'll just say one thing I loved this book. I loved Lorenzo "Mary" and I loved Jesse "The Original". The plot was better than I expected and I really enjoyed reading this book. It was such a fun read and if my memory is good it was my first Sarah Black book.

So why only 4 stars? By the end I hated Jesse. In the beginning I loved him as the love interest I loved him. He annoyed me though as the book progressed until I wanted to slap him. He lied to Lorenzo and was sneaky. I hated the couple by the end. He was not the perfect match for Lorenzo, but I still can't let him ruin the book for me.

What I would do if I met Jesse.

Marathon Cowboys is more about making a statement than cowboys. They were mentioned and there was a kind of western feel at times, but for a "cowboy romance" this might not be the book. The marine aspect was beautifully done (in my opinion). I loved how passionate Lorenzo got about the marines.

So as a book I can honestly say I loved it. If not for Jesse I would have had no problem giving it 5 stars. I went from love to hate in a short space of time and that is never a good thing. I would still read this again though.

Recommend it!
Profile Image for Shelley.
395 reviews494 followers
March 18, 2014
The first thing you need to know is that this is not about Cowboys getting it on; it’s about a flamboyant artist and an ex-marine cartoonist getting it on. There is a cowboy in it but he’s the Grandad and he’s also a cartoonist and an ex-marine. Oh, but wait …the story is set in a cowboy town called Marathon and yes they wear cowboy boots – real ones – and cowboy hats, and our protagonists eat big steaks, they also sweat a lot and breathe the dust of the dessert so perhaps that makes it a Cowboy story? You decide …

Maryboy is a retired Marine and a Native American; he is also a talented cartoonist who brought the best he could to this novel, but never did I feel like I knew him. I knew his ideals but not his true strength or any of his backstory. I enjoyed the artistic development of his drawings and his ideas for a long running strip; the way he describes how strong or curved lines in a picture create a character nuance was fascinating and I come away with a new appreciation for comics.

But that’s about as far as my appreciation will stretch. The secondary characters like Jesse’s cousin and her drug addiction served no purpose at all.
As a romance this book fails horribly. Firstly I missed the chemistry and attraction memo, which was probably because the writing kept throwing me out the story. So I thought the initial hook-up was mere convenience, especially on Jesse’s side and then it is at best, a tepid progression, but always on Jesse’s terms. Jesse is an accomplished artist who relies on his cutesiness to hide his selfish, spoiled, bratty, self-obsessed nature. He is a LIAR, a user and a manipulating hedonist who didn’t care about the consequences of his actions! He commits the worst kind of betrayal against Maryboy in the name of art and artistic messaging for self gain, and that to me was unforgivable. This was a relationship that I could not cheer for, not at all. I felt completely unrewarded and deeply dissatisfied with the conclusion. I felt angry. Angry that all Maryboy’s alpha posturing was for nought, angry at the way he was used and humiliated but mostly because there was no atonement from Jesse. I certainly do not see the ridiculous and implausible WTF scenario that the author hatches up at the end as a compensation. I only saw the lead up to further humiliation of Maryboy who is only to be rewarded with more false promises.

Like all artistic interpretations we see things differently and for me I didn’t like what I found here...
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Profile Image for ttg.
446 reviews157 followers
April 6, 2013
This is a beautiful book—richly told, filled with details that bring the dusty Texas scenery alive, and populated by very multi-dimensional characters that seem so real, they could be sitting on your porch right now, quietly drinking a beer and loving so fiercely, you can feel it through the pages.

I loved Lorenzo Maryboy’s first person POV—it was simple and straightforward, but still very evocative, whether he was describing his early morning runs though the small town of Marathon, or the irresistible charms of Jesse, the artist he ends up helping at a bar fight, or when he’s delving in deep into his comics and how he wants to create them. Lorenzo, Jesse, Jesse’s Grandfather (also named Jesse, so his nickname is The Original)—I loved reading about them, and Black did such a great job of creating these characters who felt so realized.

As someone who loves comic art, I especially loved the details about Lorenzo’s drawings and the history behind The Original’s own comic. It was little details like that, or about Lorenzo’s USMC background, or Jesse’s painting that added that extra layer of realism, so it was easy to slip into their cozy corner of Texas and follow along as they fell in love.

My only down points was that there were a few times the dialogue felt too lyrical, even for artistic Hurricane Jesse, who could get lost when he was in his zone with painting. At those times, I felt the book, more than if this was realistic dialogue between two people. That, and something happens during the last quarter that I thought might have been handed differently if it happened in real life.

Besides that though, I really dug it—the writing, the characters, the setting. I thought it was beautifully told, and I would recommend this to anyone who was looking for a good contemporary romance with very interesting, developed characters.

Lastly, I got this as a freebie from Dreamspinner’s October give-aways, and this was definitely a good choice for a free book. It was the first book I’ve read by Black, but it won’t be the last. She’s definitely a great writer, and I look forward to checking out more from her.
Profile Image for Vero.
1,443 reviews9 followers
January 25, 2013
This book had different stages for me. The beginning felt very slow and a tiny bit boring. Then, after two thirds it got dramatic and exciting. The last part was unfortunately very disappointing and even annoying for me.

What I disliked so much about the finale:

So Jesse was not my kind of guy at all - way to spoilt and self-centered. And so this book lost a bit of its potential for me. A pity, because some parts were really brilliant.
Profile Image for Cole Riann.
1,078 reviews254 followers
November 14, 2011
Sarah Black really advances with each book she writes. This just blew me away, and in the end, it leaves a really heavy impression about war and how it changes us, both individually and as a country. I loved it.

For a really great review, that said how I felt about the book perfectly, read Lauraadriana's review.
Profile Image for Vio.
677 reviews
November 20, 2011
I wish I could say I loved it because I really wanted to but unfortunately it just didn't work for me. So I can safely say I'm in the minority and one of the few who had issues with the story and the characters.

Profile Image for Leanne.
358 reviews35 followers
December 1, 2011
This story moved me enough to attempt a review. I worry that I'm not going to do it justice. So I'll be brief.

It ticks all the boxes I have for an unforgettable love story with a few bonus extras thrown in to send this into the realms of one-of-the-best-mm-romances-EVAH.

Themes of family and belonging, trust and self-discovery, hurt/comfort and acceptance are all here in spades. Written so beautifully, with such a light, yet eloquent touch. I loved that the two main characters are both exploring their art and spend a good deal of time discussing and thinking about the creative process. How unusual! And although I’m not an expert, it has a very authentic feel to it. Exploring the power of icons and symbols and the importance of art (and artists) in our society today was fascinating. Aside from all the arty bits, it’s the wonderful characters who will linger on in my memory of this book.

And some powerful imagery will stay with me for a good long while:
He sat on the top porch step, and I took one of the rocking chairs. He played an old classical guitar with nylon strings, and the sound was muted and gentle, old Spanish songs and slow fingerpicking. After an hour, The Original came out and brought us coffee, and we sat together, watching the stars, rocking, listening to Jesse play, and watching the storm blow in.

Beautiful story! Read it.

Profile Image for Richard.
180 reviews18 followers
December 4, 2014
Not at all what I expected and yet everything I needed.
So, SO smart, I loved this book!
Profile Image for SueM.
777 reviews146 followers
December 15, 2011
3.5 stars -

A good contemporary M/M romance about an out and proud gay artist, Jesse, and a former marine, still adjusting to civilian life, Lorenzo, who aims to become a professional cartoonist (he drew cartoons while in the Marines, which were successful via the net). It definitely has a fair amount of angst, a level of attraction that rapidly shifts to sex, and an artist obsessed with the need to paint to the exclusion of everything else.

This is not a bad novel, but for me, there are a few issues that detracted from the overall result. The first is that I found Jesse's character a bit of a caricature - the obsessed artist so focused on his work that he can't see the reality of the people around him, and thus finds out too late that there might be a problem he has overlooked. His character appears to be less fleshed out in comparison to Lorenzo's character, and though I suspect this is a deliberate move by the author to emphasize just how focused Jesse is in regards to his painting, I personally found it a bit too thin. Lorenzo's character does seem to have a bit more depth, yet oddly, his character I found a little inconsistent. Then there is one final issue... Towards the end of the book, an event occurs that seems to come out of nowhere, with just a hint to link it to the rest of the story. I'm not sure if the author was finding it difficult to tie the story up and thus used the event to work around it, or whether it is a hint for future novels about this pair. Whatever the reason though, the event ends up being relegated to almost an afterthought, as it is certainly not resolved by the end of the novel, with only a quick mention of it in the epilogue. I found the lack of resolve regarding this particular thread left me feeling vaguely dissatisfied by the novel, as it almost overshadowed the value in the rest of the story.

Profile Image for Lady*M.
1,069 reviews100 followers
November 21, 2011
4.5 stars

This isn't going to be especially coherent review, but here it goes...

Sarah Black almost always makes me cry. The melancholy is something almost all of her stories have in common. Her men - whether they are warriors or artists or activists or something else - are always complicated, even when they are looking for simple things. They don't fit nice little niches usually connected with romance. And she never takes easier way out - even when the readers might prefer it.

She tackles some serious themes in Marathon Cowboys, with war and artistic freedom and expression in the forefront. And her protagonists cannot be more different in their dealing with them. While Lorenzo takes pride in the uniform, in camaraderie, in being the one between the good guys and the bad guys, Jesse sees how the war uses people for far less noble reasons. This is an intimate subject for both of them, though Lorenzo doesn't understand that about Jesse until the very end. Their approach to art is different too: Mary wants to give people something to laugh about and, maybe, think a little, without wading in the politics. Jesse's message is brutal, to the point, striking at the very heart of American iconography (The painting hit me like a two by four across the face. He'd painted me like Jesus[...] Crucified on a cross of American money[...] A dead warrior angel, killed by my own kind.) For one this is a betrayal, for the other - the essence of who he is. One has to learn to listen, the other to learn to face the consequences of his actions. And, while they both change by the end of the story, neither one of them changes completely. That is a part of what I love about Black's stories. Life isn't neat, people make the mess out of their lives, things remain unresolved between the lovers. And that applies to the story as well. We don't get the answer to some questions: What happened to Jesse's sister? Who was a shooter? What was their motivation?...

As much as I liked the protagonists, I adored the character of Jesse's grandfather (The Original!). As always, I very much enjoyed the author's descriptions and imagery - when you can smell the landscape, see the colors, you know you are in the hands of an excellent writer. The story is layered and it just demands that you read it again and again and again and uncover them all. It has heart and balls and I can recommend it strong enough.
Profile Image for Nikyta.
1,411 reviews255 followers
January 6, 2012
I enjoyed this one very much. I loved the characters and the descriptions of the art. I love how Sarah Black always writes about something so powerfully that it always makes me stand up and listen, so to speak.

I loved both Jesse and Maryboy and their love of art. I felt like the hold art had over Jesse was extremely fascinating as well as the way his paintings were described and how much political unrest it caused. While I enjoyed the characters and their blooming relationship, the characters themselves don't have much depth but I loved the story enough not to care.

I liked the plot a lot and how it showed Jesse using the painting that speaks for itself to make others aware of the problems with this society. Like I said, it's powerful and the subtle relationship Jesse and Maryboy build is nice. It's soft and sweet while at times intense.

My only faults with this book is that is was confusing in the beginning. Why? I don't really understand myself just that I was confused. I felt like the ending was a bit rushed so it left me with a few unanswered questions .

Aside from that, I really did enjoy this book. I love passionate books and this one has a passion for art as well as a subtle passion between the characters. I loved it but then again I've always loved Sarah Black's books.
Profile Image for Nichole (DirrtyH).
823 reviews118 followers
July 27, 2012
Mmmm. This was so good. Almost 5 stars. Can't really put my finger on why it's not. But the writing is dreamy and I loved the main character, Lorenzo Maryboy. He's the kind of guy you want to make breakfast for in the morning.

I loved how little angst there was in the beginning. (There's a little bit of angst later on, but it's good.) Jesse and Lorenzo end up sharing studio space at Jesse's grandfather's house - Jesse is a painter and Lorenzo is a cartoonist. I assumed most of this book would be about them arguing and feeling all entitled and annoyed at the other for being there, but that was not the case. They get along well from the beginning and are more than happy to share the space. It was a low key, easy kind of falling in love and it was perfect.

The characters are great. I love the theme of one grounded, simple type of person falling in love with that untameable free spirit and just having to learn how to not hold on too tight. I highly recommend this book.
Profile Image for Lee Brazil.
Author 97 books236 followers
April 30, 2012
I'd say this is a can't recommend highly enough book. The characters are amazing. I ached for them, felt their pain, their bewilderment with life and their absorption in their art.

So many stories about art and artists, musicians and cowboys, and yet very few of them capture that whole essence of what it is to be absorbed by creation.

463 reviews
November 26, 2011

"The stormy blue of his eyes, with their humor and intelligence. His mind. Oh God, I was so in love with his mind. And his flirty gay-boy come-on in red shoes. An comed the way he dragged a couple of green velvet Victorian couches into the studio, called it Paris on the Rio Grande, stripped down and gave me a blow job with all the joy of a kid licking an ice cream cone in July.

I wanted him. I wanted him all for my own, his heart and his mind. I wanted us to be partners. Real partners, forever and ever, amen. I wanted us to be partners. Real partners, forever and ever, amen. I wanted us to ascend to heaven on the same cloud, a couple of cowboy angels in handmade boots"

This is why I love Sarah Black’s writing, because when I read paragraphs like these, it makes me both choked up a bit and also makes me smile. I never ever feel that her characters are engaged in over the top angst and melodrama, even when they experience some very strong emotions.

In many ways I found what I was looking for in this story as I always do, but this book also took me in a somewhat unexpected direction. It has some similar themes to this writer’s previous works, but at the same time those themes create original work of art. If you read the blurb, you have a pretty decent idea of the outline of the story, but believe me when I tell you the story is so much richer than what the blurb implies. I did expect to see a diverse cast of characters because Sarah Black always portrays diverse characters in her works, and I was very happy to see that Lorenzo is of Navajo descent and it is not just a nod from the writer, but part of who he is and part of what influenced his choices in life.

I was also happy to see the writer exploring the theme of war veterans coming home and struggling to find the place in their new life, but in this story she explores this theme from a new angle, at least for me. Lorenzo is not just an army veteran struggling to find out who he is now in terms of how his painful and at the same time gratifying experiences shaped him, Lorenzo is an artist — and a very talented one (even if he puts himself down more than once and insecure about it). He is trying to find out who he is, in which direction he should take his art and on this path he meets Jesse. Jesse, who is a genius painter, whose main focus in his life is his art and always had been his art.

I thought Lorenzo and Jesse had a great chemistry from the time they met, and I actually thought it was a little bit more “hot” than in many other works by this writer that I have read. Not that this is a bad thing of course, it is just I am used to more understated chemistry in her stories.

The conflict between Jesse and Lorenzo arises because of the appropriation in art and I thought that by creating certain plot turns the writer raised questions for us to think about. Is appropriation in art a good thing? Is it a good thing when it hurts a person whose pain was being appropriated in order to create a piece of art? But do the issues become more complicated if the piece of art is basically a work of genius? What if the pain of the person whose identity he appropriated changed the artist to such a degree that his whole style became different in that work? What if he wanted to make a very real difference in the lives of many people and was inspired by that person? The writer does not give us black and white answers, except maybe saying that love and forgiveness matter more than anything else. It certainly made me think and appreciate this writer’s works even more.

The characters definitely mature and evolve by the end of the story, and the writer portrays both guys with the whole spectrum of colors, not just black and white, but I was left with the impression that Lorenzo evolved more than Jesse did. And while they definitely love each other, I was had the feeling that Lorenzo is going to compromise more in this relationship to allow Jesse to remain who he is.

Even though his art is the center of his world, Jesse is definitely from the beginning so much more than just “artsy gay boy,” as Lorenzo observes; he is smart and has a shrewd business sense as well. I am not sure, however, what Jesse learned at the end. I can get behind the idea that a genius should be allowed to do what he wants to do in the situations like this, and Jesse is so incredibly fragile in the maters which relate to his art, but as I said there are no black and white answers to this in my opinion. On the other hand Lorenzo is struggling at the end with not letting himselth smother Jesse, so maybe our protagonists’ characters flaws are still there and it is more realistic and interesting to see “real people” fall in love and trying to balance their passion for what they love to do with passion for each other. I guess subconsciously I did want to classify them into neat little boxes, but they just won’t go there, and I think it is a really good thing and testament to this writer’s talent.

There are few secondary characters all together and most of them had tiny parts to play, so the only well-developed one that stood out was Jesse’s grandfather.

One more thing, I think that besides being the longest work I have read from Sarah Black, this story also has the happiest ending so far. Maybe because this work is the longest, there is a definite happiness for our characters and I admit to being so very pleased about it. As much as I have enjoyed her somewhat melancholic HFN endings, which felt very organic for her shorter stories, I was pleased here with the change.

Highly recommended, but again, please note that I am a fan of this writer so please seek out other reviews to make your decision
Profile Image for Heller.
974 reviews119 followers
September 12, 2012

I loved this book. The writing was so lush, I just sank right into it. I was laughing most of the way through this because the conversations between Jesse and Lorenzo were just so snappy and rich.

I was going to drop to my knees in front of his beautiful brain.

"It's not just that I want to bend you over and fuck you till the cows come home, Jesse, but I also want to eat your brain raw, with both hands."

He was laughing, brought our joined fists up to his mouth for a kiss.

Love, love, love it!

Lorenzo is just out of the Marines and on his way to Marathon, Texas to work with a retired cartoonist in order to improve his own work and be mentored. He gets a bit side-tracked engaging in a bar fight and meeting up with his mentor's grandson, Jesse, an artist on his way to stay with his grandfather.

And so begins one of the most beautifully written books I've ever read. The descriptions, the conversations, the story. Gorgeous.

Highly recommended for everyone who loves cowboys and cowboys in love.

Profile Image for Anke.
2,464 reviews86 followers
January 19, 2013
Not happy with the first try of my review, after sleeping over it I hope I manage a better one. So, I really, really liked this book. The unfolding of the relationship between Lorenzo and Jesse, their creating of their art, working next to each other, the wonderful figure of granddad, everything worked together and unfolded in a very gripping way. A five-star-read throughout, I could understand totally, why Lorenzo felt betrayed and how he tried to cope with it. Nevertheless, the story lost me more and more during the last, I think, 20%. I couldn't follow the story development in Washington and the epilogue didn't help much. I'm glad they got their happy ending, how HEA that is, I have my doubts. For my feelings Lorenzo is giving up too much.
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
Profile Image for Kristie.
1,170 reviews72 followers
July 20, 2014
If I'd not known that this was not a cowboy book, I probably would have been very disappointed. You see the title and expect dirty cowboy dudes on a ranch, doing cowboy things, and well, having lots of how cowboy sex. But read the blurb and you know that's not what it it. Still, you hope.

Thankfully, I was warned and was able to read this with a kind of clean canvas of sorts.

I really enjoyed it. The pretty words, the kind of lyrical way the story flows. It tugged at me and then left me wishing for some follow up. The HFN ending was exactly what the story needed, despite me wanting more.

Profile Image for Snowtulip.
1,076 reviews
November 20, 2011
It's almost difficult to call this story subtle (since so much is blatant), but that's the word that sticks for me. The story and character development are subtle and the sense of place that is created just wraps around you and makes you feel the tradition, family, and stark beauty. I think this subtlety makes the stark in your face image that Jesse creates of Maryboy that much more potent of a social/political statement. The story did leave me with many loose ends, or not fully developed plots and relationships. However, I was lost in the world and enjoyed reading this story.
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