REVIEW: Sweet Home Cowboy by Marin Thomas
When Marietta newcomer Elena Puente is coerced into attending a speed-dating event at the popular Copper Mountain Chocolate shop, she’s blindsided by a serious attraction to local cowboy, Wesley Banks.
Still recovering from a broken engagement, the first-grade teacher from Las Vegas isn’t looking for romance. She’s in Montana to get to know the great-grandfather she never knew existed until she found some hidden family letters. Judge Kingsley is a grouchy recluse and he’s far from welcoming, but Elena is determined to stay in town long enough to give his neglected estate on Bramble Lane a facelift.
Elena’s resolve to avoid romance is tested when she discovers Wesley is the caretaker of her grandfather’s rural property. Soon, she and the cowboy are attending more speed-dating events at the chocolate shop and she’s seeking his advice on how to deal with his ornery boss. Local gossips wager the old Judge will run Elena out of town before anything serious develops between her and Wesley. But Wesley’s a determined man, too, and he’s betting Elena belongs in Marietta forever…with him.
Dear Ms. Thomas,
I know it’s been a while since I’ve read one of your contemporaries but once I saw you were going to be a part of the “Love at the Chocolate Shop” series, I thought “It’s time I catch up.” One of the things I like about this series is that readers can dip in and out of it without being lost. Sure there’s usually a scene or two with some of the previous characters but they behave themselves and don’t photobomb the shot.
In our first encounter with Elena, she’s in a bind but not because she’s been ditzy or done anything lots of us haven’t been guilty of ourselves. She assesses the situation and gets herself out of it. The blurb may say she gets dragged into the speed dating but Elena is really just being polite with a side helping of getting some face time with a cute cowboy. Wes has already proved himself to be well mannered and when a situation calls for it, his actions show Elena a few things: he’s a good friend, he’s helpful and anything that happens in Marietta is soon common news.
For the most part, the people of Marietta are nice and willing to lend a hand without being too “up in your business” which is great for Elena as she’s come to town for more than the Big Sky scenery. The plot set-up makes sense. Elena’s young parents were in love and facing her rich great-grandfather’s disapproval. Cross purposes, miscommunication and stubborn mind sets lead to estrangements and 25 years of pain and heartbreak. Now that Elena knows she has another relative in the world, she’s going to take a chance and show up to try and mend fences.
I like that Elena arrives with an open mind and willingness to listen. Neither her mother nor her great-grandfather was totally to blame for what happened. Each suffered and made mistakes which they’re willing to admit to. Elena’s a first grade teacher so she’s learned to be fast, be blunt and can multitask. She cuts to the chase with her great-grandfather and starts the ball rolling. Her efforts to get his neglected house fixed up are an obvious metaphor for de-grouching the withdrawn man he’s become but then the man anonymous, nice things she learns he’s done for the town – remember there are no true secrets in this place – show he isn’t a total curmudgeon.
Wes can vouch for that too as he’s one of the Judge’s success stories having come before the old man as a juvenile delinquent back in the day. After turning his own life around, Wes discovered a love and talent for helping similar troubled teens as well as an abiding mentoring friendship with Elena’s great-grandfather. He’s protective of the old geezer.
Okay so what about the romance? As one character tells Wes – love can take years or hit in an instant. Wes and Elena feel the insta-attraction but they’re mature enough to step back and think about it. They talk and get beyond the zing. They face the issues that might be deal breakers and work through them. I’m feeling all happy until a final stone gets chucked onto the path to a HEA. Frankly the conflict felt more manufactured – albeit based on past character actions. Since their relationship is still so new, I can sort of see Wes and Elena overreacting and overcorrecting a bit. Points that they didn’t shift totally into reverse but were willing to go after a future they realized could be.
For a shorter length contemporary, this book packs a lot of plot into it. Yes it moves fast but the set up and backstories are well done. The final conflict didn’t thrill me but the quick recovery kept it from veering into the ditch. Oh, and Wes makes a great Randy Travis song dedication at the end! B