Cowboy Trouble

By: Joanne Kennedy

Series: Acquainted with the Night

Book Number: 1

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Libby Brown enjoyed her job as an investigative journalist, but when her boyfriend cheated on her, she fled Atlanta for the tiny town of Lackaduck, Wyoming. Following a childhood dream, she plans to set up a chicken farm, while working for the one-horse town's newspaper. While moving in, she's visited by her new neighbor, Luke Rawlins, whose handsome good looks really get her motor humming. But after her last disaster of a relationship, she has no interest in letting another man into her life. However, Luke seems to keep coming to her rescue in more ways than one. As Libby chases possible leads for stories to write, she chances upon the town's only major crime, the mysterious disappearance of a young woman named Della two years earlier. After meeting the girl's mother, Libby is determined to try to figure out what happened to Della. Luke helps out by bringing her background information on the case and accompanying her to an interview with Della's friend, during which they grow closer and romance starts to blossom. But as she delves deeper into the mystery, Libby starts receiving threats, making her suspicious that the culprit may be someone she knows. When she discovers that Luke hasn't been entirely honest with her about personally knowing Della, she begins to wonder if he can be trusted. However, Libby doesn't realize just how close she is to the real villain and when she pokes around the wrong place, she finds herself squarely in his crosshairs.


Cowboy Trouble is the first book in Joanne Kennedy's Acquainted with the Night series and her first published novel. Libby was an investigative journalist in Atlanta, a job she loved, but after her boyfriend cheated on her with her boss, she needed a major change. Moving to the little town of Lackaduck, Wyoming, she buys an old property she plans to fix up so that she can start a chicken farm, while still writing stories for the local newspaper. While moving in, she meets her handsome cowboy neighbor, Luke. Although he's very attractive and she can tell he's interested in her, too, she immediately friend-zones him, having no intention of getting involved with any man right now. Coming up with ideas for interesting stories in the backwater town is difficult until Libby hears of the disappearance of a young woman named Della two years earlier. After meeting Della's mom, she's determined to see if she can find something the local sheriff, who seems to have put the case on ice, might have missed. Soon she's attracting all sorts of unwanted attention from all the wrong people and receiving threats that make her suspect the person responsible for Della's disappearance may be someone she knows. Along the way, Luke steps up to help Libby and tries to protect her as best he can, and soon she can't seem to resist his cowboy charm. Then evidence surfaces that points to Luke as a possible suspect, leaving Libby uncertain if she can still trust him, while the real killer has her in his sights and has developed what could become a fatal obsession.

Libby loved her job with the Atlanta newspaper until her cheating ex ruined everything for her. Feeling like she always picks the wrong guy, she's sworn off all men. Packing up her life, she moves to Wyoming, hoping for a fresh start. Although it's a bit run-down and needs some work, she likes the little farm she bought and looks forward to raising chickens there. On her first day in town, Luke stops by to introduce himself, but worrying about his motives, Libby tells a little white lie about owning a large attack dog. Thinking she might need a real one for protection since she lives alone in the middle of nowhere, she goes to the local rescue where she ends up adopting a little Jack Russell terrier and fostering her litter of puppies. Once she's settled in, she goes looking for interesting stories to write for the local paper and stumbles upon Della's disappearance, which deeply intrigues her. Luke helps out by bringing her a folder full of background information on Della and between that and an interview with the girl's mom, Libby is off and running, chasing down leads. Luke continues to help her and when she receives threats, he also steps in to offer protection. When they take a trip to see one of Della's old friends, one thing leads to another, and they spend the night together, after which Libby's walls start to come down. But when the evidence she's collecting starts to point to Luke as a suspect, she fears she may have chosen the wrong guy once again. Libby is a great reporter, just the kind of dogged investigator someone would want on a missing person's case. For the most part, I'd say she was smart about her investigating. I also liked that she's an animal lover and that for a big city girl, she settled into small town life admirably.

Luke has lived in Lackaduck all his life. He runs his ranch, where he keeps cattle and trains horses, and still shares the house he grew up in with his parents to help his dad look after his mom who has dementia. When Libby comes to town, he's immediately attracted to her, and although he flirts with her, she makes it clear that she's not looking to get involved with anyone. When he learns that she's investigating Della's disappearance, he helps out in more ways than one, and when she starts getting threats, he tries to protect her. He insists on accompanying her to visit one of Della's friends, a trip that takes a romantic turn when they end up at a roadside motel in a hailstorm. Luke convinces Libby that what happens at the inn can stay there, and although he tries to keep his promise, he just can't stop thinking about their night together. But after she goes on another trip with the local sheriff to see another of Della's friends, Libby returns angry with him and he isn't sure why. And if the killer has his way, Luke might not get a chance to make things right. Luke is a sweet, beta hero. I adored him for respecting Libby's autonomy and also for practicing enthusiastic consent. I also loved how he treats his mom and how he's a true friend to a mentally impaired taxidermist who everyone refers to as Crazy Mike. Although he really wants to be the only man in Libby's life, he doesn't turn into a jealous, possessive ass when he thinks that she might be getting close to the sheriff and he trusts her when she tells him she's not. Luke was just an all-around great guy.

Cowboy Trouble was my first read by Joanne Kennedy and overall, it was an enjoyable one. After being hurt in the past, Libby is understandably gun-shy with men, but she warms up nicely to Luke, who's a gem of a hero. The two fit together well, with Libby being more headstrong and independent, while Luke is more laid-back. There are a number of interesting townspeople in Lackaduck to spice things up, to give our protagonists other characters to play off of, and to offer multiple possibilities for culprits. The mystery of what happened to Della unfolds gradually as Libby investigates and puts the pieces together. I'll admit that I correctly guessed the villain pretty early in the story. I'd hoped maybe I was wrong and that the author would pull a switcheroo and surprise me, but unfortunately she didn't. However, I admit that I didn't work out all the details until the full reveal. This was the only weak link in the story, but I still enjoyed journeying along with Libby as she figures things out. So overall, I had a pretty good time reading this book. Cowboy Trouble is the first in a series, but I can't help wondering if it was originally conceived as a stand-alone and then the world was expanded later. There weren't any real prospects for future heroes and heroines introduced in this volume like readers might expect with a series, but I still look forward to continuing with it and meeting new characters along the way.


Joanne Kennedy


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