This review and recipe are WAAAAAAAY late I know! But I had a crazy last few weeks! Ok first off I want to say that Z.A. Maxfield is, has and will continue to be, for me, one of the M/M authors that will forever make me grateful to have stumbled onto this genre. The love stories that ZAM writes ALWAYS connect with me in a way that inevitably gives me a lot of joy. Her humor, and the way that she always manages to bring out so much from her characters, is a gift. Really, she is a gifted writer and I love her books.
My Cowboy Heart is not the exception here, her first book published with a more mainstream house (Intermix from the Penguin Group) and it did not disappoint. I LOVED it! It is a bona fide “Gay Cowboys” love story, set perfectly, with characters that broke my heart then put it back together, made me laugh and sniffle a bit, gave me the hot flashes (because the erotica was PRIMO) left me smiling, and certain of that happy ending…So for ZAM and her boys I needed to make something EXTRA special, so I went Southwest all the way! I made these boys Roasted Poblano Peppers with New Mexican Chile Sauce and paired it with a lovely 2011 Spanish Verdejo from Arindo winery that will mark the end to my summer of perfectly sippably delicious wines. The Arindo Verdejo is a very light white wine, with citrusy and herbal notes, reminiscent of a sharp chablis or very light Sav Blanc. I love it with spicy food, and at $9.00 a bottle you cannot do any better. But enough about that for now, on to the story.
Malloy had a pretty quiet life…At 32 he has place in the world where he feels safe, and useful, needed, and even though his childhood was not happy or good in any way, he has found family in the people of the J-Bar ranch. He came to the J-Bar as a foster kid and never left. He is a man now, with accomplishments and a history, he has known love from Mr. and Mrs. Jenkins. The owners of the ranch have been like parents to him and he’s grateful to them beyond words, but he’s always kept a little bit on himself closed off to any real intimacy of closeness. He knows that the people that you love you most are the ones that can live the biggest holes in your heart when they let you down…People leave.
The aloof, “I am an island” thing has been working pretty well for him too, whenever he needs to scratch and itch he heads to Albuquerque, he doesn’t need a woman to be happy, what he needs is to work in that ranch and feel solid. That’s all well and good riiiiiiiiight until Crispin Carrasco comes to work to the J-Bar and little by little EVERY DAMN THING that Malloy seemed sure about goes right out the window.
Malloy was pretty sure he was straight and interested in living an uncomplicated life. The thing is Crispin was like this ball of energy that put ALL of Malloy’s senses in high alert. EVERYTHING about Crispin made Malloy want to know more, see more, touch more…And that’s the other thing! He WANTED Crispin in a way he hadn’t really considered before, more than that Crispin was someone he wanted to protect and make happy…Something about Crispin seemed so fragile, like his outer shell could be broken so easily. Malloy was reluctant, but he finally let go and once he did that then…THEN he REALLY understood that the reason why he hadn’t needed before, WANTED so bad before, was because he hadn’t found the thing that his body craved.
Crispin is a complex guy, free and loose on the outside, but with deep deep scars inside, he was hurt bad as a child and then orphaned. He knew abandonment like Malloy did. He had the same kind of hurt inside him. Those things that change you deeply and make you feel that no one could possibly understand just how damaging some pains could be, how long it could stay, how much it could haunt you. The thing was that Crispin was not willing to let go of what he found in being Malloy’s, and once they went THERE all they could do was to fall. FALL HARD. It made for fabulous romance.
I loved the secondary characters in this one and was very glad to see that the two other wayward cowboys at the J-Bar are getting their own story.
So, this novel like all of ZAM’s has all the classic components of a great romance…Strong main characters, but just a little broken, lots of humor and sexyness, and a happy ending that when it comes feels warranted, and well deserved.
I am glad that ZAM explored the Western theme for a novel, because I loved the setting here, I appreciated how deeply she went into the New Mexican geography and how is really shapes the hardiness and strong substance of the men that live and work in it.
I am very much looking forward to the next installment and hoping for lots more from Ms. Maxfield.
Now moving on to the food!
Roasted Poblano Peppers with Tofu Picadillo
4 Roasted Poblano Peppers (Directions below)
1 Large potato
1 pack extra firm tofu cut into 1/2 inch cubes
1 packets of taco seasoning (I used Simply Organic Southwest Taco)
1 medium onion chopped
1/2 tablesppon of cilantro
1 garlic clove minced
Directions: For the poblano peppers. Put the peppers in the middle rack of an oven preheated at 400F, after 10-12 minutes turn the peppers, leave them in the oven for another 8-10 minutes or until the skin is blistering and softened. Take them out, put them in a bowl, and cover with cling wrap until they are cool enough to remove the skin, seeds and veins.
For picadillo, take the taco seasoning and add two tablespoons of water and mix into the cubed tofu. Let it marinade for about one hour. Meanwhile peel and cube potato. Blanch the cubes in boiling water. In a skillet add one tablespoon of olive oil and sautee onion,, garlic and zuchinni for a few minutes then add tofu and potatoes. Cook together for about five minutes at medium heat, at the end add the cilantro. Stuff the peppers with the picadillo and to with the New Mexican Chile sauce.
New Mexican Chile Sauce
1 driend New Mexican Chile seeded and deveined
2 dried Guajillo Chiles seeded and devained
1 dried California Chile seeded and deveined
1 teaspoon of agave nectar
1 can of diced stewed tomatoes
1/4 cup of fresh cilantro
1/2 medium onion chopped
1 garlic clove
1/3 cup of unsweetened almond milk (or soy milk)
1/2 tablespoon of lemon juice.
Directions: Put hot water in a bowl, and put the dried chiles to rehydrate for about one hour. After the chilies have soaked put a tablespoon of olive oil in a medium saucepan. Sautee onions and garlic. After about two minutes out in the chiles and stewed tomatoes and cilantro. Add salt and pepper to taste, bring to a boil and then simmer for 20 minutes stirring occasionally. Add the milk and stew it for another 10 minutes. Once it was boiled take it out of the pan let it cool and the blend it to make a smooth sauce. Add lemon juice at the end.
I hope that the book and the food are as good for you as they were for me!