The Heart of a Cowboy
When I read the blurb for The Heart of a Cowboy, it mentioned that the heroine was a botanist, and as a trained biologist, I’m always on the lookout for a scientist heroine. It’s book two in Jody Hedlund’s Colorado Cowboys series, with what I call a ‘Journey’ storyline. I admit I’m not a fan of that structure, so the book dragged in places, but Ms. Hedlund’s storytelling was strong enough to bring me back, even after I’d taken a break from it.
After persuading her grandfather to allow her on this scientific expedition along the Santa Fe Trail, Linnea Newberry is sure she’s going to die. She wanted nothing more than to prove her research prowess on this research trip to study plant life in the West, and now she’ll most likely drown in this cold, Kansas river. In minutes, she’s yanked from the water by a strong cowboy and deposited on the bank, soaked and coughing, but alive.
Flynn McQuaid is traveling with a wagon train along an arduous trail. His responsibility is to drive his brother’s herd of cattle to Colorado where he’ll settle with his younger siblings. As far as he’s concerned, plucking a drowning woman from a river is what any decent person would do. For Linnea’s grandfather, the near-drowning confirms his belief that the journey is too hard for a woman, especially one who takes after him and becomes distracted when a plant specimen catches her eye.
More conversation reveals that Linnea had started the trip with her new husband at her side, the only reason she had received permission to come, but he had died before being able to undertake the expedition. Now, with only older male researchers for protection, her grandfather is ready to take Linnea home. She argues his research is too important to give up, and insists she’ll be careful. He agrees, but in secret, he hires Flynn to act as her bodyguard. Flynn is uneasy about keeping his role a secret from Linnea, but he needs the money and he’s already worried about the woman’s safety.
The journey continues across the plains, and the travelers encounter snakes, stampedes, marauders, unexplained damage to precious plant samples, and sparse water supplies. Throughout all the hardships and dangers, the romance between Linnea and Flynn grows steadily while both of them struggle against it. Linnea feels she’s being disloyal to her dead husband and is wary of embarking on a relationship that may mean giving up her research. Flynn knows they’ll part ways once the wagon train reaches Colorado, and with Linnea so recently widowed, he keeps an emotional distance. He prays she won’t learn of his arrangement with her grandfather.
The word I would use to describe this book is ‘gentle’. There is plenty of internal dialogue to convey the struggles Linnea and Flynn face, but the tone is of a soft yearning. Description of the country they pass through is well-done and from each character’s perspective. Their faith is introduced gently, with God being a basic part of their support system. The author often chooses words that are of a light quality, with an emotional nudge rather than a punch. Because of this, I could easily put the book down, but was still invested enough to pick it back up, remembering the characters and where I was in the story. Flynn’s young sister Ivy was my favorite character with her outspoken, straightforward approach to life that often led to her elders’ embarrassment simply because she stated a core of truth.
As I said before, I’m not a fan of Journey stories, but The Heart of a Cowboy is one of the better novels of this subgenre. If you’re looking for a solid historical romance with a scientist heroine and a gentle touch, you’ll definitely enjoy this book.