Cowboy, It's Cold Outside
Around the holidays, I sometimes just can’t resist a Christmas romance. Cowboy, It’s Cold Outside appeared on my doorstep and filled a reading void. It’s pretty Christmassy as holiday romances go, but not really anything groundbreaking or fabulous as far as contemporary romances go.
Paige MacGregor is struggling financially, balancing three part-time jobs to make ends meet as she recovers from a bad relationship with a man who pretended to love her and left her with bad credit and no more life savings. She meets Cash Colton during her gig at the local theater, where she is charged with guarding the doors in a somewhat slinky Santa baby costume. Cash tries to talk his way in a little early, but Paige stands her ground, even when he flashes a killer grin that makes her knees go weak.
Cash is actually a famous country singer who’s in town for a charity gig. His friend Emma runs the local theater, and asks him to help knowing that he’s been… adrift. A year before, his girlfriend abandoned him to take up with the drummer of his band. It split up the band and sent Cash on a soul-searching expedition to the Amazon, where he unsuccessfully attempted to find his muse again. He hasn’t written anything in a year, and is on the verge of being dropped by his record label. One look at Paige, and suddenly his muse is back. He is filled with ideas, music, and the desire to kiss her senseless and take her to bed.
Though he starts pursuing Paige in earnest, she resists the idea on several levels. Her one previous relationship was a complete disaster. And who would believe that a famous, handsome man like Cash would ever be interested in a nobody like her? He obviously doesn’t ‘do’ forever, and even if he did, she’s not sure she is ready for something like that.
You can guess where this is all going. It’s a courtship full of mistletoe, Christmas cookies, small town charm, and the adorable children of the previous couples in the series. Some of it worked for me, and some of it didn’t. I did actually appreciate that Christmas really played a role in the book. When I want to read a holiday romance, I want it to feel like the holiday in question, and that does happen here. I’ve read a few too many books with a Christmas tree on the cover that may as well have been set in August for all of the holiday atmosphere bouncing off the page. I did, however, think the small Texas town of Twilight appeared to be unusually successful and full of swarms of people and quaint local stores. No one here ever goes to Starbucks or Target, and everyone’s local business is raking it in.
I liked Cash, who has the more interesting storyline and for lack of a better word, baggage. His mom was a wannabe musician/groupie who died at Christmas. Her parting advice was to never get tied down and to prioritize music over relationships. Nonetheless, he clearly grows and changes throughout the book and comes to several realizations about his life and his relationships with others. He determinedly goes after Paige and is willing to commit to her.
I found it harder to warm up to Paige, who resists Cash’s advances long enough for it to become tiring. Any variation of the ‘I can’t be in a relationship ever because, Reasons’ is a trope that wears thin for me, and some of her refusals border on mean. The book takes off when she finally gives in on that score. Come on, Paige. You’re in a romance novel!
I do want to give a shoutout to Paige’s grandma with dementia, who might have been my favorite character. She had a fling of sorts with Wayne Newton when she was a Vegas dancer back in the day, and periodically she thinks she is still young and that Cash is Wayne. I couldn’t help liking her and I thought she really added to the story.
On the downside, however, a couple of things worked less well. Wilde appears to have never met a metaphor she didn’t like. They are applied with a very heavy hand, particularly during the sex scenes (when they become giggle inducing). It’s all too flowery, especially when love making apparently evokes every sort of musical style. The other issue is endemic to romance right now – the aggressive grooming of sequel material and farming of past books. I get it. Concepts and sequels sell. But does anyone remember when you could just read the story at hand without the too-obvious plant of the next character in line? It just feels so contrived.
On the whole, I’d put my reading experience at a hair above average. There’s some good stuff to be found among the not so good, and if you really love small town holiday romances, you could do worse than Cowboy It’s Cold Outside.