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REVIEW: Rodeo Dreams by Sarah M Anderson

Rodeo-Dreams

Love is one unpredictable ride
Ride straight to the top of the rodeo circuit—that’s June Spotted Elk’s dream. Yes, bull-riding is a man’s world, but she won’t let anyone—not even a sexy, scarred stranger—get in her way.

Seasoned bull rider Travis Younkin knows what it’s like to make it to the top—and then hit the bottom. Back in the arena to resurrect his career, he can’t afford a distraction like June. No matter how far he’ll go to protect her from the danger. No matter how deeply the stubborn and beautiful rider gets to him…

Dear Ms. Anderson,

When I saw this in our Dear Authors submissions section, something about it caught my eye. I realized it had been a while since I’d read about cowboys or bull riders and I can’t recall the last female bull rider book to cross my radar so into the reading hopper it went.

June and Travis both have very good reasons for bull riding. For Travis, it’s the only thing he really knows how to do and he’s determined to prove that he’s come back from the horrific injuries that almost took his life. June on the other hand is the up-and-comer who knows she was born to ride bulls. She also wants to prove to those who say that a woman can’t do this, that a woman can do it. Her whole life people – mainly her alcoholic father – have tried to keep her down and June sees this as a way to silence her critics and get herself and her recovering alcoholic mother off of welfare. She’s almost got her college degree in teaching courtesy of scholarships but with a season’s worth of winnings, they’ll have heat in their house on the rez this winter and go from surviving to maybe a bit of comfort.

Their first meeting isn’t memorable with June thinking Travis’s efforts to keep her off the circuit are just another person telling her she’s not good enough and Travis thinking that she’s playing for attention in a way different from the usual buckle bunnies on the hunt for riders. It takes them a while to discover that he’s only concerned for her safety and she’s serious about what she’s trying to accomplish.

Travis matches the lyric from the Garth Brooks’ song in that he’s much too young to feel as damn old as he does some days. Titanium rods and mesh hold him together, 3 long years of rehab are behind him, and his only possessions that survived the bankruptcy he had to declare because of his medical bills are a truck and beat up camper.

Meanwhile June lives out of a used Crown Vic with her dog Jeff – whom Travis calls the Hellhound – until events cause her to go undercover with two other riders trying to hide something the macho bull riders might not accept. And may I say how happy I am about these character. This is the first time that I’ve read a secondary romance like this in a Harlequin. Pooling their resources after that, it’s a step up to staying in fleabag motels. The scraping by that most of the riders do sounds legitimate as well as the risks they’re willing to take for the big purses offered to ride the ranker bulls.

The fears that Travis and June have about a relationship and each other sound reasonable too. Travis’ girlfriend abandoned him after his terrible ride and he wonders if June is merely looking to climb from his bed to someone ranked higher in the circuit standings. June, due to the double standard we women must live with, doesn’t want people thinking she’s trying to sleep her way to the top. But after some inventive storytelling – remember June’s no dummy, and tricky acting – her cousin just loves to play the tough guy, they get that worked out.

So what is the final hurdle to reach their HEA? A “mean as the devil” bull with a wicked kicking twist named No Mans Land. What looks like it might drive them apart is what actually brings them together. June is determined to help out a fellow rider the way no one bothered to help Travis in his time of need while Travis has first hand knowledge of what June will require after a ride on the wild side. They’ve learned from each other and will be there for each other and that’s about as much as I can ask of a romance book.

I thought the way that Travis and June will get their little house, married life and – hopefully in a few years – kids is inventive and realistic. And Travis is going to get a job in a field in which he’s an expert with medical insurance on top of that! Meanwhile June has proved that a poor, Indian woman can ride bulls, graduate and begin to teach.They reach their professional goals, find true love and will get to move on to rewarding careers. Plus they’re not too battered by bulls at the end. B+

~Jayne

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Another long time reader who read romance novels in her teens, then took a long break before started back again about 15 years ago. She enjoys historical romance/fiction best, likes contemporaries, action- adventure and mysteries, will read suspense if there's no TSTL characters and is currently reading very few paranormals.

12 Comments

  1. pamelia
    Aug 01, 2014 @ 08:52:09

    OOH! I’ll have to check this one out. I really liked her book “Mystic Cowboy” (the first of her Men of White Sandy series) because of the reservation setting and the realistic feel of it. I’ve been meaning to get the next in that series for a while, but this one sounds really good.

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  2. azteclady
    Aug 01, 2014 @ 09:04:04

    SOLD!!!

    I really enjoy Ms Anderson’s writing, and this sounds great, what with the secondary romance you hint at, and the unusual career for the heroine.

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  3. Jayne
    Aug 01, 2014 @ 09:21:23

    @azteclady: When I’d finished reading it, I asked Jane if she knew of any other LGBTQ romance in a Harlequin book and she couldn’t think of one nor had heard of one either. Perhaps there is and if so hopefully someone will speak up and let us know.

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  4. Jayne
    Aug 01, 2014 @ 09:22:12

    @pamelia: I saw that she has a lot of other books out in different lines at Harlequin but didn’t know where I might start reading more. Thanks for the rec.

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  5. Laura Vivanco
    Aug 04, 2014 @ 13:28:28

    @Jayne: I can’t remember if all of these feature an LGBTQ secondary romance, but they do have LGBTQ secondary couples:

    Louise Allen’s The Dangerous Mr Ryder (2008)
    Anita Bunkley’s Suite Temptation (2008),
    Ellen Hartman’s His Secret Past (2008)
    Sarah Mayberry’s Cruise Control (2006)

    There are probably more, but these are the ones I found/knew of when I was writing a post in 2008.

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  6. Sirius
    Aug 04, 2014 @ 14:13:37

    Thanks so much for this review Jayne.

    I of course got this one and mainly because of LGBT romance since I still feel it does not appear too often in the mainstream books, and also because heroine felt very strong. I really really enjoyed it, up till the end that is. The rant to follow just because i want somebody to share it with. :)

    What happens at the end to June was very disappointing to me. That’s just my pet peeve and has nothing to do with how well done the book was, but I felt like at the end Travis was proven right, instead of June triumphing. Of course I cannot dictate where the story should have gone and should evaluate the story written, but it felt to me another strong heroine if not being saved by the man, then the man being proven right about what she could and could not do. I mean, I get that Travis was truly concerned from the beginning for her safety, but why could not the end been as triumphal for her doing her job as the beginning was? It is of course a rhetorical question and just me feeling a little bitter because I enjoyed good 90 percent of the book so much.

    In any event, thanks for the introducing this book to me and thanks for listening :), I am glad I read it if only because secondary romance was more visible than “blink and you miss it”.

    As to your question about LGBT romances in the Harlequin books, I can count on the fingers of one hand the Harlequin books I have read and all of them due to DA reviews :-), but I definitely remember a tiny tiny m/m romance in Kelly Rand’s “The one that got away”.

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  7. Sirius
    Aug 04, 2014 @ 15:26:08

    And why did I wrote LGBT instead of LGBTQ? Twice that is :(.

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  8. cleo
    Aug 04, 2014 @ 15:57:57

    Jennifer Crusie’s Charlie All Night (1996) was originally a Harlequin category (I believe it was a category – I’m sure I read that somewhere, but I can’t confirm it now, so I may be full of it, in which case, ignore me). But there is a gay supporting character in it, although he doesn’t have a romance or a character arc.

    On her website, Crusie says “And since so many people have asked me, nobody at Harlequin blinked about the heroine’s best friend being gay.” Which is interesting to me, given how few LGBTQ characters show up in Harlequins.

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  9. Laura Vivanco
    Aug 04, 2014 @ 16:37:40

    @cleo: Yes, it was in the Temptation line. I checked and although Joe doesn’t exactly get a secondary romance, he does get to go on a date with someone called David.

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  10. Jayne
    Aug 04, 2014 @ 17:47:55

    @Sirius: I can understand your rant and I was reading that part from between my fingers because I didn’t want her hurt. Based on what happend to the tw male riders, I think it would have been almost unbelievable (in the real world) for June to be able to ride with no injuries. For her to do as well as she did and escape – relatively – unscathed is probably the best outcome in either romance or real world that could be expected.

    Now, given what I’ve just said, I’d love for her to have ridden the full 8 seconds, escaped scotfree, gotten a fabulous score and shown them all. But I think in that would probably have pushed the limits of believable – for me at least. And remember that she still managed to stand up in the arena, with her injury, and give a televised interview which is a lot better than any of the men who immediately got hauled out on stretchers.

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  11. cleo
    Aug 04, 2014 @ 18:02:03

    @Laura Vivanco: Thanks Laura! It’s so nice having scholars participate in the comments – thanks for checking that out and letting me know :)

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  12. Sirius
    Aug 04, 2014 @ 21:09:37

    @Jayne: Your explanation made me feel a little better thank you :). It is really more of the accumulation problem that Kaetrin discussed than this particular book I think. Picture me groaning oh no, the guy is being right, again, even if it makes perfect sense in this book.

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