Wednesday, July 15, 2020

#TBRChallenge: The Cowboy's Rebellious Bride

The Book: The Cowboy's Rebellious Bride by Laurie LeClair

The Particulars: Contemporary romance, Tule Publishing, 2017, 1st book in The McCall Brothers series, in print and available in digital

Why Was It In Wendy's TBR: At RWA 2017 (Orlando) I kept running into this man at the various publisher signings. Turns out he was Laurie LeClair's husband, we chatted (as you do while standing in lines at conferences) and being a good husband, was his wife's biggest fan. He was hitting the signings to get her books while she was attending various workshops.  Anyway, I told him I'd swing by his wife's table at the big Literacy Signing to buy a book - because I'd never read her before and when I attend signings I try to buy at least one book by a new-to-me author.

The Review: Ever know almost immediately, like within the first chapter, that a book ain't for you? Yeah, that was my experience here.  It's Small Town Southern-Fried Hell. It reminded me a bit of the the only Carolyn Brown romance I've ever attempted, albeit LeClair wasn't as heavy-handed with her comic-relief secondary characters.  So why did I keep reading?  This month's TBR Challenge snuck up on me, this is basically a category romance (my print copy is 238 pages), and while this book is totally not my thing, I can see how it could be "their thing" for other readers.

Cody McCall was on the rodeo circuit until his grandmother takes ill and he's called home.  Gran has  now passed, his Gramps a shadow of his former self, and the family ranch is mortgaged up to their eyeballs (Gran's medical bills...). Cody breezes back into town after riding the range, hits the local bar (named The Giddy Up - because sure, why not) and kicks the party into high gear. Cody is Mr. Life of the Party. Mr. Never Settle Down - especially not after he learned the ugly truth about his almost-wife about a year ago. It's at the bar he runs into his BFF, Hannah Prescott, also not one for settling down.  Hannah is living hand to mouth, trying to get one of her bulls on one of the top rodeo circuits, living in a rented room with two spinster busy-bodies, and trying to reconcile that she has "more than friends" feelings for Cody.  But those feelings scare the hell out of her - namely because "they're friends" and her parents' marriage didn't make her a big believer in true love.

This is where it gets stupid. So Hannah ties one on, but has to sneak back into her rented room because of the spinster busy body landlords.  I just - is this 2017 or 1817?  Anyway, the spinsters wake up, Hannah's fearful that this will be the final straw and they'll kick her out. She literally can't afford anything else. So Cody blurts out that they're engaged. Well this is small town Texas, so word gets around fast and behold! His Gramps is like his old self again! There's a twinkle in his eye!  So these two knuckleheads decide to keep the charade going for a little longer.  Of course extracting themselves out of this fake engagement is thought through about as well as this plot set-up.

That's pretty much it for conflict. Cody doesn't want to settle down and neither does Hannah. And the spinsters are there to provide 1817-style comic relief in the form of being "chaperones."  Seriously.  And once they start doing that, suddenly Cody and Hannah are finding all sorts of ways to escape their watchful eyes to spend time alone together.  I just - am I reading about adults or am I reading about 13-year-olds?

It smooths out a bit once the spinsters are dispatched, and the wedding (OK sorry, minor spoiler there) takes place several chapters prior before the ending.  The sexy times are closed door, the conflict light, the humor about as subtle as a sledgehammer and then we get the grand gesture at the end - which Hannah's the one to fall on this sword.  It's actually not bad - in theory.  Except why she thought Cody would be mad at her after boggles my mind. Also, there's something about the heroine making a Sacrificing Grand Gesture for the hero that just doesn't work as well for me.  Sorry folks, it just doesn't.  Cody is clueless, it's not like he twists Hannah's arm, she acts independently - but it just...bothers me OK?  Hannah takes a bullet for the McCall family and the author sells it like Hannah wants to make this choice but - it just bothers me OK?  I recognize that mileage will vary on this though. 

So yeah, not my thing.  The spinster landlords, the low level hijinks, the various small town-isms.  But I did zip through it in a couple of hours.  If broad humor and small town ranching meets friends to lovers is your jam - maybe this will work better for you than it did for me.

Final Grade = D+


Jill said...

You braved on farther than I did on my choice. My book was probably well-written, but just not to my personal style. It's a CJ Carmichael series romance that I probably bought for free on Kindle years ago (I've learned to be more picky, even for free books). I think I'm just not in the mood to read about really downtrodden heroines any more, or at least not ones where there is lots of angst and no humor.
I'm not saying I want the flip side of that where it's all princesses and gazillionaires, but I feel like these heroines (and it's always the heroine, heaven forgive the hero is financially struggling) are often written in a way that feels emotionally manipulative to me.
As always Wendy, thanks for hosting.

Dorine said...

I made it three pages into a historical western that sounded like a very promising series. No. Just no. So, I put it down and landed a winner with a contemporary western. You're brave in finishing. I just don't have the stamina to withstand what I don't prefer anymore.

I'm so glad to be back! You have no idea how much I've missed this challenge.

Happy reading!

Keira Soleore said...

"It's Small Town Southern-Fried Hell with a Sacrificing Grand Gesture." That could've been your entire review. :)

I am a huge fan of trad Regencies and historical shows like "Cranford" about small towns, so I could buy these spinsters in the 2020s. But the rest of it has the feel of an author writing to an outline where characters are in service of the plot.

I am usually not fond of either individual making a sacrificing grand gesture, because I just see regret in their future a few years down the road once the fragrance is off the bloom. It is a rare author who can sell it to me.

Wendy said...

Jill: I love it when tropes are inverted and am waiting for the day when we get the "downtrodden" hero - but suspect that'll be a tough hill to climb. Too much toxic masculinity and internalized misogyny throwing up roadblocks I think. We can dream.

Dorine: I'm so glad you were able to hop back into the challenge! Sometimes a shorter book is the way to do it. I should have put this one aside since it didn't work for me - but I'm slumping (sigh, again) and was worried about the hostess missing her own challenge.

Kiera: Ha! Succinct and to the point! I like a well-written grand gesture but they're really tricky to pull off - and I'm just not in the head space for heroines falling on the sword. I'm a big believer in "heroine wins in the end" and if she has to sacrifice, even if it is for true love, it's a hard sell for me. I want her to have her cake AND eat it too.

Jen Twimom said...

UGH - sorry this one didn't work for you. I had to laugh at "Small Town Southern-Fried Hell" I'm not big on cowboy/country romances and I had a similar reaction to the one Carolyn Brown book I read, too. :-)

Lover Of Romance said...

Its the worst when you start a book like that.....its the worst feeling in the world.

Wendy said...

Jen: I had better luck with a Carolyn Brown women's fiction title but yeah - her romances ain't for me.

Lover: I really should have set it aside. I need to get better about starting TBR Challenge books sooner so I have the luxury of DNF'ing a couple if there's the need.

azteclady said...

And...definitely not for me.

I am fed up with the idea that's always women who have to give up their dreams/suppress their wants and needs for men. No, thanks.

Wendy said...

AL: The only thing that makes it marginally tolerable is that the heroine acts independently and the hero has NO idea beforehand what she's going to do. The impression I got from the narrative is that had he known he would have told her absolutely not. But yeah. Like Keira mentions - in this instance I wasn't entirely convinced the heroine wouldn't turn bitter after the fact and I'm just done right now with the sacrificing heroine trope. I want girlfriend to win AT EVERYTHING!