The Renegades: Cole
Reading this book left me feeling the way I do after having a meal at McDonald’s – there was nothing remarkable about it, but it did the job. While there’s nothing special about them, hamburgers at the Golden Arches are uniformly easy to swallow, and that was my reaction to The Renegades: Cole.
Aurora Benton wants to relocate from Colorado to Texas. Her father’s died, leaving her with nothing but a herd of cattle, and a ranch that the bank’s about to foreclose on. Since her cowboys will be too busy driving said herd, she needs to hire a bodyguard, and when Cole McCord, a former Texas Ranger, shows up, she settles on him. It has nothing to do with the fact that she’s unbearably attracted to him in the wake of their first meeting – she rides straight into the middle of a shoot-out between him and some punk kid who wants to make his reputation at Cole’s expense – she tells herself that she needs his skills with a gun, to protect her from whomever is trying to sabotage her cattle drive.
Against his better judgment, Cole allows the beautiful, relentlessly cheerful, and optimistic young woman to overcome his reservations about accompanying her to her new home. Now he has two demons to fight: the memory of how he drew his partner Travis to his death, and the growing realization that he’s not going to be able to resist Aurora’s charms. They encounter cattle rustlers, stampedes, and a final showdown of sorts with the person responsible for many of their troubles. Along the way, Aurora learns bits and pieces of Cole’s past, and tries to convince him that not only is he not responsible for Travis’s death, but that he’s also worthy of love. Burdened by guilt, Cole can’t accept the gift she offers him. What will it take for him to undergo a change of heart and grab the happiness at his fingertips?
The word that springs to mind is adequate. Nothing fancy, but nothing that grates in too annoying a manner. Humor makes up a good bit of the relationship between Aurora and Cole: just when you think they’re going to have a huge fight, one of them will break the tension with a joke or wisecrack. But there’s plenty of sexual tension between the two of them, and it’s Cole who does most of the struggling against the attraction (I almost breathed a sigh of relief when I reached the first love scene). Aurora has decided to take every moment as it comes, but, once she realizes she’s in love with her bodyguard, she finds it harder to reconcile that philosophy with her emotions.
What raised this story (only slightly) above the average for me was the real sense I got of what life on the trail might have been like. You come to know the cowboys, who are not just stick figures; you even get to know their horses. The setting is fully realized, something that doesn’t always happen in a historical romance. I did have a bit of a problem following some of Aurora’s history: she was born in the West, but went back East to be educated. But the writer never explains how long she was gone, let alone how her father, who was slowly going broke, could have afforded such a luxury for her. And the resolution of the sabotage story line was less than satisfying for me. I would have liked something more – I don’t know, confrontational, perhaps, and concrete. Moreover, given the historical fact of anti-Indian prejudice during the era, I wondered whether the half-breed Cole would have been accepted into the Texas Rangers, let alone have risen to the rank of captain. And why make him a half-breed if you’re not going to do more with that? I expected at least a little bit of angst on his part about that.
There are less satisfying ways to spend a few hours than reading The Renegades: Cole, just as there are more unpalatable things to eat than a Big Mac. It meets your RDA for romance, and at least you’ll be able to finish it without putting it down in disgust. You might even enjoy some of the things I did: the humor, the setting, the pull and draw between the hero and heroine. Believe me, you could do much worse – but you could do better as well.