From New York Times bestseller Victoria James comes a poignant and heartfelt romance that wraps you in a warm embrace…
Eight years ago, Tyler Donnelly left Wishing River, Montana, after a terrible fight with his father and swore he’d never return. But when his father has a stroke, guilt and duty drive him home, and nothing is as he remembers––from the run-down ranch to Lainey Sullivan, who is all grown up now. And darn if he can’t seem to stay away.
Lainey’s late grandma left her two things: the family diner and a deep-seated mistrust of cowboys. So when Tyler quietly rides back into town looking better than hot apple pie, she knows she’s in trouble. But she owes his dad everything, and she’s determined to show Ty what it means to be part of a small town…and part of a family.
Lainey’s courage pushes Ty to want to make Wishing River into a home again—together. But one of them is harboring a secret that could change everything.
This book was an excellent example of an “I liked it, but…” story.
The Trouble with Cowboys has a bit of a different flavor to it than most (maybe even all?) of Ms. James’s books that I’ve read in the past. Part of it might be the new setting–Wishing River, Montana–though she’s had plenty of other books set in that part of the world, it is a new town with new people (and though I don’t see it listed anywhere as first in a series, there’s plenty of series potential here with the secondary characters she’s given us, so…). This one has some fairly steamy scenes, though they don’t go past the making out stage because of Lainey’s determination to wait until marriage–so it’s not closed door since there are no doors to close, but it’s a step or two above a straight-up “sweet” romance. There is also a bit of a religious aspect to the story that I didn’t quite expect; it’s pretty non-denominational, there’s talk of church on Sundays and a Father Andy makes an appearance about a third of the way in and then plays a smallish role in the last third or so–I didn’t mind it, but it just seemed to sneak into the story without warning and ended up playing a role that wasn’t obvious from the beginning. None of these things were problems; they just weren’t quite what I expected, even after having read a good 50% or so of the book.
But maybe I just missed the clues?
The clues about the fight Tyler had with his father were pretty obvious, though, even if it took forever for him to tell us (and even longer for him to tell Lainey) the details. What was less clear was why the entire town, including Ty’s two BFFs, spent eight years hating him and maintained their grudges for so long in the book. Even his dad, who clearly knew what had happened since he was a part of it, went out of his way to make Tyler feel unwanted until nearly the end, and I really don’t understand why. If he really said what he said out of anger and felt bad about it, why didn’t he make more of an effort in those eight years (or, if he really couldn’t find Tyler, then at least when he came back) to try and make amends? It was frustrating to see him treated so badly for so long–he really didn’t deserve it, and the fact that those who did end up “forgiving” him eventually did it with so little fanfare (or effort) added to my frustration.
The romance between Lainey and Tyler was sweet, though, and their chemistry was solid. I really did like them together, and was pulling for them to find a way to a mutually satisfying HEA. She lied to him by omission pretty early on (and kept it going for quite some time) and he ultimately was made to feel worse about it in the long run than she did, which bothered me, but it fit in with the anti-Tyler theme that was still going strong at that point, so I guess there’s that? The dark moment and the grand gesture, like the religious aspect and Lainey’s declaration, felt kind of tacked on without a lot to ground them in the story, but the epilogue was cute.
Ultimately, this isn’t my favorite from this author, but if she writes more books in this fictional setting I will undoubtedly give them a try–Lainey’s BFF’s story, especially, could be interesting. As for this one–I liked it, but…
Rating: 3 1/2 stars / B-
I voluntarily reviewed an Advance Reader Copy of this book.