We all need a little kindness. We need patience and understanding—for ourselves and for each other. We need reminders of the good things in the world. We need beautiful sights. We need heartwarming stories. We need laughter and joy and a sense that things really can get better.
We need some hot cowboys cuddling puppies.
Thankfully, Jennie Marts and Lucy Gilmore are here to provide them.
In A Cowboy State of Mind, you get a whole menagerie of cute animals as Bryn Callahan starts an animal rescue—accidently. It begins when the spunky waitress decides to rescue a horse being taken to slaughter. From there, she ends up with another horse, a dog with a litter of five puppies, a miniature pony, a pair of lovebirds and even a massive pig that thinks it’s a house pet. But of course, the stray she collects who needs the most healing is cowboy Zane Taylor. Scarred, inside and out, by a bitter childhood and devastating losses, Zane is fully convinced that he’s beyond saving. It takes all of Bryn’s grit, dedication and determined sunniness to convince him that he has the right to be rescued from his fears and doubts, and that he deserves to claim the joy Bryn brings him.
I’m a city girl through and through, so it says something that Jennie Marts makes me wish I lived in the small town she has created. Creedence, Colorado, radiates a warmth that could soothe the weariest heart. I love the thought of a diner where the waitress helps you with your crossword puzzle, or a feed store where you walk in to find a neighbor has put some money on your tab, just to lend a hand. And while everyone in town knows your problems almost before you do, they act on that knowledge by pitching in to help—with a trailer full of supplies, or a bowl of ice cream on the house or a stern talking-to aimed at your deceitful ex—just when you need it the most. The story has its share of heartache, but there’s sweetness to it, too, including a happily ever after that’s mixed up and backwards and perfectly wonderful all at once.
There’s far less chaos out on Dearborn Ranch in Puppy Kisses—and that’s a problem. Handsome Adam Dearborn runs his life and his ranch on precise, orderly lines, partially to accommodate the blindness he’s had since childhood, but mostly because he feels he’s safer coloring inside the lines, never risking his heart and never leaving his comfort zone. But then dog trainer Dawn Vasquez comes speeding into his life with a stolen (or rescued—let’s go with rescued) golden retriever puppy and throws his tidy world into turmoil. Dawn is everything Adam is not: vivacious, impulsive, passionate and heartbreakingly aware that the world tends to view her as “too much.” Adam, by contrast, is convinced he is not enough.
The chemistry crackles as these opposites very much attract—but sex, alas, doesn’t manage to solve their problems (no matter how fun it is to read!). What they need is a little emotional honesty, and who better to teach them that than a dog? Or even a pair of dogs, when Dawn tries to convince Adam to accept another candidate and give the golden retriever to her. Dawn visits the ranch to train Adam and his guide dog, but it feels more like the dogs are training Adam and Dawn in how to love without hesitation, trust without fear and accept (others and yourself) without reservation.
So in short, come to these books for sparkling writing, fun characters and rich emotional journeys, but also . . . well . . . hot cowboys and cuddly puppies. Because you need to remember that these things exist in the world. Be kind to yourself and pick up these books.