Mills & Boon, £4.99, ISBN 978-0-263-92562-3
Historical Romance, 2017
Ivy has always known life on a riverboat casino, and her dream is to become the pilot of her Uncle Patrick’s Jewel of the Mississippi. She keeps this dream alive even as Uncle Patrick keeps pointing out that riverboats are dying with the rise of train travel, but that dream will have to be put on ice when she learns that she is really Eleanor Ivy Magee, one of the two daughters of the racher Seamus Magee. You see, when Seamus and his wife parted ways, they had two daughters so he kept one while the wife took the other one. That’s how eventually Ivy ended up under Uncle Patrick’s care after her mother died when she was very young.
Now, Seamus’s godson Travis Murphy has finally tracked down Ivy, and he tells her that, with Seamus having passed on, the Wyoming ranch is now hers. Her sister, Amanda, is sickly and frail, so Seamus wanted Ivy to oversee things at the ranch and help see that Amanda is continued to be cared for. And Uncle Patrick pulls the rug from under her feet by announcing that he is selling the riverboat, so Ivy is going to see her new home, whether she likes it or not.
Still, Ivy is not a quitter or a panicker, and besides, she likes the idea of having a sister. So off she goes with Travis. As you can guess, she and Travis will develop an attraction for one another, but Seamus had wanted Ivy to marry that ambitious William English. Oh, what to do, what to do.
The Cowboy’s Cinderella is a bit misleading as a title, as it gives the impression that the heroine’s fate lies in the hands of many other different people – a godmother, a prince, et cetera – and that Travis will play the role of the fairy godmother. It’s actually more of a Pygmalion story, but even that is not so accurate. Another lady. not the hero, will play the main role in teaching Ivy manners and deportment so that Ivy can measure up as William’s sophisticated bride. And while Ivy may be thrust into a situation in which she has little say in, initially, she is soon taking charge of things and acting like she’s indeed born into the role of ranch management. And before you ask, there is hardly any love triangle drama here, as William shows up only much later in the story to be of any significant hindrance to the love story between Travis and Ivy.
Travis and Ivy are very likable couple. For the most part, Travis tries to be noble, so there is no lovely love rat moments such as he shagging Ivy while intending to hand her off to William (for her own good, of course!), or anything of that sort. These two become friends first, which is nice, and I really like how they have a good rapport that allows them to communicate well. However, I should point out that the romance here isn’t very intense. This is because Travis ends up being a little too nice – he is too willing to let Ivy go to William even late in the story when I wish he’d show some fire and fight for her love a little bit more. It’s not just him, though – for a long time, Ivy is also determined to make things work for her and William (even when she hasn’t even met him yet) because she realizes that his money would be good for so many nice things: to run the ranch, give the employees better wages, and to provide and care for Amanda. In a way, she can be as exasperating as Travis in this regard, but here’s the thing: her pragmatism is honest and so rare among romance heroines that I find what could have been a boring routine a refreshing kind of turn from a romance heroine.
Oh yes, back to the romance: it’s not exactly exploding with sexual tension, but that’s okay, as the friendship between those two feels solid. They like one another a lot, I feel, and their camaraderie and rapport make up very well for a lack of fireworks.
As I’ve mentioned, Ivy is a heroine who doesn’t just sit there quietly and wait for the big strong men to come to her rescue, even during the inevitable “Oh my goodness. the heroine is in the hands of the villain!” denouement, so she’s definitely a fun character to follow. Much of this story is familiar – her relationship with Amanda (who turns out to be not as sick as she is taken advantage of by her caregiver), her Mary Poppins-like ability to make things right, et cetera – but the author injects enough not-so-familiar elements here to keep me on my toes. The most notable one is William being pretty nice guy, as it turns out, much to my surprise as someone with a name like William English often never fares well in a Western romance.
This one may not be much of a Cinderella tale after all, but I feel that it certainly brings on enough magic to put a smile on my face.