Four of Harlequin’s most popular contemporary romance authors spin a tale about the four violet-eyed Hathaway Sisters in Sweet Home Cowboy. Each of the romances is lovely, with heroines worth loving, but some repetitive plot tropes got to me after a while. Also, would it have killed one of these authors to make one of the heroines experienced and older?
The Hathaway sisters agree to move home to Jasper Creek, Oregon to help their irascible grandfather Jack run the place after he has a heart attack. If they renovate and run the farm, he won’t sell it or the land. The girls are half-sisters, related through their father Mickey, who spread his seed unto the wind and helped conceive four daughters during the same year with four different women. The girls themselves only met for the first time at summer camp when they were roughly thirteen, a situation pre-arranged by their mothers and stepfamilies. Mickey has continued to be a roamer and has not been particularly involved in their upbringing. But they’ve created a lifelong bond which has brought them all back to the place where they have wonderful memories.
Teddy by Nicole Helm
Grade: B Sensuality Level: Warm
Teddy Hathaway is the eldest (by months) of the Hathaway girls, and the sweetest and most romantic among them. Her mother reacted to her father’s betrayal by encouraging Teddy to be fully self-reliant, and moving her all the way across the country to keep her away from the Hathaway influence. But sexually sheltered Teddy decides that the best way to make an adult life for herself and experience romance is to join her sisters in Oregon.
Enter Beau Riley (who appeared in Maisey Yates’ A Good Old Fashioned Cowboy and is a member of the Riley clan of Jasper Creek series fame). Beau has been hurt by love, and by his family’s inability to express emotions – the exact opposite of Teddy’s emotional forthrightness and desire for a man who can communicate. Can these two figure out how to love each other without Beau’s fear of feeling love getting in the way?
I really liked Teddy here, but I was also annoyed by Beau’s refusal to communicate like an adult because he was “doing this for Riley” and decided he was poison in Teddy’s life. And yet the audience ends up pitying him. It goes round and round in an annoying fashion for a bit but solidifies in the end. Overall, though, their connection is sweet, and it’s fun to get to know the sisters through this lens. But it’s still a nicely-done romance.
Joey by Maisey Yates
Grade: B Sensuality Level: Warm
Straight-shooter Joey Hathaway is a tomboy who likes fixing cars and riding horses more than anything else. She knows nada about love and how to make it, but she knows a handsome cowboy when she sees one.
Cowboy Hollis Logan restores old farm equipment, which means Joey needs his help refurbishing the farm’s tractor. She’d also like him to be the first guy to blow the cobwebs off of other parts of her body. But can a tomboy tempt a distant, broody cowboy?
If you like Yates’ typical style, you’re going to love this. Joey is yet another one of her hoyden virgin tomboy types who’s tough and fearless in non-romantic matters but totally has no idea how penises work (sigh), and I liked her whenever she didn’t have to worry about romance or sex. I still like how Yates delivers these types of heroines, but my kingdom for a non-virgin, please! Please have them use the internet! Hollis is your typical brooder, and he’s decided that a past history of heartbreak means no love for him. Together they work because Yates knows how spirited romance works.
Georgie by Jackie Ashenden
Grade: A- Sensuality Level: Warm
This is definitely the pick of the litter. Georgie Hathaway is a grumpy baker who is happier to concentrate on her professional life than her romantic one. Example of her grumpitude: she uses water guns on Teddy’s beloved chickens to keep them off her counter. Romance is the last thing she’s looking for after being abandoned by both of her parents in Jasper Creek, where she was raised by her older half-brother Felix.
Con Stone is Felix’s best friend, and he and Georgie and Felix have been friendly forever. A pickup game suggested by Felix results in Con and Georgie making a bet – the loser had to do chores for the winner. Georgie wins, and Con shows up in the chaotic midst of Georgie’s kitchen as she tries to bake for dinner with her sisters. In the span of a day, they get to know each other way better than they ever did before.
Ashenden comes out the queen of the heap with this one, which manages to be sexy and genuinely romantic and heartbreaking. Georgie and Con are basically latchkey kids who find true love together and it’s great.
Elliot by Caitlin Crews
Grade: B+ Sensuality Level: Warm
The final story belongs to Elliot Hathaway, who is in a war of attrition with the girls’ nextdoor neighbor, Colt West. Things start to change when Elliot sees Colt naked by mistake one day, but she tries to tamp her feelings down. But really, with a butt that nice, who is she fooling? But Elliot, like Mickey, was born a drifter and like her own mother, goes from place to place, and she’s never been in love. Colt, too, has sacrificed romance to hovering over his daughter. Can Elliot ever settle down?
This romance builds up nicely, and is hinted at over the course of all three previous stories. Colt’s twelve year old daughter Katy is funny and charming and sensible and adds something unique on to the pile. The conflict makes sense, and it definitely makes sense that Elliot is like Mickey in some way. Colt is nice and steady and gruff but likeable. The end result is great.
The epilogue here is a tad bit cheesy, but earned well enough. Overall, Sweet Home Cowboy is a warm-hearted delight.
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