The Cowboy Soldier (Harlequin SuperRomance #1648)

By: Roz Denny Fox

Series: Home on the Ranch

Star Rating:

Sensuality Rating:



Spoiler Disclaimer


Major Rafe Eaglefeather was a rodeo cowboy who enjoyed living on the edge. Then he joined the army and deployed to Afghanistan along with his two best friends. On their last mission together, he not only lost both of his friends to an IED, but also was badly injured himself, losing his sight. Ever since he's returned home, Rafe has been depressed, blaming himself for what happened, and just wants to be left alone. But since the VA doctors can't find a definitive cause for his blindness, his meddlesome sister believes that with the right treatment he just might recover. She makes arrangements for Rafe to stay with Alexa, a holistic doctor, at her ranch. There he puts up with her herbs and acupuncture treatments, but the thing that makes him feel more normal is Alexa putting him to work, training and caring for the horses. Before long, he's starting to feel something for the doctor herself if only his sense of inadequacy doesn't get in the way.

Alexa Robinson also blames herself for the loss of a friend she was caring for several years before. Ever since, she's been holed up on the remote ranch she inherited from her grandparents, training horses and rehabilitating wildlife. When Rafe's sister comes to her, pleading with Alexa to treat her brother's blindness, she's reluctant to help, but eventually gives in. Having the handsome cowboy right down the hall from her wreaks havoc on her emotions, but she's determined to maintain a professional relationship with her patient. However, when he leaves and comes back as her ranch hand instead, she can no longer seem to resist. Rafe still has a lot of guilt to work through, though, and a freak storm puts both their lives in danger, but if they can survive it, the experience just might restore enough of Rafe's confidence in himself to make him feel worthy of Alexa.


The Cowboy Soldier is a stand-alone, contemporary, western romance that is part of the Home on the Ranch multi-author series. There isn't any continuity to the series, only the shared theme of stories centering cowboy characters or that take place on ranches or in western settings. Rafe was a rodeo cowboy who later joined the army and served in Afghanistan, where he was injured in action, getting shot several times and also losing his vision, a complication for which doctors have no solid answers. Now back stateside and living with his sister and her family, he's experiencing depression and lives far from the nearest VA facility. His sister is determined to find a treatment that she hopes will restore his sight, so she approaches Alexa, a holistic doctor who is only a couple of hours away. After the death of her best friend, which resulted in her being unfairly accused of malpractice, Alexa has been trying to live a quiet life on a ranch inherited from her grandparents, where she trains horses and rehabilitates wildlife. She's reluctant to take on any human patients, but unable to resist Rafe's sister's pleading, she finally agrees to treat him for one month, during which he'll live at the ranch with her. When Rafe first arrives, he's pretty surly, but when Alexa doesn't treat him like an invalid, he starts to warm up to her and her treatments. He also reconnects to his cowboy roots, helping Alexa train a horse and going riding regularly. An attraction begins to build, but Alexa is adamant about maintaining a proper doctor/patient relationship, which leads Rafe to return to his sister's in hopes of later convincing Alexa they can be together. He comes up with the idea of returning to Alexa's ranch as a hired hand, but even after they've reunited, he still has deep-seated guilt associated with the death of his two best friends on their last mission in Afghanistan that must be worked through, as well as feelings of inadequacy surrounding his blindness. But a freak storm gives him the opportunity to realize that he can still have a future with Alexa even without his sight.

Rafe was having a good time as a rodeo cowboy, but then he and his two best friends decided to enlist, eventually ending up in Afghanistan, where they were in the same unit, which Rafe commanded. On their last mission, both of Rafe's friends were killed and he was left with several injuries, including a mysterious case of blindness. His sister and her kids are his last living family, but he feels completely useless at her house, suffering from depression and not sure what to do with his life. Then she comes up with her scheme to send him to live with a holistic healer for a month, something Rafe isn't too sure about. Alexa turns out to be more than he expected, though, with her prompting him to do things for himself and entrusting him with the training of one of her horses, as well as taking him riding. For the first time since returning home, he finally feels like he has something to live for and he's falling for Alexa at the same time. However, even though she seems interested in him as well, she keeps the door to romance closed. At the end of his month, Rafe voluntarily leaves with the idea to return as Alexa's ranch hand rather than her patient so that she won't say no to a relationship. Eventually it works, but Rafe's guilt over his friends' deaths and his feeling that Alexa deserves more than a blind guy can provide get in the way of their budding romance. Rafe is a good guy who's been dealt a bad hand in life. I understood his feelings surrounding the loss of his friends and his blindness. I'm glad that he was able to find some closure on the former and that he was able to rebuild his confidence to help with the latter.

Alexa is a genius who graduated from college at fifteen. She wanted to go to medical school, but the only one that would take someone that young was an osteopathic college, so she got a medical degree there, as well as completing several courses in natural medicine, herbs, acupuncture, etc. She had a thriving holistic medical practice until she was wrongly accused of malpractice when her best friend died while under her care. Even though it wasn't her fault, she blames herself, and ever since, she's been reluctant to take on human patients. Instead, she took up residence on the remote ranch she inherited from her grandparents, where she trains horses and rehabs wildlife that the local park rangers bring to her. When Rafe's sister comes to her, at first Alexa refuses to take him on as a patient, but eventually, she agrees to try treating him for one month. Initially he's a bit of a grump, but when she treats him like a man and not an invalid, he slowly starts to warm up, allowing her more leeway in her treatments. Having the handsome cowboy living with her presents all sorts of temptations, but she sticks to her guns about keeping things strictly professional between them. But later, after Rafe leaves and then comes back with his proposition to become her ranch hand instead of a patient, Alexa can no longer resist their magnetic attraction. Rafe still has a lot to overcome, though, in order for them to have a successful relationship. Alexa is a kind, caring person who treats Rafe with respect, giving him something to live for in spite his disability. Overall, I really liked her, but there were a couple of things about her character I thought could have been better. First, she's billed as a genius, but we don't really get to see her super-intelligence in action. Second, she's been carrying a massive weight of guilt about her friend's death, but one conversation with Rafe about it seems to completely change her outlook. She has a troubled relationship with her parents that was a little too easily overcome as well.

By the time I've finished a book, I don't usually have a great deal of indecision about how to rate it, but The Cowboy Soldier became my second read in close succession where that was the case. I really liked Rafe and Alexa as the hero and heroine, and thought they fit well together. Despite them being likable characters, though, IMHO their characterizations could have gone a little deeper. I already mentioned the things about Alexa I felt could have been better, but Rafe, too, could be a little uneven at times. In spite of him gradually regaining his confidence while working with Alexa, he goes right back downhill when he leaves her ranch. I realize some of that could be chalked up to him missing her and no longer having the distraction of training horses and riding, but he'd made a plan to get back to her and perhaps wasn't being as proactive as I wanted him to be about it. Also he no sooner reunites with her and they've made love for the first time, than there's suddenly a rift between them, with him still feeling like he isn't good enough for her because of his blindness. Again, I realize this was kind of a set up for the exciting finale of man vs. the elements in which he saves the day, but I guess it sort of felt like the author was skipping from one thing to the next without a lot of deep introspection going into the characters' actions. This is also a rather slow-paced, low-key romance, which isn't going to be for everyone. Except for the climax, most of the conflict is of an internal nature, which made the story feel pretty languid at times. I had enough misgivings to potentially drop the rating below four stars. However, I finally decided to give it four after all. Overall, it's not a bad little story in spite of its weaknesses and my overall liking for the characters helped to elevate it, making it a decent read.


Roz Denny Fox @ GoodReads


Amazing Animals
Doctors, Nurses, & Medical Professionals
Geniuses, Scholars & Scientists aka Geeks - Heroines
Medical Drama
Men in Uniform - Military
Physically Imperfect Heroes
Tortured Heroes
Tortured Heroines