The Art of Husbandry, A Mackenzie country story #1 by Jay Hogan - Review & Excerpt

The Art of Husbandry is a romance in the New Zealand highlands for a psychologist trying to overcome his grief and a lifelong sheepherder that is responsible for maintaining his family's traditions. Neither Gil or Holden is looking for love, but their connection and attraction becomes unshakable. A swoony romance for two sweet and deserving men.

From the blurb:

When life drowns you in lemons, to hell with making lemonade. I wanted to burn the whole world. But eighteen months from the day my life was torn apart, I’m tired of the anger. Tired of the nightmares. Tired of putting one foot in front of the other just trying to survive. Three months on a high country
sheep station in the middle of nowhere is exactly the reboot I need. A chance to break free. To breathe again. To find a way forward.

I put my entire life on hold and head south to Mackenzie Country. But falling for the captivating young station boss was never part of the plan. Holden Miller might be smart and sexy and push all my dusty buttons, but we come from two different worlds. I’m not looking for a relationship. I’m not interested in love. I’m done with all that.

But Holden doesn’t care about my rules. Nestled safely in the arms of the spectacular Southern Alps, on an isolated sheep farm at the top of the world, Holden begins knitting my battered heart together one careful stitch at a time. And with every pass of the thread, every braid of the river on our doorstep, I catch a tantalising glimpse of something I’d almost given up on.

Happiness, and maybe even love.

If I have the courage to reach out and grab them.

Note: This book contains references to the past death of a child and PTSD.

SNik's Review:

First in series (Mackenzie Country). Hurt/comfort. Slight age gap. Found family. Dual POV. Heed content warnings. 

Grief stricken Gil is suffering from PTSD and desperately needs a change of scenery, so taking a job as the temporary domestic manager on a sheep station may be just what he needs. But he certainly wasn’t expecting Holden, the younger sexy sheepherder boss to wind his way into his heart, neither man looking for a relationship. Holden knows Gil is only there for a short time and Holden’s never had a relationship before, but he’s willing to put his heart on the line for the handsome psychologist. 

The Art of Husbandry has two men that support and respect each other and is filled with honest communication between them as they fall in love and have to decide whether to risk their hearts and face the difficulties they will have in trying to stay together. 

A lovely romantic read, describing the beauty of the New Zealand highlands, the strong ties of the people that work and live there, and the possibility of romance and forever for two sweet men.

Rating: 4.5 Stars

Lesetiger's Review:

This is the second book I have read by Jay Hogan and there will certainly be more to come. It is not about an easy topic and there were some parts that touched me deeply. The story was beautifully written and it was told very realistically. 

Gil has lost his footing after the death of his daughter. He mourns. For a long time. A very long time. He has nightmares and panic attacks. To find a way out, he signs up for a job on a sheep farm in the highlands. 

The sheep farm is run by Holden, a handsome young man who isn't really looking for a relationship. And when the two meet for the first time, something clicks. The chemistry is there and the sparks fly. But it takes a while for the two to get together. 

There's just one problem: Gil's time on the farm is only temporary. Can Holden risk losing his heart?
Wow, the author has written the protagonists with great depth. Gil's grief is palpable and you just want to hug Holden as you read for his handling of Gil. The story is heartbreaking, but insanely well written. I was able to empathize well with Gil and his feelings. 

And did I mention that I love the setting? The mountains, the scenery, the sheep farm with the sheep and the dogs, the mustering, the hard work, it was all described in detail so that as a reader I could picture it all wonderfully.

There are great secondary protagonists, most notably Spider, Holden's dog, who unceremoniously adopts Gil. But also Zack and Luke have developed great.

I'm already looking forward to the next book in the series and to seeing the people of the Miller farm again.

Rating: 5 Stars

Sheena's Review:

This was such a wonderful story, from beginning to end and everything in between. Take heed of the trigger warnings, they're there for a very good reason. Gil is broken when we meet him, grief, PTSD, and panic attacks all contributing to his decision to up sticks and move from his comfortable, yet staid, life in the city to a sheep station high in the New Zealand mountains in an attempt to feel something again. Gil's story so far isn't a happy one, but he's at least trying to get things back on track and live again after a horrible tragedy.

I liked both Holden and Gil right away. Of course I felt bad for Gil and all he'd been through but equally Holden hasn't had an easy time either, taking over the station unexpectedly and dealing with a beloved Grandparent's dementia, and trying to ensure the future of the business is hard, and a lot of responsibility at a relatively young age. These two together though, are wonderful. Right from the start the chemistry fairly leaps off the page between them, and I loved how they became friends first because Gil couldn't do anything more at the start. Seeing their relationship blossom, and the two become closer was a joy to witness.  

"Second by second, Holden was forcing my body to remember, forcing it to break that dusty seal of grief. To bring me back to life without even trying, without even knowing what he was doing, and in a woolshed for fuck’s sake. I was coming alive in a smelly, dusty, cobweb-strewn woolshed. I was feeling something more than grief and anger for the first time in forever."

Jay Hogan has created an entire world with this book, I loved the sheep station too and I felt at times like I was almost there seeing it too. Clearly a lot of research has gone into this to create this world and the cast of characters that inhabit it. I liked them all and there is scope for more stories here, and I for one am in for any and all. 

Rating: 5 Stars

Heather's Review:

Jay Hogan broke me with this book... well, I was holding it together until the epilogue and then I just let out everything for a good cathartic cry...The Art of Husbandry is a beautiful story that deals with several difficult subjects in a caring and empathetic way... please be mindful of the trigger warnings - the loss of a child, PTSD, grief and panic attacks feature prominently in Gil's world and shape his view of the world throughout the book... This book also tackles rural homophobia, coming out of a side character and the aftermath of dealing with an unaccepting parent and so much more... with beauty and grace...

Jay is able to tackle these subjects and still infuse this book with humour, comraderie and just the right level of steam and set it all in a truly beautiful setting, the likes of which I've added to my bucket list for when I get to visit New Zealand.  I can't wait for Luke and Zack's story!

Rating: 5 Stars

The Art of Husbandry is available to buy as an ebook, paperback, or to read with Kindle Unlimited subscription.

Amazon Universal:


“Hang on, Tuck.” I lowered the phone from my ear and squinted at the dusty blue Hilux pulling in at the kerb. It had Miller Station stamped on its door, windows rolled down, and music blaring.

The driver killed the volume, pushed his sunglasses up his nose, and leaned across the passenger seat to speak through the window. “Are you Gil Everton?”

“Yep.” I raised a tentative hand in greeting.

“Cool. I’m Holden Miller. Let’s get you on board.” His full mouth curved up in a high-wattage smile that made my stomach do a weird-arse, vaguely familiar flip.

Oh boy. Attraction. Just freaking dandy. Eighteen months with my libido on military-grade lockdown, and it chose that moment to wake up and get with the program. Not only that, but I already knew Holden was gay from my conversations with Emily. Go fucking figure. It was a wrinkle I sure as hell didn’t need in my reboot plan. I hadn’t been laid since Callie’s death and I wasn’t looking to change that state of affairs anytime soon even if I had been able to summon any interest, which I hadn’t . . . for a while. So, yeah, there was that. Which was why my reaction to any man was . . . surprising.

“Gil, are you still there?” Tuck called through the phone as Holden disappeared back into the cab and the driver’s door opened.

I raised the phone to my ear again. “Yeah, but I’m gonna have to—” I stopped abruptly as a ruggedly handsome dark-haired beauty with a mass of lazy brown waves bouncing around his ears emerged from the Hilux. And since I was a hot mess but not dead, I drew in a sharp breath and whispered, “Wow.”

“What?” Tucker interrupted my gawping. “What wow? Gil?”

I cleared my throat and mumbled. “Nothing. I’ll call you in a day or two. Say hi to Gail and the kids for me.”

“They don’t like you either.”

I laughed. “They love me.”

“Fuck it. You’re right.”

“Bye, Tuck.”

“Wait, Gil. Gil!”

I hung up on Tuck’s protest and shot to my feet, by which time Holden had circled to the back of the Hilux and was busy opening the hatch. It gave me a few seconds to appreciate the way his dusty jeans hugged a pretty spectacular arse, and an equally dusty black T-shirt showed off lean muscular arms sporting a golden tan.

Holden caught my eye and that broad smile widened, no doubt because I was standing there staring at him like a total idiot. “First off, let’s exchange numbers,” he said. “I think you only have Mum’s. I tried to call to say I was running late, but whatever I had in my phone didn’t work.”

“Oh.” Shit. Great way to start. “Yeah, I ah, changed my number, sorry. I updated your mum, but maybe you’ve got my old one.”

“No problem. Here.” He gave me his phone and I corrected the number he had stored and then he sent me a text.

I called him back to make sure we were right, and Billy Joel’s “Uptown Girl” rang out through the carpark.

I bit back a smile and raised a brow. “Really? I think I should be offended.”

He chuckled. “Don’t be. Besides, it was before I met you and it kind of fits, right? You’re from the big smoke. You’ve even got your Roberto Cavalli’s on.” He pointed to the label on my jeans and heat rose in my cheeks. “Pretty fancy for a sheep station.”

I narrowed my gaze and fired back, “But you recognised the brand which says you have an eye for those things.”

He grinned. “Of course. They’re a great jean. Just don’t wear them in the woolshed.”

I laughed. “Kind of goes without saying.”

“Are those it?” He nodded to four bags of varying sizes siting in a tidy line at my feet.

I gave a mute nod, because I was well-educated like that, and wiped my hot palms down the front of my jeans.

“Great.” He sauntered over in that loose-gaited way perfected by many farmers like they had all the time in the world. About a metre away, he stopped, lifted his glasses onto his head, and a pair of dark coffee-brown almost black eyes locked with mine.

And just, damn. I was in trouble.

Then he smiled. “Welcome to Mackenzie Country, Gil.”

About Jay:

Heart, humour and keeping it real.

Jay is a 2020 Lambda Literary Award Finalist in Gay Romance and her book Off Balance was the 2021 New Zealand Romance Book of the Year.

She is a New Zealand author writing mm romance and romantic suspense, primarily set in New Zealand. She writes character driven romances with lots of humour, a good dose of reality and a splash of angst. She's travelled extensively, lived in many countries, and in a past life she was a critical care nurse, nurse educator and counsellor. Jay is owned by a huge Maine Coon cat and a gorgeous Cocker Spaniel

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