REVIEW: A Cowboy to Remember by Rebekah Weatherspoon
Dear Rebekah Weatherspoon,
As a child, Evie Buchanan had come to live with her grandmother who was a horse trainer at the Big Rock ranch, owned by the Pleasant family, after the death of her parents in a car accident. “Nana Buck” was a fixture at the ranch and much beloved by the Pleasants as well as, of course, Evie. The Pleasant brothers took Evie under their collective wings. Jessie, Zach and Sam were all very close to Evie growing up but it was Zach Evie developed more-than-friendship feelings for very early on. At first Zach tried to ignore it and treated her like a kid sister. However, as Evie grew up he began to realise that his feelings were not at all brotherly. After Nana Buck died, Zach, not wanting Evie to give up her dream of becoming a chef, “set her free” and told her he didn’t want a relationship. Evie left and never came back. It’s been ten years since then and Evie is still angry and hurt by Zach’s rejection.
Evie is a successful TV chef, having won a reality show and then moved on to co-hosting a cooking show. At a Christmas party she steps out into the stairwell to take a few moments to herself and somehow ends up at the bottom of the stairs with a head injury. Evie’s agent suspects foul play but when Evie wakes up she has amnesia.
Given her TV contract and possible risk to her if the fall was the result of someone’s deliberate action and, because the injury to Evie is obviously quite serious, Evie’s friends and agent decide to call her “in case of emergency” person – Jesse Pleasant in California. Jesse and Zach come running to New York.
A Cowboy to Remember fits into a very narrow category of amnesia book where there isn’t any deception by the people who are around the person who’s lost their memory. It was refreshing and I liked it. I’m all for heroes (in particular) who aren’t assholes. As soon as there is a reasonable opportunity, Zach confesses that he was on Evie’s shit list and tells her why. Zach had no wish to keep important information from Evie or deceive her in any way. How awesome is that??
However, it also meant that the story was somewhat lacking in conflict. After Jesse and Zach arrive in New York, it is quickly decided (and Evie is involved in this decision – it is not forced on her) for her to travel back to the ranch with the Pleasant brothers so she can lay low, recover and hopefully, not put her TV career in jeopardy. If the producers find out she has amnesia it could be a problem. Everyone is hoping that Evie’s amnesia is temporary only. Evie’s New York crew – her agent, her assistant and her BFF and roommate, along with the folks Charming, California looked out for Evie, showing protective care but never trying to take away Evie’s agency. It was another thing I appreciated very much but it also resulted in a fairly low conflict story (not a bad thing in and of itself but I note it here for mood readers to consider) and there were times I felt the narrative stalled a little.
For all that Zach is honest with Evie from the start, I did think that their relationship nevertheless proceeded at warp speed. Evie has vague memories of Zach and feels a deep attraction for him but she doesn’t know anyone around her. It took some suspension of disbelief to accept she’d so quickly get into bed with him. (Still, the sex was hot so I’m not going to complain too much.)
The matriarch of the Pleasant family is “Miss Leona” – a multi-Oscar-winning actress and a real pistol. She’s both forthright and kind, an interesting mix of old-fashioned and modern. Given it was Miss Leona who initially taught Evie to cook in the first place, she takes it upon herself to get Evie back into the kitchen. Evie is of course worried her memories will never return but Miss Leona has good advice for her in that event:
“…You just have to figure out what Yvonne Buchanan 2.0 is going to be like. Reinvention. It’s how great women get by.”
Evie had a close friendship with Jesse, the eldest Pleasant brother – very like siblings. It’s clear that Evie and Jesse and Sam had kept in touch on an off in the decade since Evie left the ranch but there was a question Evie raised that Jesse couldn’t give a meaningful answer to, especially given how close they had been.
He shrugged. “It hit us real hard when Nana Buck died, and when Nicole called, my damn heart stopped. I really thought we’d lost you too. I wasn’t ready. And then I thought of all the years without you because you and Zach had been fighting—”
“Wait. I get why Zach and I were fighting, but you’re a grown man, you could have come to see me. Why didn’t you?”
It was a question I had as well but there were no good answers.
Zach is the General Manager of the ranch and a former rodeo star. The Big Rock ranch is an upscale dude ranch, catering to a wealthy clientele and offering them a 5-star experience, complete with barn dances, hayrides and displays of trick-riding and barrel racing. As much as I liked Zach and Evie, and (most of) the rest of the cast, the one who stole every scene he was in was Zach’s thoroughbred horse, Steve. Steve! What an awesome name for a horse! Steve does most excellent tricks and I wanted to see his show so badly. I had a horse-crush.
There were a couple of things about the ending of the book I had questions about – little details which weren’t entirely clear to me (they will most likely not be all that important to most readers) but there was also plenty to like. I enjoyed the queer representation peppered throughout the book and I loved the various displays of feminine power. Like the beginning when Zach doesn’t hide their contentious past from Evie, the story takes some turns which are modern and refreshing. I really liked how Evie stood up for herself and demanded what she deserved from Zach.
On the other side of the equation, even though the book covered a fairly short timeline, it felt episodic and the flow wasn’t quite as smooth as other books of yours I’ve enjoyed.
Overall, A Cowboy to Remember was a bit of a mixed bag but (and this may be a blasphemy but I can’t help it) even aside from the other things I enjoyed, it was worth it just for Steve.