Big Sky Cowboy, Book #1
Heat Factor: They’re making each other hot and bothered
Character Chemistry: Luke is the most emotionally aware romance hero I’ve ever read, which makes chemistry adorable
Plot: Luke and Maddie meet, start dating, act cute together, and fall in love—but Maddie has a *secret*
Overall: I read it in an hour and my heart went pitter-pat
Look, here’s the thing: this book is not well-written. It’s just not. The prose is clunky, the voices of the two protagonists are not well-defined, and the verb tenses are all over the place. This really bothered me for the first few chapters, but I was able to (mostly) ignore it once I got into the story. So if that’s a deal-breaker for you, you’ve been forewarned.
On the other hand, West does have a good handle on human emotion and how people might (mis)communicate as they start dating and fall in love.
There are a couple of things going on in this story that are pretty interesting. The first is Luke (the eponymous tofu cowboy) and his emotional awareness. Now, usually, when a romance hero is too in tune with his emotions I get irritated, but West really makes it work. Is Luke perfect? No, he still messes up because he’s a human, but when he hurts Maddie he: 1) notices that something is wrong, 2) asks questions to find out why she’s upset, and 3) apologizes. And when the black moment rolls around, the way he parses his emotional reaction for the reader primes the reader for Luke and Maddie’s reconciliation. (I’ll come back to the black moment, I have a lot of thoughts about it.)
The second interesting thing about this book is the way sex is handled. After Luke and Maddie’s first date, they start to get hot and heavy, as one does—and then decide to wait to have PIV sex, because they feel like the relationship is going somewhere and they want it to mean something. And because they want to know and trust each other enough for the sex to actually be good. So there’s a lot of heavy petting. Now, we should talk about how penetrative sex is held up as the end-all-be-all of successful sexual relationships, but I thought this idea of learning a partner’s body through weeks of foreplay was kind of hot.
Now, I do want to talk about the black moment, so stop reading here if you don’t want spoilers.
Let’s start with some content notes: this book references eating disorders and infertility. Specifically, Maddie struggled in the past with anorexia and bulemia, of which one result is her current infertility. So the whole time she’s dating Luke, she feels guilty—she can never have kids, and he comes from a big happy family and will definitely want kids, and this isn’t fair to him. Of course she doesn’t talk to him about it. This is something about which she feels sadness and shame, and she wants to hold on to Luke for as long as she can, because she’s so happy when she’s with him.
I frankly found Maddie irritating, but I think that’s a me thing. I can, with my logic brain, understand where she’s coming from.
The black moment comes after they (finally) have sex, and Luke is like, “That was great and all, but, uh, we should talk about birth control.” Maddie gets upset, tells him she’s infertile, and dumps him when he doesn’t respond perfectly. And here’s where Luke’s emotional maturity comes in. Afterwards, when he’s thinking about the fight and wanting to win Maddie back, he says, “She told me something sad.” Seems simple right? But it’s the awareness that the author (and Luke) have that in moments of surprise or new information we don’t respond perfectly but can make things better after we process things is something that I was glad to see in a romance novel in this moment.
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