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For the Love of Cowboys

by Beth Cranford

Friends, I think we need to talk.

Now, don’t panic. I’m not breaking up with you — no way, no how. But I need you to know that I flove cowboys. And I know what you’re thinking, Beth, you love everything. That’s simply not true, just ask my husband. #Sarcasm #JustKidding

My love of cowboys is well known around these parts — Donna and I have discussed the virtue of men in chaps, repairing fences (they’re always repairing fences, that’s not just me, surely?), and generally being swoony. Verdict: she’s not quite as far down the cowboy fangirl path as I, but I have hope for her yet. My personal love was born all the way back in 2014, when I was still a f̶r̶e̶s̶h̶-̶f̶a̶c̶e̶d̶,̶ ̶w̶e̶l̶l̶ ̶r̶e̶s̶t̶e̶d̶ new mother with a breastfeeding baby and a new-ish love for reading romance books on Kindle, and had picked up a few freebies that’d been shared on a blog I followed.

Some of them, I never got around to and are still sadly languishing on my Kindle Cloud, waiting for their moment of glory. But one of them, Kristen Proby’s Come Away With Me did exactly what a free book promotion is supposed to do: it sucked me in until I had no choice but to buy and read every book that came after it. And one of those books was Loving Cara, the first book in Proby’s Love Under the Big Sky series.

“I’m a simple woman at heart — I see a man in a cowboy hat and unbuttoned shirt, and I one-click. #NoShameInThisGame.”

It wasn’t the first cowboy book I’d read — a quick look back at my Kindle (and my reading journal) tells me I’d also read and enjoyed books like Nice Shootin’ Tex and Rustled — but there was something about Loving Cara that made me want to read more cowboys. And whew, once I made that realization, I did not hold back. I devoured book after book after book that, in Bites-speak, fall under keyword Cowboys/Ranchers. I won’t lie and say I loved them all; of course, in amongst the dozens of books I read through the nights when I was awake with my little dude, I found some duds. It’s an accepted fact of life that not everything is going to work for everyone.

But, on the whole, cowboys worked for me. *Sighs dramatically* I loved (still love, actually) the heart of cowboy books, because they usually reside within a tight family or friend group, in a supportive small town where everyone knows everyone else, and they all help each other find and keep love. Yes, there’s often some mention of church and Him, and as someone not particularly religious, it’s not always the most relatable, but when paired with an ideal world where we all just accept and love one another, no questions asked, it simply adds to that feel of goodness I get.

Since discovering my preference, I have continued to seek those cowboys out, developing a kind of Pavlov’s Dog reaction to seeing a one on a book cover. I’m a simple woman (read: basic white girl) at heart — I see a man in a cowboy hat and unbuttoned shirt, and I one-click. #NoShameInThisGame. Maybe there should be. I have reader friends that don’t understand my love of men in chaps and hats, for a multitude of reasons — including but not limited to the aforementioned use of religion in setting the scene, and because of the prevalence of old-fashioned mores in some of the more traditionally written books. But, at the end of the day, who’s to tell me that loving cowboys is wrong? No-one, that’s who.

On a scale of one to ten, how much would you judge me for confessing that I could stare at this cover for a good ten minutes while imagining myself as his heroine?

My most recent cowboy read came in the form of Donna Grant’s A Cowboy Kind of Love. It’s actually not as cowboy-ish as one might expect from the cover and title. Grant’s Heart of Texas series might have those sexy boot-scootin’ boys to draw y̶o̶u̶ me in, but that’s not all they are. They’re also former military men (or in law enforcement), and their ladies are in trouble. With a capital T. That means action-packed, edge-of-your-seat romantic suspense, served in a downhome setting.

A Cowboy Kind of Love is no exception. From the first chapter it’s part mystery, part second chance romance, part thriller. Jace Wilder and Taryn Hillman are finding their way back to one another, but for that to work, the monsters in Taryn’s past — the ones that tore them apart in the first place — have to be vanquished. Yes, I guess it could be argued that there are some moments in A Cowboy Kind of Love that border on unbelievable and over the top. But hear me on this: I. Don’t. Care. I read paranormal romance with vampires and shifters and demons and angels, for crying out loud. Do you think an outlandish but exciting plot that comes complete with a romance that makes me believe in fairytales is going to put me off? Um, no.

The beauty in this book — and books like it — isn’t in the fact that it could happen in real life. It’s in the writing, the emotion, the way it draws you into the book and makes you set aside any prejudices or preconceptions about what’s real and possible and good and bad, and just lets you enjoy the experience of reading.

And maybe that’s one of the reasons I love cowboy books so damn much. I don’t live on a ranch. I grew up on the Mornington Peninsula in Victoria, Australia, and now live in a North Carolina city that might not be large in population but isn’t exactly farm/ranch country either. Every page of a cowboy book is an experience for me — and it’s an idealized one. Where religion doesn’t hurt people and the bad guys are easily identified and dispatched. Where families aren’t separated by time and distance, and everyone knows how to cook the absolute best chili in the world. (I even don’t like chili IRL — I had it once, never again, kthxbye). Where that same family can gather around a table to eat a meal one minute and “circle the wagons” the next when one of their number is in need.

That’s for sure what happens in A Cowboy Kind of Love. Jace had his heartbroken by Taryn’s departure and all of his friends stood by his side as he weathered that pain — and continued to hurt despite the intervening years. But upon her return, explanation in hand and in dire need of a hero or six, they came together and fought for her, for Jace. For friendship.

And I can believe it because I want to believe it. I want to believe that the romanticized version of cowboys is the real version. Maybe one day I’ll get to visit Montana or Wyoming or the Heart of Texas and get a startling dose of reality, but until then, I’m just going to keep looking out for cowboys. Much like my fictional ranchers are constantly on the lookout for broken fences.

“Do you think an outlandish but exciting plot that comes complete with a romance that makes me believe in fairytales is going to put me off? Um, no.”

Who wants to rodeo again?

Jace Wilder has been rebuilding his life since the love of his life, Taryn, up and left town unexpectedly. But when she mysteriously returns, Jace’s dependable world comes crashing down. Taryn is hiding a dangerous secret, and no matter how hard he tries, Jace can’t stay away—especially when Taryn is at risk. And especially when the attraction he thought he’d buried long ago is back and hotter than ever. Will he be able to trust Taryn again?

Taryn Hillman’s world fell apart one horrifying night, and it’s never been the same since. When she sees a small chance at untangling herself, she takes it, though it means returning to Clearview – and seeing Jace again. But when he vows to protect her, will Taryn take a chance, and this time, never let him go?

Do you love cowboys too? Check out some of my faves!

Click on the cover that most appeals to read the blurb and grab your copy. And hey, if I missed your favorite cowboy, then please, please, I want to know. I can’t go through life with unread cowboys *grabs pearls*.

About Beth

Beth Cranford was born and raised in Australia, but followed her heart (and her husband) to the United States in her late 20s. As the mother of two kids, she’s learned that you can turn anything into a song and that slime does not belong in carpeted areas (or polite society). You can most often find her with her Kindle in hand, listening to Taylor Swift on repeat, or spending way too many hours playing Animal Crossing.

Follow her @BethCranford on B+M Bites.

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