*This book was provided to the reviewer by the author in exchange for an honest review at SeductiveMusings.blogspot.com
Thanks to the Rough Riders and Blacktop Cowboys books by Lorelei James, I’ve discovered that there’s more to erotic western romances than just the usual ropin’ and ridin’, so I was excited about having the opportunity to review the “Cowboy Lust” anthology. The fact that Lorelei James herself has contributed the Foreword was an extra special bonus for me. In her foreword, James outlines in a most personal way just what the cowboy contributes to the romance genre, how he can exist anywhere in the world, and sometimes may not even be a “he” at all. The collection of stories that follow her words bear them out most effectively. I was happy to discover that not only did I enjoy nearly all of them, but that there were a distinct few I loved enough to have already reread more than a few times. As with any anthology, some will resonate more deeply with readers than others, but there’s something here for everyone who loves a cowboy.
Riding Double by Cari Quinn
This story was a great way to kick off the anthology. Danica is attracted to Jack, the handsome neighbor who frequently stops by her new farm to help out, and she’s sure he’s attracted to her. She senses he’d like to make a move on her, but she doesn’t want to be tied down to someone else when her real job will be taking her out of town for weeks at a time. Her “solution” is to set up a surprise threesome with Jack and her identical twin, Colleen. But ultimately, the surprise is on her.
I loved the light sexy tone of this story, and enjoyed getting to know these characters, however briefly. I give it 4 stars.
Under the Southern Cross by Cheyenne Blue
In western Australia, the cowboys are jackaroos and the wide open spaces aren’t big enough to lose yourself when killers are on your trail. Sam has traveled here all the way from Los Angeles to hide from the drug cartel boss who wants to prevent her from testifying for the FBI. Jake is the hot jackaroo who drifted into Malory Station looking for temporary work. There’s a strong physical attraction between them but nothing really happens until Jake casually mentions someone asking about a woman visiting from the US and offers to take her out with him on his fence-mending trip.
This story went from slow and lazy to fast and furious in a heartbeat, but mostly managed to keep the plot twists from overwhelming the focus on Sam and Jake. I only wished we’d had more of the earlier, less frantic time to enjoy their growing attraction before everything went crazy. I give it 3.5 stars.
Banging the Cowboy by Randi Alexander
This was one of my favorite stories in this anthology. It’s the story of two people who both need time to discover that the person who keeps catching your eye will be the one who catches your heart. Annie Paris plays drums for a local country band and enjoys checking out all the available men at the bars where her band appears each weekend. But the one man she keeps noticing on the second weekend of every month is Rafe McCord, the man they call the Big Cowboy. And after several months, it’s finally clear to Annie that Rafe has been noticing her just as much. The only question remaining is whether or not either one of them will make a move to do more than just exchange heated stares.
This story had the two things I want most in an erotic romance - hot sex and real affection between the hero and heroine. It wasn’t just about the sex, but that didn’t keep the sex from being just as incredible as each of them had hoped. I give it 5 stars.
Ladies Love Country Boys by Cat Johnson
What do you do when you’re stranded with a broken-down rental car on the outskirts of Austin, with no prospect of rescue for several hours? You walk on over to the rodeo which just happens to be within walking distance to hang out for a while and see the sights. It’s a rare lucky break for Julia Craven that those sights happen to include a handsome cowboy waiting his turn to ride a bull. By the time the tow truck arrives to rescue Julia, she’ll have her preconceptions about her preferences in men all tossed around like that cowboy on the bull.
This was a classic erotic encounter, with a heroine out of her element looking for a fling, and a hero happy to oblige the lady. The story was well paced and the ending was satisfying. I give it 4.5 stars.
Drought by Michael Bracken
It’s clear that the title of this story refers to more than just the lack of rainfall in the corner of Texas where Cade Garrett meets Amanda Wilcox. She’s the new schoolteacher in town and he’s the handsome rancher who immediately takes charge when he finds her injured in a ditch on the side of the road. When they meet again later after she’s healed, he takes command once more to escalate their connection to the next level. Clearly the drought is nearly at an end.
This was the perfect length as a short story, but it would have just as easily worked as the opening chapter for a longer story with Cade and Amanda. I liked that Cade didn’t take advantage of Amanda in her injured state, but was content to bide his time until she was ready to take the next step. I give it 4 stars.
Roped by Charlene Teglia
Unlike the previous stories in this anthology, the hero and heroine in Roped already have a history. Regan and Jonas spent one perfect night together after high school graduation, before she left town the next morning for law school while he was still sleeping in the hotel bed they’d shared. For ten years, Jonas had no idea where she’d gone or if she’d gotten pregnant. Now that her sister has contrived to get Regan back in his path again, he’s going to keep her tied up until she admits she still wants him as much as he has never stopped wanting her.
The chemistry between Regan and Jonas was riveting and the way her sister Nancy got them together was wonderfully devious, but I couldn’t help thinking that ten years was an awfully long time to be unable to find someone if you really wanted them in your life that badly. Still, their reunion was a fun read, and the ending worked well. I give it 3.5 stars.
Rough Stock by M. Marie
This was one of the stories that didn’t conform to my usual expectations of a cowboy romance. It’s told from the point of view of Dawson, a young ranch hand in love with Kennedy, his employer’s daughter. Kennedy is making her first bronco ride since her recent near-fatal fall while Dawson is remembering fondly how she’d ridden him just the day before. The rest of the story is all about those two rides and how they intersect at the end.
I liked the way this story was told with almost no dialogue and how the symmetry between Dawson and Kennedy’s physical encounter and the physical danger of her ride led up to the neatly understated ending. I give it 4 stars.
The Ranch Hand by Sedona Fox
It took me a few pages to realize that this story was set in a more distant past, at a time when a father could include the hand of his only daughter in the sale of his cattle ranch. Charlene still can’t believe that her beloved father would sell her off to to a wealthy businessman from another state and that she is expected to marry this man she hasn’t even met. When the businessman sends Jesse Broadwell to check out the ranch - and her - Charlene vows not to change her routine or put on any silly girly airs to impress this man. But she can’t help but be attracted to him physically, and the feeling is definitely mutual. At least she’ll have this chance for one moment of happiness before she spends the rest of her life married to the highest bidder.
This was one of my favorites, although I couldn’t help thinking that I wouldn’t have been as forgiving as Charlene by the time the story ended. I loved her scenes with Jesse, and how they warmed up to each other gradually over the week before her future husband was due to arrive. I give it 4.5 stars.
Small Town Famous by Lissa Matthews
This is the story of a loud and proud couple who just don’t care what anyone else thinks about them. Tommy Martin and Bethann Pritchard have been together for eighteen years but never managed to make it legal. Tommy didn’t think they had to get married because everyone in town already know Bethann was his. Bethann, on the other hand, is getting mighty tired of every barely legal buckle bunny shoving their assets in her man’s face and has reached her breaking point. Now that Bethann is locked up in the town jail for threatening the sheriff’s daughter with a double barrel shotgun, Tommy is finally seeing the appeal of putting a ring on her finger at long last.
I am sad to say that I did not like reading this story very much. It seemed like it was just trying too hard to be wacky and fun, but to me it just seemed forced and silly. I was embarrassed for Tommy and I pitied Bethann for staying with someone who clearly had no idea what marriage meant to her. I give it 2 stars.
The Storm by Tahira Iqbal
Another story, another heroine in need of rescue. Candace and Brent meet when her SUV is caught in a flash flood and he saves her from being drowned inside it. They return to his home, where we soon find out is that they are already known to each other and have been unhappily apart for several months. When Candace thinks about what she has nearly lost, she realizes that it’s not too late to reclaim what she needs. Sometimes it takes nearly dying to know what you are missing in life.
Although Brent almost seems too good to be true, I enjoyed his quiet confidence in Candace’s ability to finally see what was right in front of her. I give it 3.5 stars.
Caught Unawares by Nena Clements
I always enjoy romances where the heroine is the little sister of the hero’s best friend, and this one was no exception. Reece had always been attracted to Thad’s little sister, Lacy, but would never have dared to risk the anger of his best friend by ever making any kind of move toward her. It took Lacy going after what she wanted and what she wanted was Reece.
The whole story is just the one scene of Lacy doing to Reece what the title implies, and it ends exactly as it should. I give it 4 stars.
Some Like It Dirty by Kimber Vale
Once again we have a heroine out of her element in need of rescue and a cowboy who is ready to help her out. Jenna would be happier in a big city, surrounded by designer boutiques and well dressed men to treat her with deference. Thanks to her hybrid rental car dying on the way to her next client meeting, she’s out in the middle of nowhere, wondering how she’ll get back to civilization. Then a stranger appears on a horse, ready to lend a helping hand. That hand - as well as the rest of him - is covered with dirt and goodness knows what else, which makes Jenna understandably leery about getting up on a horse and riding away with him. But when he takes the decision out of her hands, she can’t help but be intrigued and aroused by him...and wondering what she might find under all that dirt.
If only we could all have a hot dirty cowboy ride up and save us like this. I should have seen the ending coming up Main Street but I was too distracted by how great they were together once Jenna got a look at her cowboy after his shower. I give it 4.5 stars.
Raney's Last Ride by Chaparrita
This was probably my favorite story of all, but it was more sad than happy. It is a tale of the Old West, where bad things happen to good people and how it changes those people in drastic ways. There is great love and great loss, and terrible brutality. There is also justice for those who bide their time and will stop at nothing to make it happen.
I don’t know if this story is for everyone, but it touched me deeply and I was glad that the ending was as happy as it could be, given all that had happened before. I give it 5 stars.
Runaway Bride by Delilah Devlin
This was another story where the hero has literally captured the heroine in order to force her to see that she belongs with him, but it didn’t work as well for me as the others. Sammi Jo was supposed to marry Jackson but she left him at the altar and now he’s got her tied to his bed so she can’t get away again without an explanation.
I got the same feeling from this as with “Small Town Famous” - that the story was trying too hard to be cute and wacky, but failing miserably. The reason that Sammi Jo had run away from her wedding was ridiculous (IMHO) and both she and Jackson were so annoying that by the time they finally made love, I just didn’t care. I give it 2 stars.
She Don't Stay The Night by Anna Meadows
The last story in the anthology takes place in Mexico, where Buckley Carver, a homeless blond boy, appears at the door of Adabella’s house. She is only fifteen and is sure he is nearly the same age. They connect on an emotional level and grow up with the implicit understanding that they will one day be together. When Adabella is nearly eighteen, her mother sends her away to live with her aunt and learn how to be a lady. She worries that Buckley will forget her, that he will hurt or kill himself with his need to ride wild horses bareback. Then she returns and they begin the rest of their lives.
It’s hard for me to say much about this story because I just didn’t connect with it at all. It seemed to be so intent on being lyrical and literary (and long!) that I lost interest before Adabella had even returned from the stay with her aunt. It’s likely that the problem is entirely with me and not the story. But it seemed incredibly out of place when compared with the other stories and was a disappointing finish to an anthology that had started out so well. I give it 2.5 stars.