Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Blog Tour, eARC Review, Excerpt & #Giveaway: Spurred On by Jon Keys

Publisher: Decadent Publishing

Cover Artist: Tibbs Designs
Words: 29,490

ARe | Amazon

Kegan’s new stepfather and stepbrothers are out to make his life miserable. Between the bullying and being overworked, he’s nearly at his wit’s end. When his mother leaves on an annual cattle buying trip for the ranch, he’s determined to suffer through. He must, if he expects to protect her like he promised his dying father. When the family of a young man he’s been infatuated with holds a rodeo, Kegan can’t see a way he can compete. Not until a mystical medicine hat stallion walks into his life. It’s not long before they are the talk, and mystery, of the rodeo. The only thing more daunting than keeping his identity secret is how Kegan is going to balance all this with his draw to the man of his dreams. Will Cole end up being his magical prince, or is Kegan going to find himself left in the dust?

Giles West's  Review of : Spurred On by Jon Keys

Four stars * * * *

Where to start on this review?  That is the question.  “Spurred On” by Jon Keys is a retelling of the Cinderella story, but with a male in the lead and set in the land of cowboys.  Instead of a ball there is a rodeo.  And, there’s no need for a fairy godfather when there’s a “mystical medicine hat stallion” to help the hero.

First of all, I am a huge fan of fairy tales and revised or reimagined fairy tales (except for certain TV shows which seem more soap operaesque to me).  But I digress, back to the novel at hand.  I absolutely love Jon Keys’ fairy tale.  For the most part, it actually does read like a modern fairy tale without being hokey.  The author gives us a hero we can root for, as well as a great love interest.

But, there are a lot of problems with this book, most of which I don’t believe are because of the author.  I usually start a review talking about the cover and so I’ll start there.  I’m reminded of two movie reviewers on an old sketch comedy show who used to say “hated it”.  That pretty much sums up my feeling about the cover.  There is a problem with using models on covers.  

The men in the novel are over the top, incredibly good-looking.  I know looks are subjective, but to me the models on the cover look nothing like the characters in the book.  That is distracting because while I do like to imagine the characters myself, the cover is there and quite frankly I don’t find either man remotely handsome (no offense to the models) or cowboy rugged.

The boots on the cover look great, and the original Cinderella is really all about the shoes anyway, isn’t it? (LOL).  The horse was such a big part of the story that I think instead of the men, it might’ve been nicer to have a horse and rider in the background and maybe a silhouette of a man in the foreground.  I know, I shouldn’t judge by “what if’s”, but hey—it’s my review.

Editing, or rather lack of editing, is a huge problem in this book, which I’ll address at the end of this review.  For now, I’ll focus on some of my favorite things about “Spurred On”.  The fairy tale inspirations are all over this novel without it ever seeming trite or silly.  I absolutely love the interactions between the lead character Kegan and the horse.  The horse has a real personality and character all his own—perfection.  All of the characters fit the story exceptionally well, without any missteps on the author’s part.

Brilliant idea Mr. Keys!  The whole story is original and inspired, yet harkens back to the original Cinderella with a nice almost reverential or respectful feel.  The elements are there, and one would know that without the author telling us, but Jon Keys is in there too in a witty and imaginative way.  He really has something new to add to the old tale and it’s not just because it’s now an m/m story.  Changing the setting works wonderfully, and believe it or not the cowboys and rodeo action do have a magic of their own.

Now for the bad.  And one thing I will say is that a gifted author like Jon Keys needs to find a publisher who knows what editing actually means.  Decadent Publishing does have editors on staff (trust me-I checked), but the first thing those editors need to do is look up the word “editor” in the dictionary.  Maybe the horse from the story could explain to the editors at Decadent Publishing what editing means, since clearly they have no idea whatsoever.

Yes, I’m going on a rant here for reasons which I will now state.  Even the information that went out to reviewers was filled with typos and misspellings.  When this title was sent out for review I had misgivings.  The story immediately drew me in, but the typos were evident from the first line.  Let me just give some examples.

In the summary of the story in front of the book there is this line:

“The only bright spot is a Cole, who’s admired from a distance.”

“A Cole?  This is a book featuring cowboys and horses, did they mean to say a colt or is the cowboy’s name Cole.  Cole is a cowboy in the story, so the “a” should clearly have been edited out of the summary saying what the book is about.  Then there's the first line of the book:

“Once upon a time… Isn’t that how all fairytales start?

First sentence and there are two mistakes.  It’s one sentence not two, so 'Isn’t' shouldn’t be capitalized.  And, according to Miriam-Webster 'Fairy tale' are two words not one.  Kegan’s best friend is named 'Alec' but at one point the name is spelled 'Alex.'  There is also some overusing of words, which a good editor should spot, since it’s their job to edit.  Yes, I’m harping but bad or non-existent editing is getting to be a major problem with books which I’ve been given to review.  And, before anyone asks, it’s easy to tell when an author has real talent and is good, and when the editor does her job poorly.  Even the best authors need editors.  A lot of times they get caught up in the story or characters and end up with typos or simple mistakes. That’s when the editor is “supposed” to come in and do their job of “editing”.  Where’s a magic horse when you need one?

Well, enough of that.  Would this book have generated a perfect score if it had perfect editing.  Probably not quite, but pretty darn close.

There is one thing that left me a bit perplexed because, to be honest, I wasn’t sure what I thought about it myself.  That’s the topic of sex in this book.  I’m not familiar with this publisher with the bad editing (yes, I’m rubbing it in-they deserve it for letting the author down), so I don’t know if their books are known for having a certain amount of sex or not.  The earlier parts of the book don’t have sex, then all of a sudden near the end—bam!  Now, being a male I can certainly appreciate hot man on man sex between cowboys.  Certainly there are more than a few female readers who appreciate it as well.  And the male couple are definitely extremely hot, to be blunt.  OK, OK, so there was hot sex—what’s the problem, you ask?

The problem is what your views would be on reading about Cinderella rimming Prince Charming.  On their wedding night mind you—so it is within the confines of the matrimonial bed.  Hmm… you maybe start to see where I’m a bit confused as to what I thought about this.  Don’t get me wrong, this is definitely an adult book right from the beginning.  It’s no child’s story, but there is a fairy tale sweetness and charm about it that makes me think twice about those hot, juicy love scenes near, and at, the end.  I haven’t really made my mind up about all of that.  On the one hand doing the sex scenes in a more fade to black way would retain the fairy tale feel.  On the other hand, it doesn’t pretend not to be an adult book.  Either way, readers will have to decide on their own about those scenes.  On a side note, there was some (just a bit) repetitive use of phrases in the love scenes—and I don’t mean the moans and groans.

At long last, here are my final thoughts on “Spurred On”.  The length of the story is perfect, and characters are endearing and fit the story well.  The story is such a creative rendition of the Cinderella fairy tale that it’s going to boost my rating up a star despite the horrendous editing job.  Someone at the publishing house isn’t doing their job or doesn’t know how to do their job.  Time to clean house, I say.  It’s very easy to lose readers, especially when you have mistakes in the summary of the book.

To author Jon keys, I don’t know you, but I loved the whole idea of this book.  It put a smile on my face.  Thank you.  And find a publisher with better editors, you deserve it.

Great story, fantastic characters, fun weekend read!  The story definitely pulls this rating up from what I thought would be three stars because of the lack of editing.

Four stars * * * *


An hour or so later, Kegan stood in the driveway watching Alec drive away in the final rays of sunshine. Alec had offered to give him a ride to the rodeo, but he’d turned him down. Once the pickup disappeared from sight, he walked into the house and worked his way to the dark back room he called his bedroom. He flipped on the light and clenched his jaw at what he found.
His clothes were strewn across the room. Some were ripped, but all of them looked and smelled like they’d been stomped on by someone who’d just walked through the holding pens after they’d worked cattle. They were smeared with mud and cow shit.
“Dammit to fucking hell! The assholes!”
He stomped through the room, kicking piles of clothes out of his way in a blaze of fury. Everything he touched needed to be patched, washed or, more often, both. This settled it. Brent and Seth were out to make his life miserable. The question had become, what was he going to do about it? They seem to have done a good job of taking away his choices.
He began to straighten the tiny basement bedroom. A few minutes later, the job became so discouraging he dropped to the bed and sighed. Kegan lost track of time as he thought through the last months. The sound of a horse nearby shook him from his desolation.
He forced himself from the bedroom, tired of being the one who was crapped on around there. He stomped through the empty house, his anger as fierce as ever. Another nicker drifted to him, and his focus shifted to the present. He opened the door to find a horse standing beside the porch. A beautiful Paint stallion with classic medicine hat markings.
Kegan eased down the steps and held one hand toward the horse, watching him closely. The animal leaned forward, sniffed him, and then snorted.
“Hey, big guy. Where did you come from? If a medicine hat had appeared in any of the BLM herds around here, we’d have known.”
The horse tossed its head, the black and white markings shimmering in the sun. He didn’t shy as Kegan moved closer. The horse’s only reaction was the rippling of thick muscles as it shifted its weight.
“Easy, boy. You’re awfully tame.”
The horse froze in place, studying Kegan as he moved closer. He reached out, resting his hand against the stud’s silky skin. It nickered at the touch but didn’t move. As he ran his hands over the animal, he marveled at how calm the stallion was. This was one of the steadiest horses he’d ever come across.
“Fella, you must belong to someone. Where’d you come from? I know if I was missing a horse like you I’d be having a fit.”
He turned to go into the house and put out the word he had a mystery horse. When he did, the horse stepped in front of him.
“Hey, guy. I gotta let people know you’re okay.”
Kegan tried to step around him again, but the horse’s hooves shot out and stopped him. After a third attempt earned him the same results, he threw his hands up in surrender. “Okay, so you don’t want me to go into the house. What are we going to do?”
The stallion stuck his muzzle in Kegan’s face and snorted. He turned and started down the driveway toward the river. The river had become Kegan’s favorite place to escape his problems, especially after his dad died, and they scattered his ashes there. He had spent a lot of time watching the snowmelt flow past. In the past couple of months, he’d stopped going to the river. But the mysterious horse headed directly toward a large boulder marking his favorite spot.
The stallion threaded its way through aspen thickets that looked tight for a goat, but he slipped into them without disturbing a leaf. The sound of the river grew as they passed through the mix of evergreen, aspen, and willow. He cleared the final clump of trees to find the horse standing among boulders larger than he remembered.
Kegan took a step and froze in mid-stride. A neatly folded set of clothes was perched on the nearest flat rock. He stepped closer and touched them. The deep-blue jeans and the heavily pressed white shirt were obviously new, not some freak occurrence. He glanced around, wondering what was happening.
“Horse, did your rider fall in or something? You don’t seem concerned about finding anyone though.”
He searched up and down the riverbank to see if someone was trying to swim, or in trouble. He checked for a good distance in each direction and found nothing to indicate the source of either the horse or the clothing. He made his way to the boulder holding the pile of clothes and ran his hand over them.
The Paint stepped close and pushed them toward Kegan. He flared his nostrils and snorted again. With the horse fixed squarely in his sight, he pulled the jeans from the boulder and held them in front of him.
“They’re my size. How the hell....”
The horse struck his hoof across the rock and the wind gusted, sounding like the low note of a Cheyenne flute. The tone drifted away, but not before leaving Kegan with a lingering sense of peace. He looked again to find a cowboy hat, hand-tooled belt, and a pair of boots in the mix with everything else. Each of them appeared custom made. He studied the stallion again.
“You know, I never put much store by the whole medicine-hat-horse-having-magic thing, but I’m starting to change my mind.” He paused for a minute to consider. “Does that mean you’re going to let me ride you, too? I need a horse to do the rodeo thing.”
The stallion slipped beside him, pressed his nose under Kegan’s backside, and shoved him forward. His nudge was enough to send Kegan stumbling across the rocks.
“Okay, got it. I’ll change already.”
He stripped quickly, splashing the crystal-clear water over himself to wash off the day’s dust and sweat. As he slipped into the clothes, he found he’d been right. Each piece was a custom fit. The boots came to just below his knees and stitched across the uppers were patterns of horses and aspen leaves. The jeans hugged his butt, emphasizing his ass until even he had to admit it was toned and muscular. By the time he fastened the silver buckle and situated the hat, he was transformed. The ugly duckling feeling he always had, evaporated. With a final brush of his hands, he fixed his gaze on the horse.
“All right. It’s time to see if this is going to work out. We need to get to the stable and find a saddle to fit you. The big question is, are you going to let me ride you? I guess now’s as good a time to find out as any.”

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About the Author

Jon Keys’s earliest memories revolve around books. Either read to him or making up stories based on the illustrations, these were places his active mind occupied. As he got older the selection expanded beyond Mother Goose and Dr. Suess to the world of westerns, science fiction and fantasy. His world filled with dragon riders, mind speaking horses and comic book heroes in hot uniforms.
A voracious reader for half a century, Jon recently began creating his own creations of fiction. The first writing was his attempt at showing rural characters in a more sympathetic light. Now he has moved into some of the writing he lost himself in for so many years…fantasy. Jon has worked as a ranch hand, teacher, computer tech, roughneck, designer, retail clerk, welder, artist, and, yes, pool boy; with interests ranging from kayaking and hunting to drawing and cooking, he uses this range of life experiences to create written works that draw the reader in and wrap them in a good story.

Facebook | Twitter:  @Jon4Keys | Other: http://jonkeys.com/

1 comment:

  1. Never had a favorite fairy tale. So I will choose Hansel and Gretel! My luck with the crumbs a hungry bird would be behind me eating the bread!