Willie Nelson sang a cautionary tale in the seventies, Mama’s Don’t Let Your Babies Grow Up to Be Cowboys, though it didn’t take into account the mama’s who were remiss in warning their babies away from cowboys. But I figure being drawn to cowboys is like being drawn to country music: they either appeal to you or they don’t. One thing for certain, as I peruse my online book catalogue and the aisles of my local Target, Walmart and library, is that the romance industry didn’t get the cowboy memo. I’m no mathematician, but I would bet 36.89% of current romances are about cowboys or have one on the cover—there may even be a bookseller out there who could back up my WAG. Either way, there’s a lot of cowboys. And if we’re really lucky, a lot of chaps.
Maybe these authors are on to something.
Between Willie and the cadre of romance authors filling the shelves, I’ll bet we could build the perfect cowboy to get us through the next few, hot months.
Looking for a gentleman cowboy? Check out Jo Goodman’s A Touch of Forever. It’s a turn-of-the-century historical set in 1902, but it’s so very readable. Roen Shepard is the lone engineer in a family of artists and musicians, but they love him anyway. He was raised well … well-loved, well-bred, well-adjusted. And then he took up work as a contractor for the railroad and found himself in Frost Falls, Colorado, where he meets the widow Lily Salt and her four children. At first glance, they’re an ill fit. Neither is looking for a partner. Until Roen gets word that his ex-mistress is on the way to meet him to rekindle their relationship, and he poses a solution to Lily. I don’t normally read settler-type stories, but this is so good.
B.J. Daniels brings us the second chance cowboy in Luck of the Draw. Garrett Sterling though Joslyn Charles was the one, until she up and disappeared on him. Then one day when he’s relaxing at his guest ranch, he sees a man trying to drag a woman across a ravine. His intervention is fortunate, if not volatile, because it turns out the woman is Joslyn. His Joslyn. And she has no memory of what happened. All of Daniels’ books have a suspenseful element to them and this is no different. Character development is strong, the plot believable and well-paced, and I thought this was a solid read.
The adversarial cowboy can be found in Jay Crownover’s Justified. We’ve met attorney Aspen Barlow and Sheriff Case XX before but by this point in the Loveless series, they’re at each other’s throats, despite their being friendly as teenager. Case blames Aspen for losing custody of his son and is just a complete dick. Aspen’s had a tumultuous adulthood, as well, and being forced to represent Case’s ex-wife didn’t help. Fortunately, he’s able to get past his grudge when it becomes obvious someone’s gunning for Aspen. This is an emotional, dramatic roller-coaster of a story, with a nice suspense and satisfying enemies-to-lovers twist. It’s also refreshing to read about two characters who aren’t twenty-somethings.
Joan Johnston tempts us with the inflexible cowboy in Sullivan’s Promise, a contemporary story about a cowboy who raises the child from a one-night-stand by himself. Victoria Grayhawk is in Jackson Hole for her work on protecting endangered species when she meets Montana rancher Ryan Sullivan. They have a hot night together, followed by a not-so-hot discovery that she’s pregnant. When she suggests the baby be adopted, Ryan decides to keep and raise the child, Cody, by himself. Vick comes around and realizes she’s made a mistake, and fortunately the judge who worked with them had the forethought to write in visitation rights. When Ryan’s brother is mauled by a grizzly bear, he needs Vick to step in and help with Cody while he works the ranch. I wouldn’t really call this a second-chance love story because how much love can you expect from a one-night stand, but it is a good tale of redemption and second chances in life.
Maisey Yates brings us the most archetypical cowboy in this lot with Unbroken Cowboy: the rodeo cowboy. Dane Parker found his glory as a bull rider, until an injury sent him home to recuperate and, really, try to figure out who he was without the bright lights. Taking up the helm of caregiver was family friend Beatrix Leighton, who shifts his maudlin outlook by putting him to work at her animal sanctuary. He’s moody and set in his ways, and completely unprepared for the attraction that flares between him – after all, she’d been like a sister for years. Bea is also set in her ways and finds comfort in her quiet Gold Valley. While Dane was recovering, they were happy together, but the better he got and the more it looked like he could hit the rodeo circuit again, the more closed off Bea became. Change is scary, after all. Yates does a nice job going through the emotions and psyche of injury and recovery, and the challenges both bring to relationships. Like most relationships – in fiction and in life – success would come easily if we would all just get out of our own ways.
In summation, the perfect cowboy cocktail would be a handsome, rugged man who has morals, scruples and a willingness to forgive; one who steps in when there’s trouble, and loves and cares for you; one who shares his life with you and appreciates what you bring to the table. And one who lives by the mantra ‘save a horse, ride a cowboy.’ Yee-haw, y’all.