The Cowboy's Claim
Nina Crespo kicks off the Tillbridge Stables series with The Cowboy’s Claim, a Hallmark Movie-esque low-conflict, enemies-to-lovers, country boy-meets-city gal romance.
Crespo introduces readers to the Tillbridges, an African American family of horse stable owners based in Maryland who have achieved renown as rodeo performers. Tillbridge Horse Stable & Guesthouse manager Tristan Tillbridge has dedicated his life to the success of his father and uncle’s legacy, and now that he is about to become co-owner, the sexy ‘n’ serious (and seriously sexy) Tristan works from sunup to sundown. He has neither the time, nor the inclination to babysit equinophobic Chloe Daniels, a Los Angeles actress who wants to shadow Tristan for the next six weeks in order to prepare for a movie audition. However, Tristan’s tough-as-nails cousin/boss, Zurie (a former competitive horse barrel racer who deserves her own book in the series), doesn’t give him much choice in the matter.
Chloe is determined to get cast in the Hollywood film role of a lifetime – a futuristic western directed by the hottest Hollywood director. Since Tristan refuses to give Chloe any of his valuable time, she quickly befriends the staff and learns about the inner workings of Tillbridge Stable, including horse care and food service. Impressed by Chloe’s gumption and her willingness to ‘get dirty,’ Tristan’s attraction to her grows. (But he still doesn’t formally train her on anything until much later.) And Chloe’s heart is all aflutter over the kinder, Stetson hat-wearing cowboy. Tristan and Chloe eventually succumb to their undeniable passion for each other and engage in a little ‘Texas two-step’ (*wink, wink*). The couple recognizes that their lives are headed in two different directions and that their future together is uncertain, and as their feelings for each other grow, Tristan and Chloe are understandably skittish about potentially jeopardizing their life’s ambitions to take a chance on love.
Throughout my book browsing, I have never come across a Western-themed romance novel featuring Black protagonists, especially one that is set in Maryland. Between the unique setup and Crespo’s digestible storytelling, I was quickly hooked. Evocative descriptions and meaningful dialogue imbue the scenes with genuine sentiment and strong desire. (Warning: The Cowboy’s Claim will make you very hungry. Crespo details BBQ foods and sweet treats that will send you repeatedly to the fridge for snack breaks.)
Tristan and Chloe are very easy to like, fulfilling tried-and-true romance archetypes. He is the hunky grump with a heart of gold; she is the affable beauty with indomitable grit. While the main characters are interesting, I was disappointed that Crespo did not discuss Tristan and Chloe’s personal relationships to racism. Their life experiences and public careers – his as a stable manager and former bull rider and hers as a promising movie actress – would have most definitely been affected in some way, shape, or form by the color of their skin. Since neither race, nor culture is explored by Tristan and Chloe, I regarded them as somewhat one-dimensional characters with whom I couldn’t fully connect.
Disappointment notwithstanding, I did enjoy their low-angst, mildly sexual courtship filled with trite, but ‘aww…so sweet’ gestures. To be honest, there were fleeting moments when I felt slightly more invested in Tristan’s rocky relationship with his once-close Tillbridge cousins, Zurie and Rina, than in his love affair with virtual stranger Chloe. But ultimately, I did care about Tristan and Chloe finding a happily-ever-after together.
Although I was largely charmed by Crespo’s work, I did feel short-changed by the ‘neat little bow’ conclusion which follows a major conflict occurring late in the story. The expediency with which the obstacle is resolved does not match the deliberate pacing of earlier chapters. Also, while I am not usually a proponent of epilogues, I found myself in want of one to support the tenuous ending, which left me with some logistical questions.
Nina Crespo’s The Cowboy’s Claim hits all the marks of a good standard romance. Readers who are attracted to strong family subplots and rural settings will find the novel especially satisfying. I look forward to returning to Tillbridge Stables with the October 2020 release of book two, Her Sweet Temptation.
Buy it at: Amazon or shop at your local independent bookstore
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(Check out the first entry of my new AAR video blog, which I recorded while reading Nina Crespo’s The Cowboy’s Claim.)
|Review Date:||June 22, 2020|
|Book Type:||Contemporary Romance|
|Review Tags:||actor/actress | AoC | horses | Maryland | PoC|
I’ve had this on my TBR pile for awhile! Looks pretty good, and I’m normally picky about contemp westerns.
“I did feel short-changed by the ‘neat little bow’ conclusion which follows a major conflict occurring late in the story.”
I am finding this to be a problem in a lot of Harlequin’s lately. It’s like the author has to add one more major obstacle and wrap it up within the last 10% of the book, and it feels tacked on.
“Their life experiences and public careers – his as a stable manager and former bull rider and hers as a promising movie actress – would have most definitely been affected in some way, shape, or form by the color of their skin.”
Perhaps, but maybe the author purposely didn’t want to go in that direction. After all, aren’t black readers and writers (and everyone else!) allowed to have some lighthearted romance stories too? Not every book out there has to make a statement or highlight an ongoing cultural problem. Sometimes a light fluffy story should be allowed to be a light fluffy story.
Thanks for joining the conversation! The fact that the protagonists and family are Black and has perhaps met with adversity could have been mentioned/explored without the novel becoming a heavy, intense read.
“Thanks for joining the conversation!” You’re welcome, but my main problem in life is knowing when to *not* join a conversation- or when to shut up. :)
“The fact that the protagonists and family are Black and has perhaps met with adversity could have been mentioned/explored without the novel becoming a heavy, intense read.”
Race-based adversity certainly could be explored, but I don’t think that approach is necessarily required. Both options are definitely valid depending upon how the author approaches the story and characters. I thought “Hearts on Hold” integrated such issues nicely without being too heavy-handed. But here in “The Cowboy’s Claim,” it seems the author took the light and fluffy route, and that’s okay too. I always say, “The more books, the better.” :)
I just found an interesting Tumblr post related to this topic. “Writing with Color” gathered an array interesting responses to the question “I was wondering what kind of female black characters do people want to see more of? Like, them being soft or selfish?” in her post entitled “Black Girls and Women: Representation We Want.” The Cowboy’s Claim sounds like just the kind of lighthearted story a lot of the responders are looking for: https://writingwithcolor.tumblr.com/post/621394779234861056/i-was-wondering-what-kind-of-female-black.