Judging by the number of cowboy covers lining the bookshelves at my local library, there is no shortage of interest in that tried and true Wild West archetype. Whether you’re looking for a sweet homesteader yarn set at the turn of the twentieth century, a contemporary coming-of-age tale or a suspenseful nail-biter, there’s something for every romance reader.
Jo Goodman’s A Touch of Forever is a sweet marriage of convenience story set in 1902. Third in her Cowboys of Colorado series, this novel can still easily be read as a stand-alone. Goodman is an expert at developing compelling, interesting and likeable characters, and this entry is totally absorbing. Railway surveyor Roen Shepard is new to town working on a project for the Northern Railway. When he meets single mother Lily Salt, he is immediately taken with her quiet grace and dignity, and her sense of humor and hard work. When he poses the marriage of convenience idea to her in attempt to fend off his ex-mistress, who’s come to town with unwanted news (and advances), Lily agrees for practicality’s sake. What ensues is the slow-burn development of a friendship that gracefully develops into a romance. A Touch of Forever is gorgeously done and almost compulsively readable.
Carolyn Brown’s Cowboy Rebel follows the journey of Tag Baker and his evolution from adventurous daredevil to responsible ranch owner. Like the other protagonists in Brown’s Longhorn Canyon series, Tag is richly developed and part of a sprawling, inclusive family. His wild, risk-taking ways defined him ever since the death of his best friend. Nikki Grady is an admirable woman who’s worked hard in life to get where she is. Her nursing career is hard-won, and one she’s unwilling to risk via a romance with a reckless cowboy. But the more she gets to know Tag, the more she opens herself up to the possibility. That is, if she can ditch her drag of a mother, Wilma, whose conversations and scenes with Nikki were hard to get through at times. Fortunately, Tag and Nikki are compelling enough to re-garner the readers’ attention and remind you why this rebel gets the girl.
Luck of the Draw is a second-chance love story with B.J. Daniels’ trademark undercurrent of danger. When Garrett Sterling comes across a man dragging a struggling woman across a ravine, he intervenes. But once he gets a good look at her, he realizes it’s Joslyn Charles, the woman he thought was the love of his life. Joslyn disappeared almost two years ago with no word, and now claims to not recognize him. Her head injury is very real, which makes the possibility of amnesia plausible—it just makes filling in the blanks all the more frustrating for Garrett, particularly since they’re in the crosshairs of a killer. Daniels is a perennial favorite on the romantic suspense front, and I might go as far as to label her the cowboy whisperer.