I’m excited to welcome A.M. Arthur on Queer Books Unbound today to celebrate the release of her latest installment in the Clean Slate Ranch series! Scroll down for a character interview with the two leads!
Welcome to Clean Slate Ranch: home of tight jeans, cowboy boots and rough trails. For some men, it’s a fantasy come true.
Shawn Matthews never imagined he’d be living out of his car, trying to make ends meet, but life doesn’t always go your way—he knows that better than most. When an accident leaves the Clean Slate Ranch shorthanded, Shawn is enlisted to help cook and finds himself bunked next to the sexiest cowboy he’s ever laid eyes on.
The first time Robin Butler spots the new chef, he thinks he’s seeing an actual ghost. Shawn is the spitting image of his late husband, and it spooks the hell out of him. The former rodeo-star-turned-ranch-hand does his best to avoid the soft-spoken cook—except it’s kind of tough when the man makes the best damn grub this side of the Mississippi and has a boy-next-door charm that’s impossible to resist.
Even though the tension between them practically sizzles, Shawn doesn’t do hookups and Robin isn’t ready for a new relationship. Besides, Robin can tell Shawn’s been hurt and deserves a partner who isn’t saddled with a tragic past. But chemistry doesn’t lie. Maybe finding each other—and a second chance at love—is the lucky break they both need.
ROBIN: Hey, thanks so much for having us here at Queer Books Unbound. I’m Robin Butler and I’m a horseman up at Clean Slate Ranch in Northern California, which is a vacation dude ranch and horse rescue and rehab. I work with the horses and tourists, and even do some trick riding demos on occasion. And up the road a bit is Bentley Ghost Town, where you can eat some of the finest grub in Santa Clara County, cooked up by the quiet, shy man sitting beside me.
SHAWN: Oh, is it my turn to talk? I didn’t want to interrupt your infomercial.
ROBIN: **kisses Shawn’s cheek** Hey, those attractions are our bread and butter. I talk ‘em up whenever I get the chance.
SHAWN: Yes, you do. So I’m Shawn Matthews and I’m the pastry chef at the Tango Saloon up in Bentley, and Robin is right about the food being amazing. I’m not biased because I work there. Our head chef is pretty brilliant in his cooking of such an old-time menu.
Well, since you’ve already brought up the Saloon, tell us a bit more about the food and why you decided to become a pastry chef, Shawn.
SHAWN: Everyone raves about the chef’s Buffalo Burger, which is a meat authentic to the 19th century time-period of the ghost town. The secret is in the sauce but Chef is super-protective of his recipe. I don’t even know how to make it. And I didn’t really set out to be a pastry chef. I learned how to bake at a young age because my mom loved it. She’d make elaborate Christmas cookie platters for friends and neighbors, and I’d help her distribute them. **smiles sadly** I miss her.
ROBIN: **squeezes Shawn’s hand** But we’re bringing that cookie tradition back, right? Shawn promised to teach me how to bake cookies from scratch. I’m pretty hopeless in a kitchen but I’ve got a pretty amazing teacher.
SHAWN: Suck up. To finish answering your question, though, I had to become independent at a young age, I had a talent for baking, and kitchen jobs were easy for me to get. But the best Help Wanted ad I ever saw was for the Tango Saloon. I love working there and my coworkers are amazing, and I even met this guy here.
Do you and Chef ever get strange food requests from diners?
SHAWN: Sometimes, but it’s a very limited menu so we can’t change a lot and our supply order rarely changes. We did recently add a second version of our stewed pinto beans as a vegan option, though.
That’s always a great option to have. So how did you guys meet? I’m assuming through your job proximity?
ROBIN: Yep, but it actually took a couple of months before our paths ever crossed, because Shawn never came down to the ranch. Then one day, there he was, in the corral getting ready to go riding with some friends, and I swear I was looking at the ghost of my dead husband.
SHAWN: And you were a huge jerk about it. But you did apologize and explain, and as much as I wanted to deny my attraction to Robin, there it was.
ROBIN: Plus, I wooed you with my whittling skills.
Whittling skills? Please, do elaborate.
ROBIN: It’s something I learned a lifetime ago, and for a long time I didn’t sleep well at night. So I’d stay up and whittle things. Animals, people, objects, you name it. The first thing I made for Shawn was a rose. He was a goner after that.
SHAWN: I kind of was. The more time I spent with Robin, the more I saw how big his heart is. How much love he still had to give, and I realized how lucky I was to be on the receiving end of that love. I didn’t make it easy on him, though.
ROBIN: Believe me, it was worth it. I’d closed up part of myself after my husband died three years ago, and I was scared to risk loving someone again. Shawn gave me the courage to face some things in my past, and I couldn’t be happier than where I am right now.
It sounds as if you’re both incredibly happy, so we won’t keep you much longer. How about some fun, rapid-fire questions?
Favorite flavor of birthday cake?
ROBIN: I’m a fan of basic vanilla cake and chocolate frosting.
SHAWN: German chocolate.
Morning person or night person?
ROBIN: Night owl.
Last thing you ate?
ROBIN: Breath mint.
Cats or dogs?
Hahaha. Okay, three words that best describe your other half.
ROBIN: Gentle, smart, squeezable.
SHAWN: **laughs** Loyal, generous, my best friend.
And on that lovely note, thanks again for being here with us today!
A.M. Arthur was born and raised in the same kind of small town that she likes to write about, a stone’s throw from both beach resorts and generational farmland. She’s been creating stories in her head since she was a child and scribbling them down nearly as long, in a losing battle to make the fictional voices stop. She credits an early fascination with male friendships (bromance hadn’t been coined yet back then) with her later discovery of and subsequent love affair with m/m romance stories. A.M. Arthur’s work is available from Carina Press, SMP Swerve, and Briggs-King Books.
When not exorcising the voices in her head, she toils away in a retail job that tests her patience and gives her lots of story fodder. She can also be found in her kitchen, pretending she’s an amateur chef and trying to not poison herself or others with her cuisine experiments.
Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org with your cooking tips (or book comments). For updates, info and the occasional freebie, sign up for her free newsletter: https://vr2.verticalresponse.com/s/signupformynewsletter16492674416904
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