Title: Her Cowboy’s Christmas Wish
Author: Cathy McDavid
May Contain Spoilers
Nine years ago Ethan Powell gave up his rodeo career, his Arizona ranch, his family—and most important, his high school sweetheart—to join the Marines. He’s returned an injured hero, determined to let nothing keep him from going back to a job he loves—breaking horses. Getting back in the saddle is something he needs to do, to prove to himself he can.
Breaking horses and breaking her heart again? No way! Caitlin Carmichael isn’t ready to pick up where she and Ethan left off, no matter how devastating his kisses are. She isn’t the same carefree risk taker she used to be. This time the two-feet-solidly-on-the-ground nurse is proceeding with caution. So what is it about Ethan and his daredevil ways that’s making her long to have him as her Christmas cowboy—for now and every Christmas to come?
I was looking forward to reading Ethan’s story, and while I wasn’t totally won over by the conflict resolution between Ethan and Caitlin, I did find Her Cowboy’s Christmas Wish a diverting read, and I had a hard time putting it down. It features one of my favorite romance tropes, the second chance, and featured a flawed heroine who took a while for me to warm up to. Caitlin is wallowing in guilt, blaming herself for her younger brother’s accident, which left him paralyzed. Unable to forgive herself, Caitlin has appointed herself Justin’s protector and guardian, without his approval. She takes extreme measures to avoid risk, and is a jumbled ball of anxiety. If she could wrap everyone she cares for in a layer of bubble wrap, she would do so without hesitation. Whether they wanted it or not.
When Ethan Powell strides back into her life after nine years, she finds herself still drawn to her childhood sweetheart. After Ethan’s mother died, he enlisted without discussing it with Caitlin, ended up in the Middle East, and was discharged after a bomb blew off the bottom of his leg. Thankful to be alive and eager to prove that he’s still capable and independent, he is determined to enter his friend’s jackpot rodeo. He will stick a bronc for 8 seconds, and he won’t give up until he achieves this goal. After reuniting with Caitlin, he has a new goal – to win her back and make up for all the hurt he has caused her. Too bad she will have nothing to do with him until he gives up bronc riding and training horses. Her aversion to risk won’t allow her to get close to him until he gives up his dangerous pursuits, regardless of how much they mean to him.
I found myself frustrated with Caitlin more than once because of her insistence that she can’t get back together with Ethan until he gives up his time with the horses. For myself, the sticking point would have been his abandonment, and not his need to prove that he is every bit as capable as the next cowboy at the rodeo. After being injured in the explosion, I could understand his desire to prove he is still the man he was before the accident. Now, I still think that anyone who rides broncs or bulls has a screw loose, especially if they won’t wear a helmet, but I could understand where he was coming from. Caitlin – not so much.
Caitlin is afraid of everything that requires even a tiny bit of physical exertion – horseback riding, driving in a wagon, sports. I’ll give her the white-water rafting because I would be afraid to do that, too, but her need to shield Justin and Ethan from every possible chance of an accident was grating. I was also irritated when all of Ethan’s friends suggested he give up something that helped to define him to himself in order to win back Caitlin. It can be dangerous driving around the block or walking across the street, but nobody suggested that he stop either of those activities. So, while I could see why Caitlin is so afraid of people getting hurt, I had a hard time accepting her smothering, “don’t do anything remotely risky, because you will get hurt and I will feel bad about it” attitude. I wanted to shake her. It wasn’t fair for her to expect Ethan to give up so much of himself in order to be with her again. I wish more weight had been given to him walking out on her nine years ago, but the biggest hurdle in their relationship was Ethan’s determination to keep working horses. (I think that, as a rider, I couldn’t imagine giving up mine, and that is why I feel so strongly about Caitlin and her demands. To me, they are unreasonable.)
I enjoyed revisiting the Powells, and I despite my complaints above, I did find the book very readable. I like Cathy McDavid’s characters, and find them very relatable. I appreciate that Gavin and Ethan aren’t billionaires or princes or sheiks, and I feel comfortable with their lives. They are like me – make a goal for yourself, work towards it, and don’t quit until you have achieved success. I also love the way that Gavin and Ethan interact with each other and the rest of their family. They are compassionate and caring, but they are willing to both take a step back and let each other make mistakes. It’s how they learn and recover from them that made this book and Last Chance Cowboy so readable for me. I am looking forward to the next book, to learn why Sierra has been avoiding her family so much.
Review copy purchased from Amazon
Her Cowboy’s Christmas Wish is available in both print and digital formats