Do you know what this book made me realize? I don’t seem to read any Westerns. The last Western Romance I can remember reading was Never Love a Lawman by Jo Goodman back in 2009, and that was only because I buy pretty much whatever she writes. Before that? Your guess is as good as mine. But why is that? I’ve enjoyed the ones I’ve read and I remember reading a lot more of them back in the day, so why don’t I seek out more of them? Something to ponder later, I suppose.
I really liked this book. I haven’t read anything by Jodi Thomas before, but I plan to rectify that soon. There wasn’t a lot of drama or outside influences on the relationship. It was just a simple romance between two people who were surprised to find themselves in love with each other. I finished the book light of heart, smiling, and pleased that I discovered a new author to keep an eye on.
One of the things I loved most about Lewt was his humble personality and easy going nature. His ruse seemed black and white on the surface, but when I read his thoughts and the games he played by pretending it all was real, my heart hurt for him. Here was a guy who decided to travel to show his friend that he, a gambler, was good enough to court his friend’s cousins. It seemed like a joke to poke at his friend and to smooth out his own hurt feelings, not meant to be malicious at all, but then he started dreaming about turning the ruse into reality.
What was so sad was that even when he finally got around the women he never genuinely tried to court them. The potential romance lived purely in his head and whenever another man seemed to capture one of the sisters’ fancy, he seamlessly moved on to imagining what it would be like to have one of the other sisters as a wife. He may have talked a good game about assuming one of them would fall for him, but I honestly believe that he never thought it would actually happen, so he just kept to his dreams and spoke of his yearnings to Em. He broke my heart at times with his casual acceptance, and I just wanted to reach through the pages and hug him.
Em was another great character. I loved that her aversion to being touched wasn’t played out as some huge drama. Her reaction to it occurred naturally, and neither she nor he turned it into something it wasn’t. Lewt didn’t skirt around the issue and handled the situation beautifully. I like that he was so kind before he even became attracted to her. I can understand Em’s resistance to her cousin’s plans and I really liked that their deceptions mirrored each other.
Em was gruff and impatient at times, but you could easily see what everyone else loved about her. They may not have shown it on the surface—as they weren’t idiots and could read her Stay Back sign a mile away—but Em was deeply cared for by all. I loved that she and Lewt didn’t start their relationship out with a genuine desire for each other’s company. Lewt just wanted to learn more about ranching, and Em reluctantly agreed to humor him. Her opinion of him wasn’t very positive in the beginning, but his easy going nature, hard work, and genuine niceness won her round eventually.
By midmorning Em decided the tall man following her every step must be the dumbest greenhorn alive. He barely knew which end of a horse to feed. He fell several times in the damp pasture because of his slippery shoes. He frightened his own mount once by yelling and she had to go round up his horse.
If he hadn’t been so funny, she might have given up pushing him. The man was a walking train wreck, and the idea that he might marry one of the McMurray women made her laugh. At this rate she’d be dead of old age before he learned enough to even talk ranching and make sense. But she had to give him credit. He never stopped trying.
I loved that Lewt and Em didn’t really register as attractive to each other in the beginning of their relationship. They became friends first and slowly came to see each other as more. It made it seem all the more genuine and heartfelt when they did finally share that first kiss. Their relationship together was so fun and perfect. I sighed a little when they finally had their Happily Ever After.
The only issue I had that dimmed my enjoyment of the book was the secondary pov sections devoted to Duncan McMurray, Lewton’s friend, and all the issues at the end relating to him. I found my attention wandering during those parts and was impatient to get back to the main couple. Luckily they didn’t last too long and I was able to focus back on Lewt and Em.
Despite being part of a series, this book stood on its own extremely well. As far as I can tell, the only thing that ties these books together is that they’re all about the McMurray family. Unless I’ve misunderstood, it looks like this book is the beginning of the second generation of the McMurrays. That makes me feel even more confident that there’s not much of a strong tie to the preceding books. If you’re interested and want to jump into the series with this one I don’t think you should have a problem at all.
“Take off your trousers,” she said as she lined up what she needed on the table.
“Not a chance.” He winked, making her laugh. “You’ve finally given an order I don’t plan on following.”
“Look, mister, if you don’t have four legs and eat grass, I’m not interested in you. Do we have that clear?”
He shrugged. “So this is no love nest you tricked me into, planning to get me in bed and take advantage of me?”
“Lewt, the only way you’ll be laid out in that bed is after I shoot you for wasting my time. Now strip off those trousers.”