The Rocky Ridge Man
The Rocky Ridge Man has a very distinctive opening scene. The heroine is walking past a row of men – looking for the perfect male butt! Though this is a cowboy romance, it’s not a typical one. The premise and setting are both unusual and interesting. Unfortunately, the conflict is less inspired.
Sonya Duncan is a senior advertising executive with her eye on a vice-presidency. When she’s chosen to spearhead the ad campaign for Rocky Ridge Jeans, she’s sure this could be her big chance. She’s been searching for the man with the perfect “attributes” to be the Rocky Ridge Man, and so far none of the contenders seems quite right – until Clint Silver walks in the door.
For Clint, the Rocky Ridge audition is a whim, and a last-ditch effort to save his heavily mortgaged ranch. He’s thrilled when he lands the job, but publicity shy because of his checkered past. He agrees to pose as the Rocky Ridge Man, but only if his face isn’t shown and his identity remains secret.
Clint and Sonya are attracted to each other right away, but they seem to be completely incompatible. Sonya’s father was a cowboy who walked out on her mother, and she was raised in the shadow of the rodeo circuit, so she has avoided cowboys in the past. Now the Rocky Ridge project has her at odds with a treacherous boss, and her job may be in danger. Clint is even more wounded. His deceased wife was a vain woman whose death was shrouded in scandal. His daughter doesn’t know about her mother’s past, and he wants to protect her from any negative publicity. Sonya’s career needs seem to be on a collision course with Clint’s desire for privacy. Can this relationship be saved?
This book has some things going for it, most notably an interesting Canadian setting. Not many romances are set in Canada. I racked my brain trying to think of some, and the only ones I could come up besides L.M. Montgomery’s books with are The Stone Diaries by Carol Shields, and The Shipping News by E. Annie Proulx (both very good books, by the way). The novel setting gave the book a uniqueness that it would have lacked had it been set in the US.
The premise is also interesting. March takes the much-used cowboy hero and puts him in a completely different milieu. While I’m not sure this scenario is used to its full potential, at least it avoids some of the cowboy cliches. It’s nice to see a cowboy who doesn’t have that “drifter” mentality. We also get to see some interesting characters, most notably Sonya’s flamboyantly gay assistant, Neil.
The problems with the book are rooted in the conflict. Clint spends most of the book hiding his past, and I just didn’t see the point. When he first sleeps with Sonya, he leaves right away because he has to get back to his daughter, but he doesn’t tell Sonya this. Even if he felt he had to keep the rest of his past a secret, I didn’t see why he couldn’t tell Sonya he had a child. But actually, I felt his need to any of his past was unrealistic and unnecessary. His daughter was bound to find out about her mother sometime anyway. In effect, March avoids the cowboy drifter cliche and replaces it with an equally annoying romance stand-by – the hero who thinks any relationship is impossible because his first wife was a twit.
Sonya spends just as much time worrying about her problems, which are equally easy to solve. She gets over the “can’t love a cowboy” hang up quickly enough, but she spends far too long agonizing about her career. She’s good at her job and has her own base of clients and loyal personnel, so it’s obvious early on that she just needs to quit and form her own company. Eventually she figures this out, about 100 pages after the reader has done so.
If you love cowboy romances, you might enjoy the cowboy-as-fashion model premise. Otherwise, I wouldn’t go out of my way to read this one.