The Cowboy's Bride
The Cowboy’s Bride is Canadian author Carolyne Aarsen’s fourth book under the Love Inspired label. Here is an engaging story of two young Canadians who find “divine” love on earth as they each face seemingly insurmountable barriers in their struggles to attain their own dreams. An irresistibly charming hero makes for enjoyable reading, despite a less positive overall portrayal of the feminine gender.
Joe Brewer likes women and women love him. Still a resident of Wakely, the rural Canadian community he grew up in, he is well on his way to overcoming a less than advantageous upbringing as the oldest son of a hard-working but dirt-poor rancher. Joe was taken under wing by his former school teacher and her veterinarian husband as a youth, and under their guidance he gave his life to Christ and developed his innate talent with horses.
Joe dreams of establishing himself as a horse trainer, and despite an almost overwhelming dread of debt rooted in his father’s lifelong struggle to keep their ranch going, Joe applies for a loan to enable him to build his own training arena. He has worked for years as a truck driver to save money to fund his dream. When his father died, Joe inherited a cash settlement as his portion of his father’s ranch, and he now needs it as well as his savings to qualify for the loan. Joe’s younger brother inherited the ranch itself but has failed to make a go of it, and is now so deeply in debt there is no chance of selling it to provide Joe’s cash settlement. He suggests Joe take the ranch over, but Joe wants nothing to do with it since the ranch represents only painful memories for him. Joe is now faced with the death of his dream.
Rebecca Stevenson is a beautiful stranger in town and is attracting plenty of attention. Certainly Joe’s attention is caught when he first lays eyes on her in church one Sunday. Rebecca has taken a temporary position at the bank her brother-in-law manages. Although she comes from a wealthy background and has never lacked anything, she too is struggling to save what now seems to be a nearly impossible dream. A year before, Rebecca had a traumatic accident involving a horse, and is partially crippled with irreversible nerve damage in one leg. She had attained a Bachelor’s degree in Physical Education, dreaming of teaching Phys-Ed in high school one day, but her physical disability has made it unlikely she will ever be accepted for such a job. A renowned physiotherapist based in Wakely has agreed to work with Rebecca, so she accepts the temporary bank position and moves in with her sister and brother-in-law with the hope that the therapy will strengthen her leg to the point that she can land a job in her chosen field.
Ms. Aarsen does a skillful job of developing the characters of Joe and Rebecca. Their Christian beliefs are an integral part of their natures, and the continuing growth and development of their faith is sensitively portrayed with no need for moralizing or “preachy” elements. Rebecca has been raised in the church and in a Christian family; she takes for granted her faith until she realizes Joe has something she lacks. Joe is still a new Christian, and is the first in his family to walk this path. He lacks the biblical grounding and education Rebecca has, but he has the basic faith, joy, and peace of a real relationship with his Creator, and this draws Rebecca to him.
Joe is a great hero, charming, handsome, kind, and spirited. He has a dark side rooted in his impoverished childhood, and struggles with enough insecurity to make him endearingly vulnerable, but he is too smart to be overly controlled by these things. I found Rebecca less appealing as she is ultra-cool, and prickly with pride and insecurity. Her lack of materialistic tendencies is so complete it is somewhat incredible, and I could not help but wonder at a rich girl whose only dream is to work as a P. E. teacher.
I also noticed that while most of the men in the book are presented in a positive light, the women are mostly portrayed as being foolish or worse. The young women in town all seem to brazenly throw themselves at Joe every chance they get, and Rebecca’s sister and mother are materialistic, class-conscious, and controlling to the point that their love and concern for Rebecca seems to take second place. Fortunately, Joe and Rebecca are likable enough to make this negative minor.
By the end of the book Rebecca had gained my sympathies, and the story conflicts were resolved in a believable manner consistent with Joe and Rebecca’s characters and personalities. The Cowboy’s Bride offers the reminder that redemption, hope, and love are attainable, no matter the circumstances life seems to offer.