Cowboys of Holiday Ranch, Book 5
Heat Factor: Simmering
Character Chemistry: They both feel unlovable, and therefore shut each other out – doesn’t make for awesome chemistry
Plot: Not annoying
Overall: I liked it better than I expected to
Tony is a cowboy. Though he works on a ranch with a bunch of other men who are like family to him, he doesn’t join in their fun, because he prefers watching the sunset. He plans on being alone forever. Plans have a way of changing, however, especially when your ex-girlfriend shows up, gives you a baby she claims is yours, and then disappears.
Hence: the title. Tony now has to learn how to not be alone, but to become a real Cowboy Daddy. (Did I just say that with a straight face? It was a struggle.) Because… OMG the title. Too ridiculous for words. I couldn’t just leave it there, even though I don’t really dig romantic suspense. If I want to read some suspense, I’ll read a mystery novel. Or the news.
Tony turns to Mary, a friend of his ex, because he needs someone to help him with the baby while he works, and women are good at babies, amirite? Luckily for him, Mary is a kind and loving soul who, along with her kooky grandmother, is only too happy to help. As long as Tony spends his free time with the baby.
This, of course, conveniently means that Mary and Tony end up spending a lot of time together. They hang out with the baby, and eat meals together, and have movie night with grandma. All of this is very sweet. They even have a night of passion! There are two problems, however.
The first is their respective hang-ups. Mary and Tony both believe that they are intrinsically unlovable. Tony was raised in foster care by terrible people who said no one would love him because he was, and I quote, “a dirty half-breed.” Mary had ovarian cancer, plus tested positive for the BRCA mutation, which puts her at higher risk for breast cancer. So, not only can she not have children, but she also had a double-mastectomy; therefore, she feels like she’s not a real woman.
The second problem is that there’s a dangerous criminal on the loose who thinks the baby is his and wants him back. Why a drug lord would want a three month old around is not entirely clear, but this dude takes what is HIS, so I guess we can go with it. His escalation of tactics as he attempts to get the baby back do build some credible tension.
Let’s tackle the love arc first. So, they fall madly in love with each other, but neither Tony nor Mary thinks they are worthy of love. Everyone around them is like, dude, you guys are in love. They see it when they stare into each others’ eyes. In an unusual turn of events for romance novels, the man is the one who gets in touch with his emotional truth sooner and puts his heart out on the line. Tony tells Mary multiple times that he wants to be with her, that he doesn’t care that she can’t have kids because they’ll have this baby and can adopt more. And Mary just shuts him down and shuts him down because she’s afraid he won’t like her silicone boobs. UGH. I have very little sympathy for Mary here – Tony overcame a much larger emotional hurdle with more aplomb. I do appreciate a man with some emotional maturity though.
Note that while the book generally stands alone, there is a larger murder mystery that presumably runs through the whole series of what I guess will be twelve or so books. Because the series is long, however, there is not a lot of change in the status of said murder mystery – a body is IDed, but that’s it. Just ignore those bits.
Now, I feel a little bit bad shitting on a Harlequin Romance for some reason (like, am I punching down if I do this? Hard to say), but to give an honest review, I should point out a few things. The writing is wooden. They spend a lot of time routinely getting bottles and chatting about their days. (But like, we don’t hear the conversation, we just hear that they chatted about their days.) The villain makes no sense, and is not scary because he’s so one dimensional. There are a few details where I was like, HAHAHAHAHAHA No. Mainly: a 3-month-old that routinely sleeps through every meal and also a game of Monopoly. Said 3-month-old also sleeps mostly through the night and doesn’t get up until 7:30. Also, cowboys, on a ranch, who, when they have a celebratory barbecue, eat PULLED PORK and not brisket. I call bullshit.
But the thing that annoyed me about this book above all else, despite it’s admittedly sweet love story, was the regressive gender nonsense about who deserves to be a mother. Amy, the ex, leaves her baby with Tony to protect the child. But other characters comment on her behavior, saying things like “a woman who abandons her child doesn’t deserve to have one,” or, after she is brutally murdered, “I always knew she would come to a bad end.” She, in the past, used drugs. She lied sometimes. She had a child out of wedlock, or even a desire for wedlock. All of these things mean that she was punished by the narrative – and conveniently gotten out of the way for Tony and Mary to make a perfect family, so that Mary can be rewarded and receive the child she couldn’t have for herself. All of her hand-wringing about not being a real woman can be waved away, because now she can find complete and utter fulfilment through motherhood – never mind her successful business making traditional Choctaw baskets and pottery. (Which she must really excel at to support herself selling at only two craft shows a year.) Mary is a saintly woman with no faults except for being way too hard on herself; this paragon of selfless virtue deserves a baby, but also true love.
Writing this I wonder: what does this say about the rest of us, who are not selfless paragons, but also not dating deranged murders?
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