After closing a big business deal, Lauren Redstone decides to treat herself to some relaxation at the bar of the Las Vegas hotel where she's staying. She gets a little tipsy and literally falls into the lap of Grayson Turner, spilling his beer on him. After sharing another drink with the handsome cowboy, he invites her to dinner, but first she accompanies him to his room to change. Deciding to throw caution to the wind and indulge her fantasy of having sex with a hot cowboy, Lauren seduces Grayson. They share a night of wild sex, and before she knows it, she's agreed to marry him. But in the light of a new day, the gold band on Lauren's finger looses its luster. She never wanted to marry - ever - so she walks out on Grayson before he awakens.
Grayson fell for Lauren the minute he saw her. He also takes marriage very seriously, so he's not about to let her get away so easily. After emailing with her for six months, he finally gets her to agree to spend the weekend with him on his ranch in Oregon, and in return, he will spend the following weekend with her in San Francisco. If after that time, she still wants to end it, he won't fight her. Grayson pulls out all his powers of seduction to prove to Lauren that they're great together, but her controlling father and his jealous ex-girlfriend think otherwise.
I've had Where Have All the Cowboys Gone? on my TBR list for quite some time. When I added it a few years back, I remember being fairly excited about it and thinking that I would probably enjoy it, but unfortunately, it was a rather lackluster read for me. The premise of two strangers meeting and marrying on a lark in Las Vegas, then having to get to know one another after the fact and determine whether the marriage is worth saving is a pretty unique one. However, from the opening pages, I had trouble suspending disbelief long enough to buy into the notion. I just never fully understood their motivations for saying, "I do." I guess Grayson supposedly fell in love with Lauren at first sight, although I can't say that I sensed that emotion from him at the time. Lauren, it seems, was using it as a way to exert her independence from her controlling father, but she mentioned several times throughout the story that she didn't ever want to marry. Consequently, I couldn't figure out why she did it in the first place, as her reasoning seemed very contradictory to me. The couple also shared a night of wild sex, but I simply didn't feel anything passing between them that in my mind would lead to them suddenly thinking, "Hey, let's get married." At least it might have made some sense if they had been drunk, but they weren't.
At no point during the story did I dislike Grayson or Lauren, but I can't really say that they stood out to me either. I felt like both characters were rather underdeveloped. They both had "daddy issues," which in my opinion, led to a little too much family dysfunction piled into one book. The way Lauren's father was constantly buying her clothes and sending people in to redecorate her apartment to his taste without her permission, not to mention his abusive and manipulative behavior toward Lauren and her mom, was just downright creepy. If I were her, I would have pulled up stakes and moved as far away from the guy as I possibly could. In my opinion, the man belonged in jail, but I can't even say that I got the satisfaction of a comeuppance for him. All I can say about Grayson's father is that he didn't seem to be abusive, but he sure was manipulative, in addition to acting like a sleazy Hugh Heffner wanna-be. With two dads like that, I can totally understand how Grayson and Lauren might have trust issues, but I didn't feel like the author brought out those emotions in a palpable way. Much like with the opening of the novel, I didn't fully grasp their motivations. The author chooses to reveal bits and pieces of their troubled pasts as the story progresses, probably as a way of building suspense. For me though, all it served to do was leave me feeling rather frustrated, because I didn't really get to know either of them very well until the story was already over. In this case, having at least some of their issues revealed earlier would have definitely added to my enjoyment of the story, because I would have understood what made them tick right from the start instead of spending the whole book asking questions.
In addition to not really feeling like I knew Grayson and Lauren as individuals, I began to tire of all their game-playing and keeping secrets from one another, essentially pretending to be someone they're not. They are supposed to be getting to know each other to determine whether they can make their marriage work for the long haul, but neither of them was being entirely honest. At least, Grayson didn't play games, but he did pretend to be an ordinary cowboy, hiding his status as a multi-millionaire from Lauren. I'll admit that he did have a semi-decent reason for not fully disclosing his wealth, wanting her to love him for himself and not his money, but it still led to a lot of trouble when their business deals overlaped and eventually led to Lauren thinking the worst of him, that he was just somehow in cahoots with her father. Lauren on the other hand was not only pretending to be someone she's not and trying to keep Grayson from finding out who her father was, but also when Grayson comes to visit her in San Francisco, she and her best friend play a ridiculous game trying to tempt him to cheat. It all just made me want to roll my eyes in exasperation at their childish behavior. I've never been a fan of this kind of game-playing in a relationship, because it just seems underhanded and silly. Not to mention, once the dishonesty starts, I don't know how anyone can know whether the other person is ever telling the truth. To me, honesty is quite simply always the best policy and makes things a whole lot easier in the long run.
Since this is an erotic romance, Grayson and Lauren, of course, spend a lot of time having wild sex, but in my opinion, the love scenes weren't always smooth and seamless. Sometimes, they go from one position to another with no transition details to explain how they got there. A couple of times, they were even contorted into a position that didn't seem possible, at least not as described, and I was totally pulled out of the scene while trying to figure it out. For an erotic romance, most of the love scenes were pretty short too. There isn't a whole lot of build-up either before or during the scenes, and then one or both of them climax really quickly, for the most part, leaving any sexual tension in the dust. I can maybe site two love scenes in the whole book that were fairly enjoyable and didn't leave me with a wham-bam-thank-you-ma'am feeling.
Grayson and Lauren may have had good physical chemistry that supposedly led to great sex, but I cannot honestly say that I ever felt any emotional connection between them at all. In a romance novel, actually being able to sense the love building between the hero and heroine, and believe in it, is absolutely crucial to my full enjoyment of the story. There were times when I wasn't even sure why the two of them would want to stay together unless it was just for the sex. I will go so far as to say that Grayson expressed his love, in some ways, through his actions, which Lauren then saw and was impressed by, but obviously not enough to trust him. As a consequence, I didn't really know what Lauren was giving back to Grayson. One of the big reasons I never felt that all-important emotional connection between them is because there was just too much telling and not enough showing, although even the telling was sparse and took too long. The book also has a marked absence of body language and a shocking lack of feeling words, especially for a romance. It wasn't until the very end of the book that Grayson finally said, "I love you," but to the best of my recollection, Lauren never did at any point. Both characters expressing their feelings is an absolute must for me to believe that they have a future together. As it is, the story had more of an HFN feel than an HEA, even though they were married for the whole book.
One last observation I had about the book is the British spellings of a number of words. I understand that the author herself is British (although she does live in the U.S.) and the novel was printed by a British publisher, but it takes place in the U.S., making these words seem very odd and out of place, particularly when used in dialog. It just didn't fit with the setting or cowboy theme.
Where Have All the Cowboys Gone? was my first read by Kate Pearce and the first in her Turner Brothers series. While it obviously didn't wow me, it wasn't exactly a bad book per se. I wasn't precisely bored with it, so I suppose I could characterize it as a worthwhile read. The premise and the overall story had potential. It just needed a lot more ingredients, particularly emotion and sexual tension, to really stand out as a great read. It was one of Kate Pearce's earlier works, so I can hope that she's grown as a writer since then. I might be open to continuing the series, although I'll have to admit that based on what little I saw of Grayson's brother, Jay, who is the hero of the next book Roping the Wind, he didn't really catch my fancy. Maybe I'll save it for a time when I'm in the mood to take a chance.
Note: This book contains explicit sexual content which may offend some readers, including light bondage, brief anal play with fingers, two females in a passionate clinch and a short scene of F/M/F action although no intercourse is involved.
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