Relative Best

Hotel owner and part-time musician Zeke Bandy is too busy for love. His plate is full running the historic Bandy Hotel and upholding his family’s tradition of offering refuge to strays and runaways. For fun two nights a week, Zeke also plays and sings traditional folk music with his rewritten gay lyrics at the Stonewall Saloon and for occasional celebrations.

Then at a gay wedding, Zeke meets Victor Longbow, who just might be the man of his dreams.

However, Vic isn’t looking for love either. In fact, because of his upbringing in a strict, white foster family, Vic’s not sure he believes in love. He’s in Stone Acres to open a branch office of a national brokerage firm. He also hopes to track down a vintage photo of what might be his Native American ancestor.

After their paths cross, they become friends. Connected by their experiences as orphans raised by flawed fathers, Zeke and Vic wonder if their future could possibly hold love and family or if they are destined only to be lifelong friends.



I bumped into Vic in the foyer. He invited me to lunch on the condition that I’d get us there and back. I agreed since I was starving and I could practice flirting with him. Two birds for the price of one stone.

“Let’s see. Would you consider this a date?” I teased.

“Oh yeah, since I’m taking you to dinner tonight.”

“You are?” I didn’t know whether he was teasing or serious.

“Yup. We’re going to the Silver Star, where I’ve heard we’ll get a four-star meal.”

“Oh. Yeah? Okay.” I was stunned and flustered. I’d never eaten at Stone Acres’ four-star restaurant. Was this really happening to me? Where could I take him that would impress him? “Let me take you to the best restaurant around.” I grabbed the keys to my truck from the board behind him.

“Better than the gourmet place everyone’s been telling me about?” He sounded skeptical.


“Oh yeah. Best American diner food in the area. Best you could ever eat.” I stepped out the back door and led him to where the truck was parked. “Unless you don’t eat American food.”

“What do you mean? Are you saying something about me looking like a Navajo?”

He didn’t sound particularly angry or even upset. All he looked was gorgeous and way out of my experience.

“Naw. I was implying that you might be a New Age vegetarian who didn’t believe in things like bacon or sausage or biscuits and gravy.” I got in and slammed my door.

“Lead on. I can eat a skinny guy like you under the table.”

Even though I thought I heard seduction underneath his flirting before, we seemed to have stepped onto the buddy platform now. In a way I felt relieved. Buddies, I could do.

He’d stopped walking and was staring at the truck. “This thing works?”

“You kidding? Get in. Things don’t need to be beautiful to work just fine.” Take me, for example, maybe not a gem, but all parts were working great, thank you.

My 1972 Ford pickup with its beat-up sides and jutting bed looked a little like it was sniffing the ground, trying to figure out if Vic was friend or foe. The chassis might look like it had led a hard life—which it had—but the engine was in top-notch shape. Del at the Old Town Garage kept it in pristine condition, mostly because he said he was going to buy it from me someday and give it a facelift.

I drove us to the Rock Bottom Cafe, a roadside diner run by a couple of friends. This would be a true test of how compatible we were. If he hated the Bottom, then he hated me, and we had no future even as friends.

Reviews:Prime on MM Good Book Reviews wrote:

I have absolutely been loving Pat Henshaw’s Foothill Pride series and Relative Best is a fantastic addition to this wonderful world. While these books can be read as a standalone, I think it would be an injustice not to read the entire series. While the couples we have previously met only briefly pop up every now and again, there really isn’t an overarching plot aside from occasional issues from the narrow-minded town council, Henshaw’s world in Stone Acres, California is worth the money and time.

Relative best follows the story of Zeke Bandy (who we’ve met before on a couple occasions) and Vic (we’ve met one of his adopted relatives before). In fact, Vic is in town to attend his cousin’s wedding, just weeks before he was due to move to Stone Acres in order to set up a satellite company of the financial institute he works for. Zeke has popped up numerous times – he runs the historic, boutique hotel in town which had been previously owned by his father and grandfather, neither of whom had been able to much more than barely keep the hotel afloat. Zeke also performs a couple times a week at the town pub/bar.

When the two men meet the sparks fly straight away. Both guys are strong men but they are simply great together. While they seem to be polar-opposites there are a lot of similarities and although they do not commiserate about their not so stellar families they do support each other. They also, unwittingly, start the next chapter of their lives together. There is also the really sweet aspect of this series which is essentially a book about two guys trying to heal from difficult childhoods.

This is an enjoyable story and a great addition to the series. I found this to be full of emotion and fully relatable.

Paula on Paula Radell wrote:

This is the first book I’ve read by Pat Henshaw, and although it’s #5 in the series, I wasn’t lost – so it can easily be read as a standalone. I found it to be a unique story with very interesting, relatable characters; characters that I would have loved to know better. The premise is solid: a lonely hotel owner/operator and popular singer-guitarist with a difficult past meets a Native American protagonist, raised as a foster child in an abusive environment, now in this Foothills town, looking for a connection to his tribal origins. There are multiple sub-plots, all of which are handled capably by the author, but felt ‘ambitious’ with respect to the limited length of the book.

On the surface, Zeke & Vic are very different; but they complement each other perfectly. I would love to have experienced a slower, more intense build-up; and given the backgrounds of both characters, I expected it.

I think the short length and the various sub-plots in play (a runaway from Vic’s foster home who seeks shelter at Zeke’s hotel; Vic’s search for his heritage; and an impending wedding involving secondary characters) somewhat limited the opportunity to fully explore and expand on the romantic aspect of the story. A happy ever after is implied, but not explicit, so perhaps we will learn more about Vic and Zeke in a subsequent release – I hope so. The ending is satisfying, but the arc of the romance is subverted, to some extent, by the pacing required to resolve the other conflicts presented in the story.

Overall, I enjoyed reading Relative Best; it’s a heart-warming story in a rustic contemporary setting that feels authentic and is well-suited to the storyline. The characters are relatable, the villains are believable, and the supporting cast has a delightful quirkiness to it. The story is not sexually explicit, so for first-time M/M readers, it makes for a great introduction to the genre.

Dan on Love Bytes wrote:

I really enjoy this author’s stories. I’ve really come to like the town of Stone Acres, California and its inhabitants while reading this series, and it feels like a real place that I could go and visit. Now I’ve got a place to stay. Bandy’s Finest Hotel sounds like the ideal vacation location to me!

Relative Best In the fifth installment in the Foothills Pride Stories, and it was a good one. In this installment we focus on Zeke Bandy who owns the hotel, but also performs at the Stonewall Saloon, which we’ve come to know through the other installments. Zeke is performing there one night when he meets Victor Longbow, a drop dead gorgeous Native American man.

Victor (Vic) is instantly attracted to Zeke, the handsome red haired man who is singing at the bar when Vic and his adopted brother are in town for a friend’s wedding. One thing leads to another, there is some family drama in Vic’s family, but the odd ball staff and residents of Bandy’s Finest Hotel step up and things are handled. I can’t say much else without doing spoilers, so I’m not telling you any other details!

I liked the interplay between these two characters, but honestly, I felt a little let down by this one. There were so many more details that could have gone into this story. I loved what we got, but I definitely wanted more details, more background, more character development, and just more of everything. An example would be Zeke’s medical issues. I don’t remember reading about him elsewhere in the series (I could be wrong) and I was confused over what he had had done for a procedure, what the prognosis was, etc.

I liked the story, and I’m definitely recommending it. I’d recommend reading the other four installments as well. They could easily be read as standalones since the characters flow over, but the storylines don’t. It is an enjoyable short, fast read

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