The Cowboy Takes a Bride
I rolled my eyes when I read the opening sentence: “The naked cowboy in the gold-plated horse trough presented a conundrum.” Clearly a book that begins with a drunken, naked cowboy wasn’t for me; I feared things would be all downhill from this. Happily, I was wrong. Yes, there is some silliness, as well as some over-the-top secondary characters. But when I like the hero and heroine – a lot – I can forgive those other things.
I have a soft-spot for heroines who are all alone in the world, and for all intents and purposes Mariah Callahan is on her own and broke. Mariah and her mother were abandoned by her father when she was a young girl. Even before then Mariah knew she never was as important to her father as his horses. Mariah’s father Dutch was a world-champion cutter who lived and breathed horses, and rarely had time for his daughter.
After her father abandoned them, Mariah’s mother moved from Texas to Chicago where she found work as a servant for wealthy families. Mariah learned to be a chameleon, to hide her true self, in an effort to fit in, but it never really worked. Now, her mother is remarried and living in Argentina with her new husband, leaving Mariah with no close family, and thanks to a horrible boss, she’s lost her job as assistant to a wedding planner. Broke, with no real friends, Mariah has nothing except a ranch in Jubilee, Texas that her father left her in his will.
When Mariah arrives at what she believes is her father’s ranch, the first thing she sees is a naked drunk cowboy sleeping in a gold horse trough. Turns out the cowboy is Joe Daniels and he’s the owner of the spectacular ranch. The property Mariah owns is actually a ramshackle small ranch next to Joe’s.
Joe isn’t the alcoholic Mariah suspects; he’s grieving over the death of his best friend Dutch. Dutch helped Joe get through the death of his wife and now he’s lost Dutch as well. Joe wants nothing to do with Mariah, pegging her as a big city woman who’s not going to stick around. But Joe’s at heart an honorable man and he helps Mariah on a number of occasions.
I really liked both Mariah and Joe. They’re not the cookie-cutter characters I was afraid of in the book’s opening paragraphs. Despite a lot of push and pull on both their parts, I never doubted for a minute that Mariah and Joe were in love. To paraphrase an old cliché, Joe and Mariah complete each other.
I appreciated the very slow build-up of Mariah and Joe’s relationship. They each have a lot of problems to deal with and an instant romance wouldn’t have been believable. I did cringe at one point when Mariah, suffering from bronchitis, wants to have sex with Joe for the first time. I’ve had bronchitis and simply breathing is a problem.
I got frustrated at times with Mariah’s uncertainty, but overall, I still enjoyed the book. If you hate small town romances with a cowboy as heroes and can’t stand romances in which a heroine from a big city finds love in a small town, this is not the book for you. Neither of those are automatic disqualifiers for me. Give me a likeable hero and heroine, a believable romance, and I’ll even put up with a heroine who chooses a small rural Texas town over my beloved Chicago.