The Cowboys: Pete is smoothly written with very likable characters but it reminded me of a placid pond. Pretty enough, but I would have liked to have seen a few waves and ripples. There is some conflict and action in Pete, but for a Western and a romance, it is rather passionless.
Pete Jernigan has spent several years in the gold fields and has accumulated a sizable sum of money. As he is returning home, he is shot and beaten and all of his possessions, including his clothes, are stolen. Pete’s horse (which was hobbled out of sight) returns to him and he is able to mount up and track the robbers to a wagon which has been robbed and its owner killed. Pete finds out from letters left in the wagon that the man was Peter Warren who had come west to take possession of the Tumbling T – a ranch willed to him by his uncle.
The trail of the robbers leads to the Tumbling T and to Anne Thompson, a young woman who is being forced by her uncle to marry a wicked old rancher despite her insistence that she was married to Peter Warren by proxy and has lost the papers. Pete comes right in on this and tells them that he is Peter Warren come to claim the ranch and his bride.
Since no one has seen the real Peter Warren for over 10 years, Pete is able to pass himself off for now, although there is a lot of suspicion. Pete plans to use the ranch as a base to track the robbers since their trail stops there. What he did not expect was the effect Anne would have on him.
Anne was raised by an uncle who had a very low opinion of women. According to him, women were to stay home, to cook, clean and have children – that’s it. God forbid they ask for anything or have an opinion. Pete treats Anne with courtesy and respect. He values her opinions. When he takes her into town and defends her against the snobs and bigots who would snub her because she is one quarter Crow Indian, Anne’s admiration for Pete turns into love and devotion. This is troubling to Pete. He finds his growing affection for Anne at war with his “I’m a wandering man” view of himself.
The first half of The Cowboys: Pete is slow paced and almost too leisurely but it picks up and begins to move more quickly in the second half. Pete and Anne are a likable couple but there is nothing very distinctive about them. Their love scenes are not particularly passionate. The secondary characters move the story along but they are not at all memorable. After I finished the book, I was left with a feeling of vague pleasantness, but nothing more.
The Cowboys: Pete is one of those books that it is difficult to assess. It’s not poorly written and it has characters who are likable and don’t suffer from stupidity. It just lacks a certain hard-to-put-into-words something that would lift it from average to memorable. Fans of Westerns and Leigh Greenwood’s books will probably enjoy this very much. I was mildly entertained – but that’s all.