Harlequin Historical, $6.50, ISBN 978-0-373-29808-2
Historical Romance, 2014
You have to hand it to romance heroines: once they put their mind to a good cause, nothing – not even the threat of death, damnation, and eternal rogering by ugly and smelly men – could sway them from their paths. Fortunately, there is always a romance hero who would be there, at the right time and place, to sweep in and clean up the mess after the heroine before fixing everything else for her. That’s what we call romance, eh, people?
Marie Hall, professional nursemaid and sheltered stiff-lipped damsel, heads out to the wilderness of Dakota to escort six brats (who is completely unrelated to her) to their uncle. Realizing that she doesn’t have the funds to bring them that far by rail, she decides to lie that she’s the uncle’s mail-order-bride and all pending payment would be settled by her husband-to-be, Mick, upon arrival at Huron, Dakota. She’s not sure whether she has enough money to get out of Huron after that, but that’s not important. What is important here is that the six children are not separated. Never! Even if some kindly people want to adopt one or two out of the six, never. She’s banking on the kindness and generosity of someone she has never met, mind you, but I guess if things don’t go well, they can all cling to one another and jump off a cliff. Shall I give Marie a medal for going out her way and risking everything for the kids?
It turns out that Mick is away and won’t be back until next spring. Oops. Well, fortunately for Marie, she’s rescued from having to do a Fantine and service cowboys until she dies of syphilis while gargling that she dreams of a life that is so different from the hell she’s living, by our hero Stafford Burleson who shares a ranch with Mick. They are both wealthy men, so it’s not like Marie and the brats would be living in a hovel, surrounded by lovely ladies of the night and smelly drunk oafs. See? Lucky. Oh, and romantic. Stafford is somewhat rough around the edges at first, but he soon becomes very protective of the brats while finding his friend’s “wife-to-be” too attractive for his own good. Oh, what is he to do?
Reading Lauri Robinson’s The Wrong Cowboy reminds me of that time when I found myself bobbing my head to this smooth sexy jam on the radio, wondering, “Hmm, I think I should check out the album where this comes from. Who is this from? Ne-Yo?” And then I shrieked in horror when I realized that I had been enjoying a song by Nick Jonas, of all people. It’s the same here. While I don’t have to shriek in horror – the writing here is far better than that – I actually don’t want to like this book so much because it is so laden with clichés. Many scenes here remind me of those I’ve come across before in previous books, the characters mostly behave in a predictable manner, and the villain is a cliché.
Here’s the thing: the romance feels smooth and good to follow. When Stafford warms up to Marie and the brats, the story brings on the warmth, sweetness, and the occasional funny so naturally, that the romance feels like the rightest thing ever. The brats aren’t annoying – shocking! – and Marie may be a fish out of water but she tries hard to do her best and make the most out of her situation, bless the dear. As the story progresses, I find myself warming up to it just like Stafford with the guests at his place, and I even let myself be swept up in the more sentimental “Now we’re a family, awww, isn’t that sweet?” moments because the author is playing me so well by that point.
So, yes, The Wrong Cowboy is a safe and predictable cozy read, full of familiar elements and stock characters, et cetera. But that’s okay, because the author easily reels me into her story and has me enjoying a bulk of the tale. That’s okay, and we’re okay. Now, let’s not talk about this anymore, or Nick Jonas, or else my reputation wouldn’t survive the embarrassment.