The Last True Cowboy
Quiet, like a meandering herd through a sunlit meadow – pretty, but slow-moving – The Last True Cowboy is a very p-a-c-e-d read. It’s my first Kathleen Eagle, so I have no personal frame of reference on her other works, but having heard such wonderful things about the author, I was anxious to read this book. However, what was offered in The Last True Cowboy was not what I was looking for and this turned into a disappointing read for me.
First off, this is just not a romance. Yet again, an author renowned for her fabulous romances has tailored her work to a more mainstream fiction audience. With the focus on an ensemble cast of characters rather than the hero and heroine, an emphasis on familial relationships, and subdued sensuality, no disrespect intended, The Last True Cowboy seemed more like The Last True Horse Whisperer of Madison County. It’s the old apples and oranges thing. Please don’t sell me apples in an orange crate. When I want apples, I’ll buy apples.
A very literary work, this book goes right down the middle of the trail, no ups, no downs, just goes. Well written? Sure, parts, well yeah, mostly. In places, some very fine prose. Kathleen Eagle has a marvelous talent for turns-of-phrase and imagery; some nail-on-the-head insights on the nature of men and women, too. But the emphasis here was more on the functional/dysfunctional aspects of the Weslin family rather than on the romance between the eldest Weslin daughter, Julia, and the sexy drifter K.C. Houston.
Cowboy K.C. Houston. Now, much as I loved this cowboy, I have never like men who didn’t have real names, but only initials, and I guess that just biased me right out of the chute. K.C. is a rather famous trainer of horses. Reduced by circumstances, he is forced to take a job as a regular cowboy on the High Horse ranch, working for Sally Weslin, grandmother to Julia (older, sensible, anal, single) and Dawn (younger, babe, spoiled, married). These here Weslin ladies have just buried the girls’ brother, Ross, who had hired K.C. to come and train the High Horse horses, the only problem being, there aren’t any, so nobody knows what Ross was really up to when he hired K.C.
As far as K.C. and Julia go, like, Hello, these are the 90’s – so what’s all this angst about exactly? Julia Weslin is thirty-six, K.C. is somewhere around thirty. She had a problem with that. She is a few credits shy of her PhD., he finished up his high schoolin’ and got his diploma as an adult. He had a problem with that. She’s a sophisticated city gal, he’s a driftin’ cowboy. They both had a problem with that. They both have hurts, they both have baggage, they both find the other irresistibly attractive. Tacitly, K.C. and Julia agree to have a summer fling, then he’ll do his moving-on-as-usual thing, and she’ll, what, sell the ranch? Keep the ranch? All this thinkin’ and anlayzin’ went on forever, which had me skippin’ pages at this point to get on with it all.
I liked K.C. – there was little to not like about this man. In real life, a woman would give her eye-teeth for a man like K.C. Houston, initials and all. Julia was a little more difficult to like, and her relationship with K.C. always felt so uncomfortable and strained to me. Sally was a rather stereotypical, feisty, head-of-the-clan grandmother (although the story of how she met her husband, Max, was charming), and Dawn was a fairly stereotypical younger sister, too, although she managed to gumption up and come through in the end. There are some wonderful and sympathetic wild mustangs, slimy developers, boys in need of reforming, a very sweet secondary romance between two people who should have gotten together thirty years ago, and lots of figurin’ and scrutinizin’. When it’s all said and done, there’s really not much to The Last True Cowboy, and at $20, you might want to wait for the paperback.
It’s not so much that I didn’t like this book, it was just that its content and my mood never hit it off. Because Kathleen Eagle’s literary style is so eloquent, I will check out her backlist. This book does have its moments – perhaps you’ll find more of them, however, than I did.