I’m continuing to learn that, with a multitude of romance novels involving cowboys as the hero, the definition of “cowboy” can be stretched a bit. So far, I’ve seen the definition expanded to include an artist, a computer geek, and a veterinarian. And now we have to expand the definition a bit more.
In Peace in the Valley by Ruth Logan Herne, Trey Walker Stafford is a Nashville singing star heading home to central Washington state after an absence of several years. He was taken in by his uncle when he was 3, after his parents died from drug overdoses. But he’s now estranged from the family, having left to pursue a music career over his uncle’s objections. In the interim, he married another Nashville singing star, who couldn’t cope from a temporary career setback and died of an overdose herself. Trey’s carrying a lot of baggage and guilt.
Now he has the opportunity to help. His uncle needs a liver transplant, and it turns out that Trey is a better donor match than his uncle’s two sons. The surgery will be dangerous for both the uncle and Trey.
Living nearby is Lucy Carlton, a single mom of three who’s also trying to raise her young sister-in-law. Over the years, Trey’s uncle has used an array of underhanded tactics to drive Lucy and her-then husband from their home and the land he’s coveted. Now, he feels the need to make amends, and he asks Trey to do it while they wait for the surgery go-ahead.
Lucy has some barely controlled bitterness aimed at the Stafford family. She’s also resistant to yet another man whose life is music into her life; her first husband failed in a torrent of alcohol and drug abuse before dying in an automobile accident. Trey has major issues with getting involved with anyone, given the uncertain future post-surgery. He also has issues with anyone who claims to be clean after drug abuse; he went through that with his dead wife. Trey and Lucy slowly fall in love, with Lucy not knowing that Trey will be his uncle’s donor.
Peace in the Valley, third in the Double S Ranch series, is quite an enjoyable story. Hearne is a good writer and manages to avoid falling into character stereotypes to tell a solid tale of loss, love, and personal risk.
Teaghan: Cowboy Strong by Kathleen Ball, is a historical cowboy romance, set right after the Civil War. First in the Kavanagh Brothers series (Teaghan is one of eight brothers), it tells the story of neighbors Gemma Maguire and Teaghan Kavanagh. Years before, Gemma had rejected Teaghan’s proposal of marriage after her father surprisingly threatened to kill him if she didn’t stop seeing him. Her father’s reasons stayed hidden. Teaghan, reeling from a broken heart, signed up with his brother Quinn to join the Confederate Army.
In the meantime, Gemma married, or thought she married, a man who turned out to be a scoundrel and bigamist. With the help of a crafty banker, he’s still trying to swindle Gemma out of her property. Her mother has died; her father has been killed in the war. Alone and bereft, she’s is barely surviving.
Teaghan still loves her, but his brothers want him to have nothing to do with her. Events throw them together, and the story becomes one of will true love overcome the past, or not?
Romance writer Jacqueline Winters has written five novels in the Starlight Cowboy series. Starlight is a town of 12,000 in Wyoming, and the town and the geography of the region play major roles in the stories.
In Cowboys & Starlight, Veronica Ross arrives in Starlight fresh from being fired by a tyrant boss on a Chicago-based reality television series, one focused on interior design. Her Brother Hudson has lived in Starlight for two years and apparently loves the place. Ashamed to tell her brother what’s happened, she says she’s on vacation.
Colten Livingston is facing the sale of his boyhood home. After the death of his father, his mother has decided to sell and move to Denver, to be closer to the grandchildren. But the house needs some attention, and his mother hires Veronica to do that. Colten, still smarting from abandonment by his first wife, isn’t ready for a new relationship. But all kinds of things can happen during home remodeling, including remodeling of a love interest.
In Cowboys & Firelight, Trish Meadows in a New York-based romance writer who’s been devastated by a critic’s review of her first novel. A friend sends her to a ranch near Starlight that’s hosting a romance writers conference. And the friend has paid for the deluxe package, which includes activities hosted by a resident cowboy. Trish is still reeling from a suffocating relationship and formal engagement that’s she broken off.
Wade Holbrook is the resident cowboy. His grandmother owns the ranch, and it will eventually come to his uncle, who is only interested in selling pieces, parts, or all of the above. He does not want a relationship with a city girl, no matter how pretty or winsome she is. Yep, we know what’s going to happen here, and the fun is in the getting there.
Top photograph by Cesira Alvarado via Unsplash. Used with permission.