Million Dollar Cowboy
As a native of New York, I’m not very familiar with the ranches found out West. Perhaps that’s why I’ve always loved Westerns – they are an escape to a completely different world. Although Million Dollar Cowboy takes place in modern times, reading it was still a nice departure from the cold weather of the Northeast, and the perfect way to spend an afternoon.
To say Ridge Lockhart has an awkward family life would be putting it mildly. The illegitimate son of wealthy Texas rancher Duke Lockhart, he was left on his father’s doorstep as a child and raised by his uninvolved father and kind stepmother. When his stepmother dies while Ridge is in high school, the difficulties in his relationship with his father heighten. Though he made the best of life, the tension between Ridge and Duke has never made things easy. Walking in on his father and girlfriend in bed together was the final straw that caused Ridge to leave the ranch completely, and he hasn’t been back in the ten years since that day.
Until now. Ridge’s childhood friend Archer Alzate has asked him to be best man at his wedding, so Ridge is stuck back at the Silver Feather Ranch with his father and ex-girlfriend-turned-stepmother. This whole experience is only made bearable by the chance to see more of Kaia, Archer’s younger sister. Growing up, Kaia followed Ridge and Archer around enough that Ridge still counts her as a good friend, even though they haven’t seen each other in a while. Ridge’s first look at Kaia after all these years is a shock, as he’s immediately caught by the beauty of this woman he’s only ever thought of as a younger sister.
For her part, Kaia has always had a bit of a crush on Ridge, so she’s all too eager to duck into empty closets with him, or sneak around for a midnight rendezvous. The only problem with the week of passion they’re set to enjoy is that Kaia knows it will be hard for her to move on after Ridge. He’s only here for the wedding, ready to jet off to China or wherever business takes him when it’s over, while she’s building a life in the town where they grew up. This affair isn’t destined to be long-term, but the more they see of each other, the harder it is for Kaia and Ridge to deny they’re having more than just a fling.
Kaia in particular can’t deny how serious things are, because her ears hum whenever she kisses Ridge. Family lore holds that an Alzate woman hears that ringing, the Song of the Soul Mate, when she kisses her true love – so it should be obvious from the start exactly what Ridge means to Kaia. Yet still she denies it, because Ridge himself is so resistant to the idea. Being left by his mother, then ignored and betrayed by his father, gives Ridge a lot of baggage to carry around about relationships. Yet when he has to leave Texas and get back to his business, it’s Kaia who refuses to try anything long-distance, unwilling to watch her soul mate slowly distance himself from her every day.
Predictably, the result of this breakup is a lot of stewing and misery on the parts of both Ridge and Kaia. Neither is happy alone, so with a little prompting from friends and family they make the leap to trust each other and try a relationship. Overall, this struck me as a nice ending to a satisfactory book. Kaia’s ear ringing was a little funny, but it never overwhelmed the story or made things too cheesy. Both characters are likeable, and things moved along fast enough to hold my interest. If I have a complaint, it might be that Kaia seems a little too hesitant. While it’s Ridge that carries most of the baggage here, Kaia is the one cutting off their relationship and overwhelmed by doubt.
That said, I think that there are times even the well-adjusted among us feel uncertain; this flaw makes Kaia a little more human. Moreover, if my biggest complaint here was that Kaia had reservations about a new relationship, the way most people outside of Romancelandia do, it’s clear Million Dollar Cowboy was a good read. While the book is part of a series, you don’t have to read the other books to enjoy it. I’m definitely looking forward to more from Ms. Wilde in the future.