Review: The Cowboy Takes a Bride by Lori Wilde

 

Title: The Cowboy Takes a Bride

Author: Lori Wilde

Publisher: Avon

ISBN: 978-0062047755

 

May Contain Spoilers

From Amazon:

Ex-champion bull rider-turned-cutting-horse cowboy Joe Daniels isn’t quite sure how he ended up sleeping in a horse trough wearing nothing but his Stetson and cowboy boots. But now he’s wide-awake, and a citified woman is glaring down at him. His goal? Get rid of her ASAP. The obstacle? Fighting the attraction he feels toward the blond-haired filly with the big, vulnerable eyes.

When out-of-work wedding planner Mariah Callahan learns that her estranged father has left her a rundown ranch in Jubilee, she has no choice but to accept it. Her goal? Redeem her career by planning local weddings. The obstacle? One emotionally wounded, hard-living cowboy who stirs her guilt, her heartstrings, and her long-burned cowgirl roots . . .,

Review:

Spring is in the air (actually, it is more like summer, with unseasonal highs in the 80s), so I have been reading a ton of romance.  I had very good luck with Entangled Publishing’s Indulgence line, which was helmed, briefly, by Lori Wilde.  After she was offered a contract with HarperCollins, she stepped down to devote her time and energy to writing.  When The Cowboy Takes a Bride, the first of her Jubilee, Texas series, hit store shelves, I couldn’t resist snapping it up.  I love cowboys and horses, so this book had my name written all over it.   I had a mixed reading experience, partly because I do love horses, though.

Mariah Callahan is an down on her luck unemployed wedding planner.  When she discovers that her estranged father left her a ranch in Jubilee, Texas, she has no choice but to drive from Chicago to check the place out.  Three months of job hunting has left her in precarious financial straits, so discovering that she’s inherited a house is the answer to her prayers.  Until she sees the ramshackle cabin and meets the surly cowboy who lives next door.  Now she just wants to sell the dump and get on with her life, but can she resist Jubilee’s small town charms?

I loved the start of this book.  Mariah, exhausted after driving from Chicago to Texas, discovers a naked cowboy in what she believes is her horse trough.  Only it isn’t her ranch she’s stopped at, it’s Joe Daniels, her father’s good friend and business partner.  Joe isn’t impressed when he finally meets Dutch’s daughter, and he thinks she is heartless for turning her back on her father.  What Joe doesn’t realize is that Dutch abandoned Mariah and her mother, and her childhood was spent moving from one wealthy household to another, as her mother, a domestic servant, struggled to raise her alone.  Mariah is bitter and resentful that Dutch dumped her and her mother so he could train cutting horses, and now that he’s dead, there is no hope of reconciliation.  She’s also resentful that Dutch treated Joe like a son, while she didn’t receive any scraps of his attention. 

The first half of the book drew me in and kept me engaged in the story.  I love small town settings, and Jubilee, despite all of the drama, seemed like a peaceful place to set down some roots.  I could understand Dutch’s attraction to the town.  The cutting capital of the world, it was immediately clear why he drifted there in the first place.  With big dreams to win big money with his horses, he needed to be right in the heart of cutting horse country.  After selling a promising prospect to Joe, he even had a place to call home, dilapidated as it was.  I could see the old cowboy living in the battered cabin, finally being content enough to try to plant some roots.  Unfortunately, an unexpected illness put an end to his dreams.

Joe is devastated by Dutch’s death, which occurred two years to the day after the death of his wife in a riding accident.  Joe is suffering, reeling from the loss of the two people he loved most.  He doesn’t understand the chip on Mariah’s shoulder; nor can he understand that she’s not openly mourning Dutch’s death.  While Mariah is cool and reserved, and not about to wear her heart on her sleeve, Joe is more open with his feelings.  Everyone knows he is suffering, and the small community bands together to keep on eye on him.  When Mariah arrives in town, she, too, finds the community welcoming and caring.  At first put off by their interest in her, she discovers that being neighborly, something didn’t get much of in Chicago, isn’t a bad thing.  I found that the various secondary characters helped keep the plot moving, and helped to ground Mariah.

What I didn’t like, and where the plot started falling apart for me, were all of the references to Sleepless in Seattle and the long winded dialogs when Joe and Mariah started opening up and sharing their feelings with each other.  I just didn’t find the conversations interesting, and the emotions fell flat for me because of that.   The tension between them seemed to evaporate.  Mariah kept holding Joe’s love for his horses over his head, too, even though he proved, time and again, that he was nothing like her father.  To be complete, Joe needed roots and someone to share his dreams with, but Mariah refused to believe in him or the promises that he offered to her.  It just frustrated me that she wouldn’t give him the chance he deserved, and so her lack of trust in him felt forced to me.

Grade:  C+

Review copy purchased from Amazon

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Review: My Favorite Mistake by Georgina Bloomberg and Catherine Hapka

 

Title: My Favorite Mistake

Author: Georgina Bloomberg & Catherine Hapka

Publisher: Bloomsbury

ISBN: 978-1599906423

 

May Contain Spoilers

From Amazon:

Tommi, Zara, and Kate are all elite riders on the A Circuit. Tommi, the billionaire heiress, is training a young horse to prove she can make horses a real career. But when her new beau, Alex, convinces her to skip a horse show to party in the Hamptons, the results could be disastrous. Zara, the celebutante wild child, is finally taking her riding seriously. Until the new "nanny" her dad hires threatens to upstage Zara’s party girl status. Then there’s Kate. She doesn’t have money to burn like the others, but she does have Fitz, the barn’s resident hot guy. But when the pressure of being a working student builds, Kate’s perfectionist tendencies threaten to get in the way of her relationship and her riding.

Readers who are growing out of the Canterwood Crest series or searching for an A-list fix have found just what they’re looking for in the A Circuit series.

Review:

If you have been following the blog, you know that it’s no secret that I love horses and books about horses.  When I first saw the A Circuit, I was so excited to read it that I almost expired from heart palpations.  Seriously!  There are so few books around that offer an accurate view of horse shows and owning horses that I was instantly curious to see where this book fell.  Would it feel authentic?  Yup. it did, so I was eager to read the next book in the series, My Favorite Mistake.

I wasn’t as charmed this time around, because I have a hard time relating to the wealthy protagonists.  While I feel right at home with Kate, and could emphasize with her financial struggle to compete in the horse show world, her fellow barn buddies did not endear themselves to me.  Tommi, at least, didn’t grate on my nerves like Zara did, and I even appreciated her internal struggle when she receives an offer on her project horse, Legs.  An aggressive rider from another barn wants to purchase him, but Tommi has serious reservations about his continued health and happiness if she sells him to her.  This  concern for her horse’s welfare totally redeemed her in my eyes.  When she started flaking out and putting her new boyfriend ahead of her dreams and ambitions for the future, I got annoyed with her, because she never seemed to be the wishy-washy type.  She didn’t seem to be the kind of girl to put a boy ahead of the goals she has been striving to conquer, and I did feel let down by her sudden change of personality.  The internal conflict about Legs did win her lots of brownie points, though.

Zara is just an annoying, selfish brat.  Both of her parents are celebrities, and they are both busy advancing their careers and are often not home.  Zara feels that she is not at the top of their priority lists, and she acts out to get their attention.  She comes across as self-centered and unlikable, though she occasionally manages to pull through and actually think about somebody else.  Everything is handed to her on a silver platter, including her awesome horses.  She doesn’t appreciate anything she has, and she goes out of her way to annoy her father.  Too bad he doesn’t pay any attention to her, which makes her act out even more.  I don’t feel that her character is developing much, and I think that is why she is my least favorite of the three very different protagonists of this series.

Kate is having some issues this time around.  I was so disappointed with her by the end of the book, because so much of what is troubling her could be easily solved if she would just open up and confide to her friends.  Kate is anal, bordering on OCD, and she is starting to really harm herself as she continues to push herself at the barn and at shows, finding little time to take care of herself or even eat.  She puts so much pressure on herself to be the best at everything, and in the process, she is compromising her health.  What made this so frustrating is that she has some wonderful friends who have the means to help her.  They genuinely like her and want what’s best for her, but with all of the barn drama, they don’t notice that she is suffering.  Even boyfriend Fitz is too caught up in himself to consider that Kate might be having some serious issues, even after seeing the evidence first hand.

Even though this installment of the series didn’t hit all of the right notes for me, I still enjoyed it and the view into the competitive world of showing hunter/jumpers.  It isn’t much different from the Morgan circuit – everyone is out to have the class of a lifetime and win.  While we don’t have half as much money, or nearly as much drama at our barn, we still manage to have just as much fun. 

Grade: B

Review copy provided by publisher

 

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Cowboy Crush Review: One Brave Cowboy by Kathleen Eagle

 

Title: One Brave Cowboy

Author: Kathleen Eagle

Publisher: Harlequin

ISBN: 978-0373656257

 

May Contain Spoilers

From Amazon:

Behind the bravado was a complex man. War hero. "Indian cowboy." Walking wounded in search of answers. Cougar needed to build a new life, and he’d start with what he loved most. Horses. Which brought him to the Double D Wild Horse Sanctuary. And into the orbit of ranch volunteer Celia Banyon and her very special son.

The boy had suffered an unspeakable accident, and his mother felt unspeakable guilt. But something about Cougar brought her back from the brink. He represented her chance to be a woman again. Now, suddenly, one name wasn’t enough for what they could have if they’d just let themselves. Healing. Love. Family. Forever. In fact, the possibilities were endless….

Review:

I think this is the first book I have read by Kathleen Eagle, and I can guarantee that it won’t be the last.  I enjoyed this story very much, and quickly came to love Cougar, the emotionally fragile hero.  Both Cougar and heroine Celia are carrying around a ton of baggage, so it was gratifying to see them learn to lean on each other and not bear all of their guilt and remorse alone.  If ever two people needed and deserved each other, it is these two characters.

Cougar is a former soldier.  He is like a leaf in a stream, though; aimless, undecided, and struggling to find direction in his life.  He is suffering from PTSD, so when he meets Celia, a divorced mother suffering from her own difficult past, they are drawn to each other like the kindred souls they are.  Their attraction for each other is instant and spontaneous, burning quickly out of control.  I bought completely into their romance because they are both so desperately lonely.  They need each other, and they deserve the peace and comfort they find when they are together.  I loved the romance; it’s blazing hot yet sweet at the same time.  I felt reassured that they would find their happily ever after, even with all of the issues plaguing them.

Celia is divorced, and her ex is a complete and utter jackass.  I could not stand this selfish guy!  All he’s after is a hefty insurance settlement for the injuries suffered by their young son Mark.  Even though Greg was one-dimensional, it was fun hating him.  There are some villains that you just love to hate, and Greg is one of them.  He belittles Celia every chance he gets, he mocks Cougar every time they meet, and he sees his son as a large bank account.  He does not deserve a HAE, though it would be fun to see him suffer a life-changing event and transform himself into a decent human being. 

I loved the subplot of the book, too.  Cougar is looking for an inner peace, and he chooses to pursue it through his love of horses.  He has adopted a wild mustang, and he intends to train it for endurance events.  Both Cougar and Mark connect with the wild horse, and their training sessions help to heal them both.  This was a story thread that I found compelling.  I have horses, and even when they are being less than cooperative, I still enjoy every minute I spend with them.  The stress of the day vanishes the moment I step into the barn. 

If I had to nitpick about the book, I have to say that the problem resolution was too easily won and too overly simplified.  There are huge mental and emotional issues at work here, but they are all but erased by the end of the story.  Despite this, I could not put the book down once I hit the halfway point.  Now I have to backtrack through Kathleen Eagle’s prior releases, because I am dying to learn more about the secondary characters in One Brave Cowboy.

Grade: B+

Review copy provided by publisher

Cover Shot! My Favorite Mistake by Georgina Bloomberg and Catherine Hapka

I loved The A-Circuit, so I’m super excited to see that there will be a follow-up book.  The horse is a cutie, but I am not so sure that I like the model.  I certainly don’t like what she’s wearing.  I can’t image tackling a few jumps dressed in that!  It would make Janet Jackson’s wardrobe malfunction appear tame.  Wearing that is like wearing flip-flops to work your horse; just think about what you might step in, and better yet, a steel or aluminum shod hoof trampling on your toes.  Despite the fashion disaster that’s waiting to happen, I can hardly wait to get my hands on My Favorite Mistake by Georgina Bloomberg and Catherine Hapka.

Tommi, Zara, and Kate are all elite riders on the A Circuit. Tommi, the billionaire heiress, is training a young horse to prove she can make horses a real career. But when her new beau, Alex, convinces her to skip a horse show to party in the Hamptons, the results could be disastrous. Zara, the celebutante wild child, is finally taking her riding seriously. Until the new "nanny" her dad hires threatens to upstage Zara’s party girl status. Then there’s Kate. She doesn’t have money to burn like the others, but she does have Fitz, the barn’s resident hot guy. But when the pressure of being a working student builds, Kate’s perfectionist tendencies threaten to get in the way of her relationship and her riding.

Readers who are growing out of the Canterwood Crest series or searching for an A-list fix have found just what they’re looking for in the A Circuit series.

In stores March 2012

Gone Fishing!

Ok, so I am really going riding, but that doesn’t have the same connotation.  My buddy persuaded me to go trail riding this morning, and as the significant other had to work, I thought why the heck not.  This will be Blondie’s first time on the trails, and the first time I have gone in two years.  I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t just the slightest bit apprehensive about  whether or not Blondie will behave, but since Laurie’s mare can be a handful, too, I figure at least I am in good company if Blondie decides that walking through the woods is the scariest activity ever.   If I can snap some pix of the wilderness (local Metro Park) I’ll post again later. 

I hope all of you enjoy your Saturday!

Labor Day 2011!

I am kicking back today, chillaxing.  I went riding with my barn buddies this morning, and now I don’t want to do anything but sit around and read.  Instead of posting about books, I’ll share pix of my baby pony instead.   What are your plans for today?

 

Have a wonderful Labor Day!

Review: The Trouble With Being a Horse by Emily Edwards

 

Title: The Trouble Being a Horse

Author: Emily Edwards

Publisher:  Single Stride Publishing

ISBN: 978-0986671500

 

May Contain Spoilers

From Amazon:

The main character, Olivia, is an eleven-year-old girl who loves horses and finds her greatest happiness with them. The rest of her life is not so great: her family mostly ignores her and don’t really understand her, and she’s a bit of a social outcast. She feels unhappy a lot of the time, as many young girls can feel, and in a low moment of unhappiness she unwittingly wishes to become a horse, as she thinks this will solve a lot of her problems. Olivia is shocked, to say the least, when she is actually turned into a horse. Thrust into the unprecedented situation of being a girl in a horse’s body, Olivia is unsure of what to do. She feels strongly that she should keep her unusual state a secret, and joins a group of wild ponies, but is forced to seek help after sustaining a bear attack. Luckily, she winds up at a good stable, and meets Jenny, the daughter of the man who runs the centre, and together they form an unbeatable team in the show ring. But when Olivia can’t resist showing off how much she knows, she puts her secret and friendship with Jenny in jeopardy. Olivia must decide whether she wants to remain as a horse or return to her life as an ordinary girl, and in the process is taken on a journey of self-discovery.

Review:

Olivia is your typical horse-crazy young girl.  She lives for her riding lessons and for hanging out at the barn.  Her family doesn’t have a lot of money so she has muck stalls and perform odd jobs at the barn to pay her way, but she doesn’t care.  She loves horses, and she wants to learn to be the best rider she can be.  She is frustrated that her family isn’t supportive of her equestrian goals, and when she is forbidden from riding anymore, she rebels.  She goes to the barn anyway, and wishes that she was a horse.  She thinks that life would be much easier that way.  She feels unloved and unappreciated at home, and the uncomplicated life of a horse seems ideal to her.  After a bizarre twist of fate turns her into a horse, Olivia learns just how wrong she is.  Being a horse isn’t nearly as easy or carefree as she thought!

This book offers a twist on the usual horse-theme – the protagonist actually gets turned into a horse.  Now a horse-girl, she ends up in the care of Jenny and her family.  Able to understand everything that is asked of her, Olivia tries to be the perfect horse.  Only being the perfect horse isn’t as easy as it sounds.  Jenny quickly becomes frustrated with her new mount, because she does everything before she’s even asked.  It’s as though Jenny doesn’t even need to be part of the equation for them  to win at horse shows.  Olivia’s perfect horse act has also garnered a lot of unwanted attention, and after a tragic accident befalls Jenny’s father, Olivia learns just how hard it really is to be a horse.

I thought the premise of this book lived up to its promise.  While Olivia understands everything that is going on around her, she can’t make the humans in her life understand her.  She finds it frustrating and frightening that she has no control over her life now that she is a horse, and that she can’t take anything in her life for granted.  An accident changes everything, forcing her into an unpleasant new home.  Now that she has had so much time to think, Olivia realizes that maybe being a girl wasn’t so awful after all.

This book will delight middle grade girls who enjoy horse and animal stories.  There’s a ton of suspense, and I actually started worrying about how Olivia was going to deal with the ownership change that put her in a horrible situation.  The ending was just a bit too simplistic in regards to how Olivia’s long absence was dealt with, but over all this is a satisfying read.  Olivia returns home with a new perspective, which helps her to better understand both the people and horses in her life.

Grade: B

Review copy provided by publisher