One Night with a Cowboy
If it hadn’t been for the hero, Tucker Jenkins, this story would have been a solid C. However, the actions and behavior of the aforementioned Mr. Jenkins made this book a definite F. Ugh. Thinking back on it, there have been few male leads that have ever annoyed me as much as this character did. He was immature and rash, but operated under the notion that he was this awesome guy. Along with the major character flaws of the leading male, there was nothing original or inventive about this romance, hence the C grade.
The premise of this story is a familiar one: Urbane, city girl (Becca Hart) leaves behind the concrete jungle to plant roots in the country. Along the way, she meets a gorgeous, good ol’ country boy (Tucker Jenkins) who helps her slip off her stilettos (and other articles of clothing) for boots and Levis. Let the hilarity ensue. Normally, the clichéd plot lines don’t bother me as long as the characters are interesting; however Dr. Becca Hart was pretty standard, and at times, almost pitiable. She is supposed to be this beautiful genius who loses her position at Vassar College, not because of her performance, of course, but for budgeting reasons. She returns home to find her dead-beat boyfriend in the process of moving out; leaving her without a job or a boyfriend. The description of the boyfriend is so bad (pudgy with a receding hair line), that it causes the reader to question why Becca would have dedicated all of those years to staying with him. However, I digress: Becca ends ups getting a job interview at Oklahoma State and heads out west for the weekend, but makes a pit stop at the local rodeo.
Enter Tucker Jenkins, main attraction of the rodeo as the preeminent bull rider. He spots Becca and they share a night of wild passion which ends when the sun comes up. They both return to their normal lives: he does whatever it is that he did before he was introduced to the story, and Becca begins her new job at the University. It isn’t until a staff meeting at the school that Becca and Tucker are finally reunited. We discover that Tucker, when he isn’t riding bulls into submission, is an assistant trainer for the ROTC program (I know, I know, small world). Anyway, Tucker throws a huge hissy fit that Becca didn’t try to find him sooner and Becca, whom I guess was immune to sub-par treatment (i.e. her ex boyfriend) runs after him. After make-up/reunion sex, they begin a relationship, the tensile strength of which is tested due to the school’s non fraternization policy amongst employees.
There was no palpable chemistry between these two. I didn’t sense why Tucker and Becca were drawn to each other besides the fact that she was gorgeous and he was a beefcake. I didn’t understand what would make them want to continue a relationship beyond that night. Still, had the book ended here, I still would have deemed this book an average romance. There were definite things that irked me: Tucker’s lack of vocabulary (he used the words “wait” and “stop” more than a teenage mall rat). There was never any discussion of birth control or disease prevention during any of their romantic moments, despite the fact that they were virtual strangers. And there was the memorable part where Johnson devoted two pages to the discussion of “fried smoked bologna sandwich.” Just typing that out makes me want to hurl and yet Tucker orders it (not ironically- the delicacy happens to be his favorite) and then makes love to the heroine directly after ingesting it. So yes, by no means would this book have been one of my DIKs, but it was the following that sent this book into F territory:
Tucker, startled by his feelings for Becca combined with fears that they will both lose their jobs, literally runs away. He signs himself up for deployment to Afghanistan, but lies to Becca, pretending that this deployment is mandatory rather than voluntary. Becca is devastated by his departure, but believes that it is just a matter of unlucky circumstances. She spends the following months constantly worrying about Tucker; only to be informed by one of his friends that he left to save her job. Becca then spends the rest of the book consumed with guilt, which Johnson characterizes as love. Tucker, in the meantime, living on the front line in Afghanistan, fully comes to terms with the consequences of his actions a la Gob Bluth “I have made a huge mistake”. He comes to the conclusion that he must have really loved Becca, which is why he went away. The fact that his deployment is under the guise of “loving” her and wanting to protect her job, just didn’t ring true to me. Why did he have to be deployed? Couldn’t a simple job transfer to another ROTC program been enough? And why do the consequences of his actions fall back to Becca? In Tucker’s mind it was essentially because of her that he chose to go to Afghanistan. He never once takes ownership for his actions and happily plays the role of self-sacrificing hero. His lack of foresight and consideration about his deployment is not only points against his character, but a mockery to all of the men and women who have no choice but to be deployed, who handle it with dignity.
Overall, this book didn’t do anything for me other than make me angry. The romance was flat and the other characters aside from Tucker (you all know how I felt about him) were not that likable. Becca could have been any woman, not in the fact that she is relatable, but because we barely knew anything about her. For me, her greatest fault was that she was missing the spunkiness that I look for in an ideal heroine. I could imagine her future, living with Tucker, becoming more faceless, and just fading into the background. The book clearly exists to set up as a series – it ends with Becca’s easy-going sister getting set up with one of Tucker’s commanders. I’m hoping that her relationship is better fated than her sister’s.