Review: Slow Burn Cowboy by Maisey Yates + Giveaway

Review: Slow Burn Cowboy by Maisey Yates + GiveawaySlow Burn Cowboy (Copper Ridge, #7) by Maisey Yates
Format: eARC
Source: publisher via NetGalley
Formats available: paperback, ebook, audiobook
Genres: contemporary romance
Series: Copper Ridge #7
Pages: 384
Published by Harlequin Books on April 18th 2017
Purchasing Info: Author's WebsitePublisher's WebsiteAmazonBarnes & NobleKoboBook Depository
Goodreads

In Copper Ridge, Oregon, a cowboy's best friend might turn out to be the woman of his dreams…
If Finn Donnelly makes a plan, he sticks to it. After his brothers left Copper Ridge, Finn stayed behind, determined to keep their ranch going by himself. And when he realized his feelings for Lane Jensen were more than platonic, he shoved that inconvenient desire away. It was easy…until it wasn't. Suddenly his brothers are coming home to claim their share of the property. And Lane is no longer just in his fantasies. She's in his arms, and their friendship is on the line…
He's been her buddy, her handyman, her rock. But until that one breathtaking kiss, Lane somehow overlooked the most important thing about Finn Donnelly—he's all man. They're right together, no matter how much his volatile past has bruised him. Finn wants to hold Lane's body, but he doesn't want to hold her heart. But Lane is falling fast and now she's got a plan of her own…to show Finn there's nothing hotter than friendship turned to slow-burning love.

My Review:

I loved Last Chance Rebel, and my friend Amy loved Hold Me Cowboy, so I expected to love Slow Burn Cowboy. But that’s not what happened.

Instead I have very much of a mixed feelings review on tap. Very mixed.

The friends-to-lovers trope is one of my favorites, so again, I was expecting to like the story line in this book. But something, actually multiple somethings, don’t quite work.

The set up is excellent, Lane and Finn have been best friends for ten years, ever since Lane left her parents’ home back East and moved to Copper Ridge to live with her brother Matt. At the time, Lane was sixteen and obviously just a bit fragile. Finn was 23 or 24 and more than a bit too old for her.

But that 8 or 9 year gap closes pretty quickly after a few years. Now Lane is in her late 20s and Finn is in his mid-30s. They’re both adults. But they are both still awfully fragile.

They are best friends. Really, truly. They spend time together and they care for each other and they need each other. But they are filling the gaps in each other’s lives that would normally be filled by a spouse or significant other. Not that their relationship isn’t significant, but they have fallen into a situation where they are friends with a different set of benefits. She cooks and buys his clothes, he kills spiders, changes lightbulbs and fixes the porch steps. It works for them.

Until it doesn’t.

Finn’s grandfather has just died. Instead of leaving his ranch to Finn, who has been working with him for that same last bunch of years, the old man left it to Finn and his three half-brothers equally. The Donnelly Brothers are all at crossroads in their lives, and they all move back to the ranch, into the house and the land that Finn expected would be his.

All of their relationships are strained and distant, and no one seems to be happy about any of it. So Finn, in a crazed need to re-establish control over something, anything, in his suddenly chaotic life, decides that he wants more from Lane than he’s ever asked for. He wants to push past their carefully maintained boundaries and turn their relationship into that of friends with the usual benefits.

He thinks its possible to make love and not feel at least a little love. And he’s an idiot.

Finn’s perfectly happy to tear down all of Lane’s defenses and push for whatever he wants. But when Lane turns the tables on him and starts pushing him for what she wants out of a relationship, he pushes her away as hard and as fast as he can.

The question of whether Finn can get his head out of his ass long enough to figure himself out is an open one. Finn needs to open his eyes, and his heart, before he throws away his best chance at happiness. And he needs to grovel.

Escape Rating C+: There was so much potential in Slow Burn Cowboy, but it never quite gels into the book that I was looking forward to.

Both Lane and Finn are damaged people, and neither of them thinks that they are worthy of happiness or love. They protect themselves in different ways. Lane by walling off what hurts her, and Finn by pushing away anyone who might get close enough to hurt him.

It’s amazing that they have managed to sustain a friendship, but they definitely have.

While Finn is a bit of an arsehole about it, his trauma is understandable. His dad seems to have been a serial philanderer, leaving a string of exes with his sons all across the country. Dad left everyone. But his mom also abandoned him. And he’s just sure everyone else will too.

Lane’s trauma just isn’t one that was easy for this reader to identify with. Her sense of loss at giving a baby up for adoption when she was sixteen is understandable, but she’s been wearing the past like a hair shirt ever since, to the point where the hair felt like it had been woven from a drama llama rather than anything real. Her story felt like angst for angst’s sake.

Also, these are two people who live inside their heads an awful lot, which also doesn’t feel right for Finn’s character. It felt like there was much more internal dialog than actual dialog. And Lane tended to think and talk in circles a lot of the time. That’s a habit that drives this reader crazy in real life, not just fictional life.

There are a lot of moments when the reader wants them to just stop talking inside their heads and let those words out where they might do some good!

But, and this is where the good stuff comes in, Copper Ridge just feels like a wonderful place. I like the people a lot. One of the great things in this story is all about the enduring power of women’s friendships. Lane, along with her best female friends, have a terrific, supportive and caring friendship. One of the ways in which Lane comes out of this story stronger than she went in is the realization that she is so much better off than she was when she arrived in Copper Ridge because those friendships will always see her through. She’s not alone, with or without Finn.

Finn’s supporting cast is his family, his three half-brothers and his niece Violet. They have all moved into the ranch and are now part of his life, where they have all been separate and alone up til now. Finn is really, really bad at letting people in, but having them be part of his life, whether he originally wanted it or not, is terrific. They bite and snap and growl at each other all the time, but they are all great characters and I’m looking forward to their stories in future books in the series.

~~~~~~ TOURWIDE GIVEAWAY ~~~~~~

Maisey and Harlequin are giving away a $25 Gift Card to one lucky entrant on this tour.

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This post is part of a TLC book tour. Click on the logo for more reviews and features.

Guest Review: Hold Me, Cowboy by Maisey Yates

Guest Review: Hold Me, Cowboy by Maisey YatesHold Me, Cowboy (Copper Ridge: Desire #2) by Maisey Yates
Format: eARC
Source: publisher via NetGalley
Formats available: paperback, ebook, audiobook
Genres: contemporary romance, holiday romance
Series: Copper Ridge: Desire #2
Pages: 224
Published by Harlequin on November 8th 2016
Purchasing Info: Author's WebsitePublisher's WebsiteAmazonBarnes & NobleKoboBook Depository
Goodreads

Stranded with a cowboy for Christmas…from
New York Times
bestselling author Maisey Yates! 
Oil and water have nothing on Sam McCormack and Madison West. The wealthy rancher has never met a haughtier—or more appealing—woman in his life. And when they're snowed in, he's forced to admit this ice queen can scorch him with one touch… 
Madison had plans for the weekend! Instead she's stranded with a man who drives her wild. A night of no-strings fun leaves both of them wanting more when they return to Copper Ridge. His proposal: twelve days of hot sex before Christmas! But will it ever be enough?

Guest review by Amy:

Madison West just needs to get laid. It’s been a decade, because, well, reasons, and she’s determined it’s about time to shake off the cobwebs. She’s arranged to have a fling with a friendly traveling salesman (I kid you not!) at a nearby rental cabin, up in the mountains. As a snowstorm rolls in, the power goes out. Maddy can see another cabin close by, and their lights are on, so she goes to knock, and finds… Sam.

Sam McCormack, whom she’s been difficult and downright bitchy with for years and years. She calls her fling, only to discover that he can’t get up the mountain. Sam can’t fix the power in her cabin easily, so they’re stuck together for the night. So Maddy fulfills her plan with Sam, who conveniently has been a little hard up in the romantic department for a while, too. They walk away after their fun weekend together, with no strings attached.

It’s not that easy, of course; it never is, or Hold Me, Cowboy would be a really short book. Our lovers see that they got away with their fling slick as a pickpocket. After a dose of their long-practiced sniping at each other, they decide to have more fun. Sam is a farrier and artist, with most of his business savvy coming from his brother Chase; Maddy is part of the aristocracy of Copper Ridge, a horse trainer on her father’s ranch.

Conventional spoiled-rich-girl-falls-for-hired-hand romance, right? Not so fast.

Escape Rating: A-. Over the course of their affair, we learn why Madison had gone so long alone–as a 17-year-old, she’d had a crush on, and been badly treated by, her dressage instructor, and her father and pretty much the whole town had sided against her in the matter. It’s a classic case of victim-blaming, when they were discovered. It’s a frustrating case of art echoing life, as author Maisey Yates shows us the inside of Maddy’s thoughts, and the long-term impact this too-common problem can have on women. She’s understandably gun-shy about getting in a relationship with Sam, fearing the same abandonment will happen again.

For Sam’s part, he’s had a tragedy in his life too: a former lover, who had dumped him, then died of a hemorrhage from an ectopic pregnancy with his child. She’d called out for him, and he’d rushed to the hospital, but her family was not having him near her, and then she was gone. Sam has not allowed himself to grieve; he seems stuck on the fact that her family lost so much more than he did, and that means he hasn’t the right to grieve his own loss.

Over the course of their falling for each other, both of them reveal this–for the first time–to each other, and they give each other much-needed comfort, and permission to let down the guards of fear and loss that they have both held up for so long. In the denouement, this lets Sam free himself as an artist, and not do just the to-him boring works he’d been turning out, but art that expresses what is going on in his heart.

I enjoyed this story thoroughly; it’s an easy read, with a well-executed sense of place and time, and believable characters that I could really identify with. Hold Me, Cowboy explores the headspace of two very broken individuals, who manage to find the peace they need, not just in (very) plentiful wicked sex, but in each other’s hearts. There was one slightly sour note for me, in the unfinished business between Maddy and her father; Nathan West clearly needs a good talking-to, and he never gets it, nor is it alluded to that Sam is intending to help her settle that lingering stress in her life. It’s the only downbeat I can give an otherwise fantastic story. I strongly recommend this book and intend to hunt up other of Yates’ works for my reading list.

Review: Last Chance Rebel by Maisey Yates + Giveaway

Review: Last Chance Rebel by Maisey Yates + GiveawayLast Chance Rebel (Copper Ridge, #6) by Maisey Yates
Format: eARC
Source: publisher via NetGalley
Formats available: paperback, ebook, audiobook
Genres: contemporary romance
Series: Copper Ridge #6
Pages: 384
Published by HQN Books on August 30th 2016
Purchasing Info: Author's WebsitePublisher's WebsiteAmazonBarnes & NobleKoboBook Depository
Goodreads

The prodigal son of Copper Ridge, Oregon, has finally come home 
The man who ruined Rebecca Bear's life just strolled back into it with one heck of an offer. Years ago, Gage West's recklessness left Rebecca scarred inside and out. Now he wants to make amends by gifting her the building that houses her souvenir store. Rebecca won't take Gage's charity, but she's willing to make a deal with the sexy, reclusive cowboy. Yet keeping her enemy close is growing dangerously appealing… 
He's the wild West brother, the bad seed of Copper Ridge. That's why Gage needs the absolution Rebecca offers. He just didn't expect to need her. After years of regretting his past, he knows where his future lies—with this strong, irresistible woman who could make a black sheep come home to stay…

My Review:

This is a challenging book. I mean that in the sense that it grabs the reader by the throat at the beginning, and doesn’t let go until the very end.

This also isn’t an easy story in a whole lot of ways. Our heroine begins the story brittle and scarred. Our hero has been her “monster in the closet” for well over a decade. He inflicted those scars. It’s over the course of the story that Rebecca discovers that, while Gage was most definitely the cause of her physical scars, the way that she has waved those scars as a flag, or used them as a whip and a chair to keep other people from getting too close, is pretty much all on her.

And while she is the one who carried all of the physical pain, Gage left with plenty of scars of his own. It’s just that all of his are on the inside. And even more self-inflicted, in more ways than one.

The beginning of this story happened long ago. Way back when Rebecca was a pre-teen and Gage was the town’s self-indulgent golden boy. He was also 18, making him young, dumb and too full of himself and testosterone. There’s a reason that teenage boys and cars are so frequently a dangerous mix.

Gage was playing “chicken” with his equally young and dumb friends, and crashed into an oncoming car. The car containing Rebecca and her mother. Gage and Rebecca’s mother both walked away with a few scratches, but Rebecca was carried out torn and twisted. Her needs and her rehabilitation drove her mother away. If her brother, barely 21, hadn’t stepped up, she’d have ended up in the foster care system or worse.

Gage’s father made it all go away. He paid off the family, and no charges were ever pressed. Gage ran away, and stayed away, for 17 years. Long enough for Rebecca and his siblings to grow up, and for his father to get old. He only comes back to fix his father’s surprisingly empty finances when the old man has a stroke.

So he decides to fix everything broken he left in Copper Ridge, starting with Rebecca. There’s an immediate problem with his plan – Rebecca doesn’t see herself as broken at all, and wants absolutely nothing to do with the man who she believes ruined her life.

And Gage refuses to take into account that the most broken person of all in this mess is Gage himself. His plan is to ride in, fix everything, and leave, never letting anyone else get close to him. He’s certain that’s what he deserves.

But Rebecca challenges him at every turn. She doesn’t want his money, she doesn’t need his help. She’s made a success of her life, owning her own store and her own house, having taken her determination to get beyond her injuries and make her own life.

But Gage continues to push, and Rebecca keeps pushing back. It is a very, very short distance between hate and love, especially when the person you’ve hated is just a monster in the closet, and the real flesh and blood person is so much more.

A relationship that should never have been helps Rebecca see into her broken places. Not the physical ones, but the emotional wounds she carries inside. And bringing those wounds into the light makes her whole, whether Gage is willing to go there with her, or not.

Escape Rating A-: There’s a grit to this story, and the character of Rebecca, that reminds me a whole lot of the utterly awesome, and incredibly hot After Hours by Cara McKenna. I’m not totally sure why, but it does. So if you like the one, you’ll probably like the other.

Rebecca’s character is what makes this story so good. We see inside her, and it’s not a pretty place. There’s nothing horrible, but she’s become much, much too good at keeping people at a distance. She’s afraid to let anyone close out of the fear that they might leave just the way her mother did. So she’s walling herself off from an emotional life. While there certainly is some truth that in a society that judges women on their appearance her scars might put some men off, she also keeps herself from developing close female friendships. She doesn’t let anyone in. And people who know her history let her have her way. She uses their pity at the same time she rejects it.

When Gage bursts into her life, she is forced to rethink many of her assumptions. Not just the ones about him, but the ones she has made about herself and everyone else. She finally figures out that her hatred of him, and her anger at her mother’s abandonment, aren’t hurting either of them. They are just holding her back. That she learns to let go, for her own sake and not for theirs, is the lesson of the book.

However, Gage holds himself back during the entire story. We don’t see the real him, or his real emotional state (which is a mess) until very, very late in the story. So he never becomes as strong a hero as she is a heroine. In some ways, he’s the rock that she dashes herself upon until she finally cracks open and lets all the bad stuff out. She needs that, but it it leaves his character and motivations a bit lacking.

There’s one final thought I want to leave you with. Something that Rebecca says near the end of the book has a great deal of resonance, not just for this story, but for life in general.

“Don’t hide it. And don’t pretend it isn’t there. That’s how we make monsters… By hiding ordinary things in the closet and letting them feed off the darkness.”

Rebecca lets the light in, no matter how much it hurts. That’s a big part of what makes her awesome.

~~~~~~ TOURWIDE GIVEAWAY ~~~~~~

Harlequin is giving away a $25 Amazon Gift Card to one lucky entrant on this tour:

a Rafflecopter giveaway

TLC
This post is part of a TLC book tour. Click on the logo for more reviews and features.