There’s nothing quite like a cowboy—all strength and competence, dedication and honor wrapped up a long, lean package and topped with a Stetson. These two new stories feature cowboy heroes who check every box, then throw in something a little extra.
Lori Wilde’s How the Cowboy Was Won returns to her well-loved town of Cupid, Texas, where Ranger Lockhart, a cowboy of good fortune, is very obviously in need of a wife. At least, this much is obvious to his lifelong best friend, the delightful and spirited Ember Alzate, who takes pride in her reputation as a local matchmaker. When Ranger comes home to chase a job opportunity, Ember’s resolved to do whatever it takes to make sure he stays in Cupid for good. If that means finding him the perfect wife, then Ember’s up to the task. Little does she know that Ranger has already decided exactly who he wants by his side, and he’ll do whatever it takes to convince his stubborn best friend that she’s the only woman who belongs in his arms.
If you think this premise sounds Austen-esque, you’re right—it’s a Western homage to Jane Austen’s Emma. Wilde turns that mannered Regency romance into a story bursting with energy and vitality that loses none of the charm of the original. Ember and Ranger are bolder, sexier and worldlier than Emma and Mr. Knightly, with Ember especially having experienced more love, loss and failure than Austen’s sheltered heroine, which adds to the richness of the story. Ember and Ranger are flawed, awkward and thoroughly engaging characters on a hilarious journey to their happily ever after. How the Cowboy Was Won is as light and effervescent as a glass of champagne, sweet and sparkling with humor and warmth.
By contrast, Hero’s Return by B.J. Daniels is a tumbler of scotch—layered, smoky and complex. Tucker Cahill fled his Montana home 19 years ago with no explanation to his friends and family. After hearing the news that an unidentified woman’s body has been found, Tucker decides to finally return to the town and face his past. The secret of Tucker's connection to the crime scene is a twisted web that only gets more tangled as the story progresses. He teams up with Kate Rothschild, a well-bred beauty who fought against her family’s expectations to come to the same small town and get closure on her own personal tragedy.
Despite the darkness of the premise, Tucker is every bit the hero that the title promises—principled and honorable, with a determination to find answers that’s balanced by empathy and compassion. The bullheaded Kate, who takes no prisoners in her fierce drive to get to the truth, brings out his protective side. Their deepening connection and slow slide into love play out beautifully against the twisted backdrop of an investigation that reveals new, deadly angles at every turn. Hero’s Return is a page-turner that will have you fighting the urge to flip ahead and see how it all ends. And while the conclusion is very satisfying, it also carries hints that will leave you waiting eagerly for Daniels’ upcoming return to the Cahill Ranch for this family’s next adventure.