REVIEW: The Cowboy’s Last Rodeo by Jeannie Watt
Shane Marvell‘s career as a rodeo rider is ending far too soon. He doesn’t have a plan B, so during his last season, he’s all in, determined to win as much prize money as possible–even if it means riding injured and taking more risks than he should.
Ella Etxeberri has always played it safe, so when her life still takes a bad turn despite her caution, she wonders if if isn’t time to see what she’s been missing. While researching risk behaviors in rodeo riders, she meets Shane Marvell, a cowboy who merits additional study of the personal variety.
Just as Ella is hitting the point to embrace risk, Shane is pulling back. He knows Ella’s all-in approach is born of curiosity and whim. He’s not what she wants forever, and perhaps Ella is one risk he can’t allow himself to take.
NOTE – This is sorta set in the Marietta, Montana World but only peripherally towards the end. Readers who haven’t read any of the Tule books set in this universe won’t be lost.
Dear Ms. Watt,
After reading some of your Harlequin books a few years ago, I’d always meant to check out more but time has flown and here I am just now catching up with your work again. “The Cowboy’s Last Rodeo” reminds me of what I liked and will hopefully goose me into doing a better job staying current with your books.
Shane has been knocked for a loop when the woman he’d spent two years dating and who he thought might be The One, turned his marriage proposal down due to his lack of prospects. Shane has spent the past number of years chasing bare-back bronc buckles instead of going to college or learning a trade – you know, something to support him once his body gives out. Seems that living in his bedroom, at the family ranch house which only has one bathroom, didn’t thrill the woman he asked to marry him. So now he’s got a plan – of sorts. Put everything he’s got into one last season to try and earn the bonus money which he can then use to fund his future. But will his body hold out long enough?
Ella is the cautious one of her family. Instead of riding in rodeos or doing the other daredevil things her siblings think is normal, she’s the studious one who has lived at school. Now she’s got to rethink her future as well.
The paid position researching extreme athletes she thought she was going to get didn’t go to the person with the most academic credentials (her) but to the another candidate who actually BASE jumps. That’s got Ella rethinking her outlook on life; does she want to continue just studying it or does she want to live it?
Shane is going to push himself for one last season while Ella tries to get to the bottom of why people engage in risk – starting with bronc and bull riders – and see if she can discover why she hesitates in life. And yeah, if she can finesse a grad study out of her results, so much the better. Right?
After a meeting at the latest rodeo they’re both at, Ella’s traveling partners – two barrel racing sisters – urge Ella to approach Shane ([wo]man up or chicken out) since this summer is all about her initiating change and exploring her limits. Ella womans up and gets Shane to agree to answer her interview questions. Their discussion involves a little flirting, a little eye contact and some responses on Shane’s part (dilated pupils and increased heart rate) that Ella tells him lets her know he wants to kiss her. He thinks her “academic speak” is hot and tells her so. But in the interests of science, Ella needs her answers before locking any lips.
In helping a friend, Shane has to ask for Ella’s help and actually breaks the bronc rider’s macho creed by letting her see that his body is showing all the abuse that’s been heaped on it this year. When Ella merely reacts by doing what he asks and not fussing over him – when he realizes she “gets” the way these rodeo athletes have to survive, Shane feels all warm inside.
“She got it. She knew that asking for help was a big deal to him, and she didn’t make anything of it. His kind of woman. The thought floored him.”
But whoa, he’s got to pull back some as he still doesn’t have anything to offer a woman long term. And Ella realizes that Shane both shakes her up and gives her confidence.
If Ella is looking for a summer adventure, Shane can give her one. After being dumped, he’s still not looking for anything serious both because he got his heart stomped but also it was a wake up call that serious women look for more from men who are a part of their lives. So – hawt fling anyone? All righty then.
I liked way the reality of the “cowboy up” attitude, being “ranch rich and cash poor” and Shane looking at his future instead of living on rodeo dreams forever are shown. Ella realizes she needs to discover what she wants in life and who she wants in life (though her conscience adds a small ahem and “you know the who”).
But after spending time with Ella, who knows her way around ranch chores and who doesn’t hesitate to tell Shane what’s on her mind, he’s thinking of more. Until he hears something that makes him go all noble. Ella meanwhile, is having none of this (you go girlfriend) and I was happy that this didn’t drag out into a long Self-Denying “no, we mustn’t because I won’t let you waste your life on me” thing. Shane tries it but Ella is smart – she’s got a 2 college degrees! – and knows what she wants from him. Well glory be, that they actually end up talking and listening to each other. I was all set for at least one round of flouncing and smoldering angst but the overall communication here was a nice surprise. So their plans didn’t quite turn out as expected but in the end, everybody’s happy including me. B