Slow Burn Cowboy
The Copper Ridge series by Maisey Yates is at book seven now, but it’s been kept fresh by featuring different families who live in this rural area of Oregon. Slow Burn Cowboy is the first of four stories about the Donnelly brothers. Unfortunately the title turns out to be a little too apt – it’s not just a slow burn romance, it’s a slow moving story, with excessive dialogue and internal musings; the author could easily have cut about a third of theose musings and ramblings and ended up with essentially the same book. While the complications involved in transitioning from a friends to lovers relationship are approached realistically, a heavier hand at the editing table would have made the story more enjoyable.
Finn Donnelly has worked for several years on his grandfather’s dairy farm, the Laughing Irish. Coming from a fractured family, with a father whose infidelities resulted in three half-brothers with whom he is not close, the farm has been Finn’s bedrock. The death of his grandfather, and subsequent revelation that he and his brothers are now equal partners in the farm is a blow to his ego, as he had assumed he’d have sole responsibility for the Laughing Irish and its future. Even worse, his three brothers – Cain, Alex and Liam – have returned to Copper Ridge for their own reasons and don’t appear to be interested in Finn’s plans to buy them out. They want to claim their heritage and work the farm, too. The saving grace to Finn’s sanity is his best friend Lane.
Lane moved to Copper Ridge with her brother Mark when she was seventeen, for reasons she’s never shared with anyone. When Mark became friends with Finn, she did as well, though the difference in their ages made a romantic relationship out of the question at the time. In fact, they both got very good at ignoring any possible development in that regard and have stuck to being platonic best friends for the past ten years. Finn has wanted Lane for a long time, but he’s also carefully kept those feelings to himself, unsure of what Lane would do if he made his interest clear. Although lately, he’s sensed that Lane has started looking at him differently. The stress of his family situation combined with his frustration over the feelings he’s buried for her finally push him to act. Lane is shocked at Finn’s advances, mostly because she is also undergoing some personal turmoil of her own. Once the desire is out there though, there is no going back. They both have hesitations when it comes to committed relationships, and a friends with benefits arrangement at first seems to work for them both. But will it lead to a real future together or shatter the friendship they’ve relied on for so long?
I love a good slow burn romance, where the sexual tension is thick and the heated glances, and innocent (but sizzling!) touches eventually lead to more. But I didn’t feel that here. Finn may have been secretly lusting after his best friend for years but he’s kept it so hidden that Lane never noticed a thing. Lane’s feelings about men are complicated by a failed teenaged relationship. It’s definitely not helped that her boyfriend from high school is now a successful politician, married with children, whom she sees on television. It makes her feel rather unsuccessful as the owner of a small specialty foods shop with dreams that aren’t getting off the ground. She carries a lot of guilt and resentment with her that has made it difficult to engage in any kind of meaningful relationship with another man – except for Finn. But even then, she’s always kept him at arm’s length, relying on him for practical things but not emotional and physical intimacy.
Finn forces her hand and makes her confront the past head on. Even now, as she’s starting to see him in a new light, her reaction is more annoyance and concern than desire. She actively avoids situations that make her uncomfortable, and now that she’s feeling that way around Finn, she literally runs away from him on more than one occasion. Eventually they do end up in bed together, and the love scenes are very sexy, but it sure takes a lot of effort to get there. They both have a constant internal monologue of circular arguments for why they should or shouldn’t change the status quo that gets wearing on the reader. Neither character takes the transition from friends to lovers lightly. A good portion of the story feels repetitive and this has the effect of dragging the reader along, with a sense of relief when Lane and Finn finally get to their happy ending.
Romance aside, the more interesting aspect of this story is Finn’s relationship with his three brothers. There are several scenes with them either all together or one on one with Finn where they confront the reality of how distanced they are from their separate childhood experiences. This is their chance to make up for the past, to forge new sibling bonds and build a common future. Used to having no one to rely on but himself for the farm, it’s a difficult adjustment for Finn to make. Watching their bonds grow is quite enjoyable and there is definitely enough of a tease here for Cain, Alex and Liam’s characters to make me want to read their stories, too. While Slow Burn Cowboy won’t go on my reread shelf, I found enough to like (editing issues notwithstanding) to want to continue the series.