If anything could entice a person to write poetry about forearms, it would be Dane Parker’s very loaded guns.
Maisey Yates is still a queen of banter, gentle humor and strong characters. In Unbroken Cowboy, our nature-loving heroine bumps head on into a rodeo star who can’t accept that maybe she might know better when it comes to licking ones’ wounds.
Veterinarian Beatrix (Bea) Leighton has a fondness for picking up and nursing strays back to health. Happy but somewhat isolated in her little cabin on the family vineyard, she has few friends and her formal family considers her a little eccentric – which means she just shrugs, keeps her head down, and goes her own way, including taking on an underwear-stealing, Cheeri-o eating raccoon as a pet. That love of strays is exactly why she’s taking care of stubborn cowboy and family friend Dane Parker, who was injured during a rodeo competition. Bea’s always had a crush on Dane, and she’s doing this as a favor to his sister, Lindy, who is busy with her new marriage (Good Time Cowboy). Unfortunately, Dane is not the cooperative type, and he’s never responded to Bea’s overtures of friendship.
Dane’s reaction to his injury is to try to stubbornly gut out the pain – which means not doing the exercises his physical therapist has suggested and trying to walk on an injured leg that refuses to obey him, and stumbling around the family vineyard trying to see to things he ought not to be seeing to. He’s just about accepted Lindy and Wyatt’s marriage and knows that he needs to swallow some pride and work on his brother-in-law’s ranch, but can’t accept that a leg held together by screws and a rib fracture that bruised his liver might require a little more rest to finish healing. His body is going to be his bitch, damn it. The sooner he tames it, the quicker he’ll be back on the road, the place where he feels the most alive, where he has access to adulation and any woman he wants, and where he can drown out memories of a childhood blighted by his father walking out on the family. He has a soft spot for sunshiny Bea, but he baulks at her orders.
Bea realizes that Dane needs a purpose, and decides to put him in charge of a flock of rescue chickens. Soon Bea begins to dream of creating an animal sanctuary, when she’s not dreaming of Dane’s handsome visage of course. And Dane starts to notice the grit – and the body – that Bea has been hiding. But the two of them have a lot of changing – and a lot of self-searching – to do before they can reach true happiness.
Unbroken Cowboy captures and distills a lot of the best points of Yates’ writing into a single book. A spunky attitude, a sense of life lived on a ranch, and a hero and heroine who can hold their own against one another; this book has all of these wonderful details and then some.
Bea is inexperienced and innocent, but that doesn’t mean she doesn’t have determination, and that doesn’t mean she’s going to shed her own wishes in pursuit of making Dane more comfortable. She must learn how to reach out – not just to Dane but to others for friendship and assistance – before she can move forward from her early-book stasis. And she’s worth rooting for.
Dane is understandably ornery as he tries to hobble around and keep control of an experience that’s been anything but easy for him. Much of Dane’s career is an f-you to a dad who hasn’t been there for him and told him that maybe he’d see him if he made it on TV; and while Dane has naturally been on TV since, that hole’s still there. His lesson is about figuring out that he doesn’t need the trappings of fame to make him worthwhile or whole as a human being.
The supporting characters and subplots are delightful. Wyatt and Dane’s battle is amusing; the fact that Dane’s protective of his sister even though she’s happy now reflects in his relationship with Bea, whom he deems a ‘nice girl’ – too nice to have anything to do with him. I love Lindy, and how her plainspoken nature helps Dane get himself right and reckon with the past. The relationships are naturally tightly interwoven, but even though I haven’t read any of the earlier books in the series I found it easy to follow the plot.
The romance is a very traditional inexperienced woman/worldly man combination (Bea has literally never been kissed before), but Yates transforms every single scrap of their interaction by rounding the characters, making them human, and taking the time to examine how Bea’s inexperience makes her feel, and how she closed off socially in her teen years to protect herself from an unhappy home life. Bea gets turned on by the size difference and power imbalance between her and Dane, and is generally ignorant of the power she holds over him – and then learns to exert it once she figures it out. The sexual chemistry between the characters is strong and well-balanced. My only real caveat comes in the form of a single scene – there’s an EXTREMELY awkward moment where Dane scratches Bea behind the ear to make a point, she feels it between the legs and he calls her a good girl. Heroine-as-horse was not something I expected to get in a romance, and made me giggle instead of swoon.
Other than that though, Unbroken Cowboy is a really fun western romance – another jewel in Yates’ belt buckle.