Next, I surfed through my digital TBR looking for a contemporary western (the other half of the optional themes for this month's challenge). I finally settled on Cowboy Trouble by Joanne Kennedy. I have no idea why it was on my Kindle. It may have been a free read. It hasn't been on the TBR too terribly long, but I think if I didn't read it now, I'd probably never read it.
Length: 416 pages (according to Amazon for the print edition)
FTC: purchased myself
Despite how the blurb makes it sound, this isn't really a fish out of water story. It's more of a finding the right pond for the fish story. It's about a woman fleeing the big city for rural life and discovering she likes the harsh realities of Wyoming just fine. She discovers she's capable, independent, and although can use help with some of the more labor-intensive chores, more than able to work hard on her "chicken ranch." There's very little yearning for the cosmopolitan city life, and I found that refreshing.
I'm a sucker for stories set in small towns and filled with zany characters. Joanne Kennedy did a wonderful job making each secondary character memorable. They all had their quirks, their hidden but obviously present back story. And the interaction between those secondary characters felt comfortable. You could tell these people had lived in the same town and shared experiences.
Luke was very unusual for a cowboy hero. He's very self aware, very considerate, and a little more in touch with his feelings than your typical western man. Add to that he lives at the family ranch still (to help take care of his mom—an Alzheimer patient) and you have a modern man stuck wearing chaps (that Libby has a hilarious fascination with) and a cowboy hat.
What bugs me about this book is that instead of using Libby's determination to avoid relationships as the source of tension, the author decided to bring in an outside conflict in the form of a missing young girl. And since Libby is a former crime reporter now on staff with the lack-o-news local paper, of course she has to try to solve that mystery on her own.
I don't mind mysteries. I don't mind romantic suspense. But when I pick up a contemporary romance, I want the focus on the ROMANCE. And this just felt like the mystery was used as an excuse to keep our main characters doubting each other in order to prolong the romantic tension. I hate that!
The mystery really brought down my feelings about the entire book. Not only was the bad guy completely obvious (foreshadowing up the wazoo), but Libby is so completely oblivious (and distrustful where it doesn't make sense to be so). It's like she has zero self preservation instincts. Not exactly TSTL, but close.
I really liked the humor and the characters in this book. I will probably seek out more books by Joanne Kennedy because her writing style was delightful and her characters were hilarious. I just found the mystery aspect of the book both unnecessary and unsatisfying.
My Grade: B-/C+
A cowboy like that could break your heart…
Fleeing her latest love-life disaster, big city journalist Libby Brown’s transition to rural living isn’t going exactly as planned. Her childhood dream has always been to own a farm—but without the constant help of her charming, sexy cowboy neighbor, she’d never make it through her first Wyoming season.
But he could sure keep you warm at night, too…
Handsome rancher Luke Rawlins is impressed by this sassy, independent city girl. But he yearns to do more than help Libby out with her ranch. He’s ready for love, and he wants to go the distance… Then the two get embroiled in their tiny town’s one and only crime story, and Libby discovers that their sizzling hot attraction is going to complicate her life in every way possible…