City girl, Taylor Manning took a teaching job in the small town of Cougar Point, Montana to escape the heartbreak of her boyfriend's betrayal. She only intends to stay for a year and then move back to Seattle, but she quickly finds herself embroiled in the lives of a sexy cowboy and his teenage sister for whom he is guardian. It all started when Mandy Palmer asked Taylor's advice about makeup at the local general store, to which her brother Russ immediately took offense. It seems the man is a chauvinist with very strange ideas about what a woman should and shouldn't do, so to say that he doesn't welcome Taylor's interference in his decisions about his sister would be an understatement. Yet, Taylor seems to keep getting dragged into Russ and Mandy's disagreements, time and time again. Even though the infuriating man is just like her father from whom she has tried to distance herself, Taylor can't deny her attraction to the cowboy, but will she ever be able to trust him when their opinions on nearly everything always seem to be at odds?
The Cowboy's Lady was my first read by Debbie Macomber. I know that Ms. Macomber is a prolific writer who seems to be a romance fan favorite, and the impression of her writing that I had gotten over the years, made me think that I would really enjoy her books. Unfortunately, this initial foray into her work didn't do a whole lot for me. I think this is owing in large part to there not being much to the plot of the story and the character development being weak. The basic gist of things is that the heroine moves from the big city to the back woods of Montana to take a teaching job in an effort to get over her cheating ex-boyfriend's betrayal. There she meets a stubborn, chauvinistic rancher and becomes a mentor of sorts to his teenage sister for whom he is guardian. The two butt heads constantly over women's issues yet inexplicably fall in love, then after she puts him off for a while, he talks her into a quickie wedding. The end.
The other thing that didn't really work for me in this story was the hero. Russ is extremely chauvinistic, harboring very antiquated notions of a woman's place in society, so much so that he felt like a throwback to a much earlier generation. He thinks that women should stay at home and be completely responsible for the housework, cooking and child-rearing, and he doesn't think women are suitable to hold public office. He's constantly at odds with his fourteen year old sister about things like make-up, clothes, cheer-leading uniforms, and dating. Granted Taylor does get him to lighten up on a few of these things to some extent, but he often put up a fuss getting there and it was never quite enough to make me believe that he'd truly changed by the end. In fact, every time I thought he was making headway, he'd take two steps back by making yet another lame-brained comment about women which made it very difficult to warm up to him at all. For me, there's also a pretty fine line between an alpha hero laying claim to his heroine and him simply making arrogant assumptions, and in my opinion, Russ definitely had a tendency to step over that line. Additionally, I didn't really care for the jealousy game he played when Taylor stubbornly pushed him away. To me, that was kind of childish. I felt that if he had been emotionally gentler with her to begin with, maybe she wouldn't have felt the need to distance herself from him and would have been more open to communicating. While I don't necessarily consider myself to be a true feminist, I do harbor enough feminist sensibilities that Russ certainly rubbed me the wrong way. However, I suppose there is something to be said for heroes who are the pursuers in a relationship, so readers who enjoy this type of thing or are fans of hard-headed, stubborn alpha males may like him more than I did.
Initially, I liked Taylor quite a bit. I loved the way she wasn't afraid to go toe-to-toe with Russ when he was being pig-headed, and she was a great buffer between him and his sister, Mandy, almost always eventually getting him to see reason where the girl was concerned. That said though, Taylor inexplicably melts every time he's around which didn't make a lot of sense to me. After growing up with a dad who was just like Russ and with whom she didn't really get along, I'd have been running the other way. Taylor did have a few misgivings, but almost always gave in anyway, until Russ really started putting the pressure on by saying he was in love with her. Then, she started pushing him away which was equally nonsensical to me. Her hesitation seemed to be rooted in what her cheating ex did to her, but I was never sure if she was afraid Russ would cheat on her too, or if she was afraid to trust any man, or what. Whatever Taylor's issues, they didn't last long before she did yet another about face, agreeing to a quickie wedding in Reno which seemed more like an excuse for them to finally have sex, but then disappointingly, all we get is a cut-scene. I may have liked Taylor in the beginning, but she made a lot of odd decisions along the way that begged for more explanation. I really felt like the author needed to dig much deeper with her characterization for me to fully understand Taylor.
When I first started reading The Cowboy's Lady I thought that it was going to be a humorous romance. Some of the butting of heads that Russ and Taylor do early on could be rather funny, but as it continued over and over, the novelty wore off for me and it simply became annoying. I just didn't feel like there was enough reasons given for these two even being attracted to one another, much less falling in love. After all, they were polar opposites with virtually nothing in common which just didn't work well for me. I simply never felt a real love connection between them, so ultimately, this was merely an OK book for me.
The Cowboy's Lady introduces the hero and heroine of the second book in the Manning Sisters duet, The Sheriff Takes a Wife. Cody is the local sheriff and best friend to Russ. He's also attracted to Taylor and goes out on one date with her while she's pushing Russ away. His heroine will be Taylor's sister, Christy, with whom Taylor has a late-night phone conversation. Even though The Cowboy's Lady failed to wow me, in the interest of finishing both the series and The Manning Sisters anthology in which I read this story, I'm sure I'll give Cody and Christy's book a try sometime in the near future. The Cowboy's Lady was originally published as a stand-alone novel in the Silhouette Special Edition line, and was later republished in the single-author anthology The Manning Sisters along with it's companion book in the series.
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