A Cowboy's Pride by Pamela Britton has a lot of elements I really enjoyed, including a seriously wounded cowboy, a heroine still dealing with a past tragedy, and secondary characters who added to the story, instead of getting in the way. There's a serious misstep (for me at least) in the first sex scene, but other than that? This is a solid read.
Trent Anderson was at the top of his game on the rodeo circuit when a head-on collision with a drunk driver left his best friend dead and him in a wheelchair. To say he's a tad on the surly side because of this would be an understatement. Now he's heading out to a Northern California ranch that specializes in therapy for disabled people all because his other best friend (Sequel Bait!) and his mother put the screws to him. When he gets a good look at his new therapist, he knows he's in for a serious round of emotional and physical torture.
Alana McClintock was almost done with her schooling when a car accident took the life of her fiancee, her future sister-in-law, and left her future niece, Rana, seriously injured. It was feared that Rana would never walk again, but she is (and riding horses competitively!), all thanks to the work that Alana and the girl's father, Cabe (Sequel Bait!), did with her. After their experience with Rana, they got the idea of turning the ranch into a therapy center and vacation spot for people with similar challenges. Alana has seen Trent's medical files. His doctors see no reason that he won't be able to walk again, as he only has partial, and what should be temporary, paralysis. With hard work and physical therapy he should be able to walk again. But so far he isn't. He's been fighting everybody every step of the way. And now he's Alana's problem in more ways than one. Because not only is he the world's worst patient? He's drop dead sexy gorgeous.
We all know where this going right? Trent's surly, Alana is determined, time is spent together and they succumb to their mutual attraction. It mostly works. I liked that once they have sex Alana struggles with the idea that it could be some sort of Florence Nightingale syndrome. I also liked that a big reason she resists anything deeper with Trent isn't because he's temporarily in a wheelchair, or that he's suffering from a touch of post-traumatic stress from the car accident. The reason for her jitters has everything to do with Trent living in Colorado, her life being in California, and her reluctance to get involved with another man whose life centers around rodeo. Even if Trent never competes again, he's such a big name in the sport, that it's conceivable he would take a front office job, and do just as much traveling.
Where this story stumbles for me is in the first sex scene. Passion ignites, but alas - no condom. Instead of partaking in their mutual release by other means (and I know these two characters are smart enough to figure out how to do this since Trent literally gets Alana off with his hand.....), we have the whole Oh Shit We Don't Have Condoms But It's OK Because I'm Clean Baby And You're On The Pill scene. I get that neither of these characters would just have condoms lying around given their current lifestyles - but seriously? For one thing, Trent was a highly successful rodeo cowboy and is gorgeous at that. We find out later in the book that he wasn't one to play around - but at the time of the first sex scene? We don't know that and neither does Alana. The guy could have been bedding three buckle bunnies a night prior to the accident. Although really, I guess it's not a matter of quantity. You can have sex with only one person ever and still get a scorching case of herpes. I was so annoyed by this first love scene that it immediately knocked my grade down from a B to a C. Seriously, white hot rage.
Authors, you know what I prefer? Just don't mention it. Seriously, if lack of condoms isn't mentioned I just assume that the characters have some. My imagination is good enough that I can conjure up the idea of Mythical Condoms Falling From The Sky and that both the characters are protected.
What ultimately saves the book and helps dissipate some of my anger over that scene? The emotional struggle between the characters at the end - as Trent gets better, Alana starts running scared, and they're both trying to hash out how they really feel. I also appreciated the way the author dealt with the long distance issue. Hallelujah, this is not one of those books where the heroine gives up her entire life to ride off into the sunset with the hero. They both ::gasp:: make sacrifices to be together in the end. They both compromise. Which is fantastic, and a really welcome breath of fresh air.
In the end, outside of the first sex scene, I really enjoyed this book. It's got nice characters, a well-drawn sense of place, and enough emotional angst to keep the pages turning. There's naturally a follow-up book in the works about Cabe, and I have no doubt I'll be picking it up.
Final Grade = B-