Harlequin Historical, $6.50, ISBN 978-0-373-29847-1
Historical Romance, 2015
A countess is coming to Lodgepole, Wyoming and the folks are all pretty excited. Well, except perhaps Clint Logan, our hero who is running an unofficial local resistance against the obligatory evil land-gobbling SOB villain, Roderick Hanford. He has bigger things on his mind, so when he finds himself sharing the stagecoach with the countess in question, he’s all, bah, rich pampered women, ugh. And then the coach gets robbed by two idiots that happen to be part of his gang, and he has to hand over personally the countess’s ring to one of the idiots before those two start shooting people. As you can tell, this doesn’t endear him to her.
Eve Townsend, our heroine may be a countess, but she is a penniless one. Her husband did leave her a comfortable sum of money before he croaked – he was the obligatory much older, rarely randy guy who only had his kindness to commend him – but the man’s son burned the will and tossed her with only a few personal possessions onto the street. Eve comes all the way here to stay with her sister, only to discover that the sister died during childbirth a short while before she arrived. Never mind, she dedicates herself to care for her sister’s children.
Guess who her brother-in-law is. That’s right, Roderick! When Clint approaches her to help him spy on Roderick, she is at first reluctant to involve herself – the kids come first, after all – but she soon realizes that Roderick is mean and nasty through and through. Also, he wants her bad, but because she doesn’t put out to him, he goes ahead and shacks up with the nasty maid, who thus completely the roster of clichés. Evil rich dude, nasty ho, noble mother-of-the-year heroine, and the hero who just wants justice done – yes, The Countess and the Cowboy is a very formulaic Western romance despite the presence of a countess in this story.
The heroine’s not bad. I like that she’s quite the snob who is prejudiced against the Irish – the hero happens to be one – because this flaw helps to keep her from turning into a full-blown icky saint-like character. She’s out of her depths at times, but she is pretty capable and smart for someone who is trying to get used to living in a place so different from her previous home. She realizes quickly that the hero knows the two idiots that hold up the stagecoach early in the story, for example, and she has no problems coming up with credible fibs and such when the need arises. I also like how she doesn’t immediately ditch her English values for American ones – no “Americans are the best! Democracy forever!” nonsense from her – so her gradual adaptation to her new environment feels real.
On the other hand, the hero is pretty dense. Maybe the author has some kind of limit to adhere to when it comes to the collective intelligence of her characters, and Eve must have taken up most of the brainpower made available to the cast of characters. On one hand, I quite pity Clint because he is leading a bunch of folks who, while downtrodden and oppressed, display the intelligence of a gnat, cannot do anything right without him around, and they also tend to run off and do suicidal things once they blow a gasket, needing Clint to come to their rescue. The poor fellow is basically the most capable one of the bunch, so he finds himself scrambling to play the babysitter while trying to topple the evil regime. It’s not an easy task, and I don’y envy his position.
But this guy is pretty dumb. He would stumble upon a badly written letter supposedly from the heroine, for example, notes that the handwriting doesn’t seem to come from a refined and educated lady like Eve, discovers that the note basically says HA HA HA I FOOLED YOU I AM A TRAITOR, and immediately, without any hesitation, goes OH HO SHE IS A TRAITOR I HATE HER NOW. Aside from being on the gullible side, he also often plots and acts in ways that often place Eve in a terrible position, and he doesn’t seem to understand what he has done most of the time. He’s also pretty selfish – he expects Eve to give everything up for a cause that she doesn’t have to support, but he doesn’t offer her much in return for her efforts. Well, unless you count him accusing her of being a liar and what not as something valuable, I suppose.
At any rate, there isn’t much about The Countess and the Cowboy story that is memorable since everything is so familiar and predictable, and the one thing that is memorable is the hero being a nitwit. Oh well.