Book Review – The Blacksmith and the Ex-Con by Jackie North

Farthingdale Ranch #2
Publisher: Blue Rain Press
Pages: 312
Characters: Ellis/Jasper
POV: 3rd
Genre: Contemporary, Series

“If anybody ever needed him, Ellis did. Ellis was broken. Jasper liked to fix things.”

Jasper has the perfect life. He’s a blacksmith at a small guest ranch in Wyoming. The last thing he needs is to have that perfect life interrupted by a shifty-eyed ex-con, but the ranch needs the tax benefits the ex-con program will bring.

Traumatized by his time in prison, Ellis can barely speak. He’s about to be offered parole. He knows he will hate working on the guest ranch, but what other option does he have?

It’s not love at first sight. It’s not hate at first sight, either, but something in between.

A gay m/m cowboy romance with age gap, hurt/comfort, opposites attract, forced intimacy, emotional scars, trauma leading to mutism, grumpy/grumpy, and baths. A little sweet, a little steamy, with a guaranteed HEA.

Buy Link


I’m enjoying this series, and got invested in Ellis and Jasper’s story very quickly, wanting them to get their HEA. I loved seeing characters from book one and the parts Leland and Jamie played in this story. An extra bonus was the references to Laurie and John from Honey from the Lion, and other connections to that story. I thought this was a lovely, gentle, feel good read, and I love how this author writes about emotions.

I particularly felt for Ellis who has ended up in several bad situations, and made bad decisions because of it. His love for his late mother is very obvious, as was his desperation to help her any way he could. I loved how Jasper slowly brought him out of his shell and past his PDSD from his time in prison. I liked the analogy of taming a horse, and loved that in the finish Ellis is in the charge of the emotional chain between them. I also liked how Jasper gives Ellis the support he badly needs, and can read between the lines to realise what Ellis’ true story is. I thought their relationship was very loving and sweet, and I liked the way it grows naturally and never feels forced. They’re both ready to defend the other when they think they’re in danger.

I love the atmosphere and found family feeling of the ranch. The descriptions are gorgeous and make me wish I could spend some time there. It feels like a loving, peaceful place. Leland and Bill totally rock, and I love Maddy. I wouldn’t want to cross her! The visit with the Frontier Girls is wonderful and says a lot about both Leland and Ellis.

I was worried about the evil prison guard destroying everything Jasper and Ellis had built, but loved the way that part of the story turned out. The glimpse a few months into the future is wonderful. I’m looking forward to seeing these two in future stories in the series.

5 out of 5 stars.

About Anne Barwell

Anne Barwell lives in Wellington, New Zealand. She shares her home with a cat with “tortitude” who is convinced that the house is run to suit her; this is an ongoing “discussion,” and to date, it appears as though Kaylee may be winning. In 2008, Anne completed her conjoint BA in English Literature and Music/Bachelor of Teaching. She has worked as a music teacher, a primary school teacher, and now works in a library. She is a member of the Upper Hutt Science Fiction Club and plays violin for Hutt Valley Orchestra. She is an avid reader across a wide range of genres and a watcher of far too many TV series and movies, although it can be argued that there is no such thing as “too many.” These, of course, are best enjoyed with a decent cup of tea and further the continuing argument that the concept of “spare time” is really just a myth. She also hosts and reviews for other authors, and writes monthly blog posts for Love Bytes. She is the co-founder of the New Zealand Rainbow Romance writers, and a member of RWNZ. Anne’s books have received honorable mentions five times, reached the finals four times—one of which was for best gay book—and been a runner up in the Rainbow Awards. She has also been nominated twice in the Goodreads M/M Romance Reader’s Choice Awards—once for Best Fantasy and once for Best Historical. Anne can be found at
This entry was posted in book review. Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.