I bought J Fally’s debut novel, Bone Rider on the strength of Sunita’s excellent review at Dear Author. I’m not sure I’d have given it a second look without that review, because the premise on its face is pretty ridiculous, but if I’d passed it by, I would have missed one of the most original and cracktastic M/M reads I’ve encountered in a long time.
Goodreads tells us:
Riley Cooper is on the run. Misha Tokarev, the love of his life, turned out to be an assassin for the Russian mob, and when it comes to character flaws, Riley draws the line at premeditated murder. Alien armor system McClane is also on the run, for reasons that include accidentally crashing a space ship into Earth and evading U.S. military custody. A failed prototype, McClane was scheduled for destruction. Sabotaging the ship put an end to that, but McClane is dubbed a bone rider for good reason—he can’t live without a host body. That’s why he first stows away in Riley’s truck and then in Riley himself. Their reluctant partnership soon evolves into something much more powerful—and personal—than either of them could have imagined.
Together, they embark on a road trip from hell, made all the more exciting by the government troops and mob enforcers hot on their trail. Misha is determined to win Riley back and willing to do whatever it takes to keep him safe. When hitman and alien join forces, they discover their impressive combined potential for death and destruction. It will take everything Riley has to steer them through the mess they create.
So, right? Kind of a silly premise. It could be a summer blockbuster, and is one of the most cinematic books I’ve read lately. It wasn’t hard to see where the author was going, and her imagery was lovely. The plot never stops moving, and for the most part, she has a deft hand with suspense.
The characters were also interesting. There’s a large cast, including Riley, our hapless cowboy protagonist who is on the run from the Russian mafia after he discovers that his boyfriend Misha is a hit man. Riley is soon infiltrated by McClane, the alien armor system who crashed their spaceship into Earth, and who develops something of a crush on Bruce Willis (hence the name.) There are the soldiers who are after McClane, including a few POC women who get POV chapters. And of course, there’s Misha, who was just as obsessed with Riley as Riley was with him. And did I mention there are survivalists?
For the most part, Fally handles all these characters skillfully. All of them have reasonable motivations, and none of them are stupid because the plot demands that they be so. All of them are some flavor of bad-ass, and Fally revels in that portrayal.
For the first three quarters of the book, I was hooked. I absolutely adored Riley and McClane, and thought McClane stole every scene he was in. Watching the two of them begin to bond was lovely. There are sexytimes, which were a little weird, but erotic for all that without going into needlessly detailed descriptions. When Misha comes on the scene, things are even more intense, and I appreciated that the two of them were both men and acted like they were.
That all said, the ending was rushed and kind of a mess, which moved this from a book that was coasting high in the A range down to a B grade for me. There are more shootouts, and I thought their inclusion made the character development suffer. I would have liked a chapter or so with Misha getting used to McClane’s presence, and I wanted another chapter or so in one of the boys’ POV at the end, to assure myself that everyone was OK. Instead I got some lines thrown in hastily along the lines of, “Yep, everybody’s fine and we’re adjusting.” Which I appreciated knowing, but considering that Fally thought it necessary to include a couple of extraneous POV chapters from random secondary characters that served even less plot purpose, I was disappointed.
I wouldn’t call this a romance. There’s a strong romantic element, and it ends on a satisfying Happy for Now, (even if I was less satisfied by the ending itself), but it read more like straight pulp sci-fi to me. I know I have a couple of regular readers who aren’t so into the romance, and I’d encourage you to take a look at this one and see what you think. It’s a book that I’m sure will linger in my mind for a while, and I’m on board for whatever Fally offers up next.
My grade: A B.