Zebra, $3.99, ISBN 978-0-8217-8146-3
Historical Romance, 2007
One Real Cowboy is… well, the plot is not exactly original, the characters are familiar, and the whole story is actually quite predictable as it has a great number of clichéd scenes. Still, this story is a very readable one.
When Beatrix Northroupe’s father died while attempting to hunt under the influence of alcohol, Bea realized that she could lose the Prairie Rose Ranch. You see, the ranch actually belongs to her grandfather. The old coot banished her father, a disgraced British nobleman, to this place so that the man could get out of trouble, not that it did the now dead sod any good, of course. The old coot decided that Bea could only inherit the ranch if she is married, so she decides to tell the man that she is already married. He calls her bluff and announces his impending visit to check up on this husband, so Bea now needs to find herself a husband ASAP or lose her beloved horses.
Cord Tanner, a gambler and a drifter, doesn’t remember how he agreed with Bea’s employee during a happy evening at the watering hole to show up the next morning to apply for a job at the ranch. The fact that he was drunk may have something to do with his memory loss. Nonetheless, a job is a job. It’s not like he has anything better to do anyway, having lost most of his possessions in a card game. Imagine his surprise when he realizes just what kind of job Bea has in mind for him.
It is supposed to be a platonic marriage of convenience that will last about a month or so, but you know how things will get, I’m sure. Since this is a Western historical romance, it is compulsory that we have a sensitive emo horse in need of our hero’s TLC, some nasty landowners wanting to steal the land, some attempts on the heroine’s life, and other predictable elements that are pretty much standard in such stories.
Bea is not stupid, which is good. The thing is, she’s way out of her depths here. It is soon evident to Cord and to me that she is not cut out to run a ranch. It takes only a day for Cord to discover a potentially sinister going-on or two, which Bea is apparently oblivious to despite supposedly managing things in the ranch day in and out. By the last page, Cord has taken over all the manly business of actually doing things. Still, because Bea is obviously not cut out to do anything other than to breed horses, this outcome is probably for the best for all parties concerned.
Her relationship with Cord is a predictable one, with that silly woman going, “Oh no, when I said that we have to pretend that we are really in love, I must really kiss him? And let him touch my hand? Oh no, why does my heart now beat like that of a ten-year old girl who is watching David Archuleta on American Idol for the first time? Mommy in heaven, help me!” Oh, Bea. Still, the author soon has Bea stop behaving like a silly goon who will just die if Cord touches her hand, and the romance soon becomes less like the painful heralding of puberty in a little girl and more like a grown-up romance.
As for Cord, he is a predictable fellow, but he would still be fine if the author hadn’t have Cord repeating himself so often that he becomes a broken record. I have lost count of how many times he reiterates to himself that he is a bastard, he is not good enough for Bea, et cetera. The problem with Cord is that he is constantly repeating the same reasons for not wanting to love Bea throughout nearly the entirely story. He doesn’t grow in any way, emotionally, he just moves in circles until he conveniently decides late in the story that he loves Bea after all.
Still, despite the book giving me this overwhelming feeling that I have read this story many times before, One Real Cowboy is a most readable story. The characters aren’t the most compelling and their romance isn’t the most memorable, but the pacing of the story is fine. The narration is breezy and engaging. In other words, this is a far better story than it is a romance. All things considered, this is a pretty decent debut effort.