Maisey Yates continues her Copper Ridge, Oregon saga in yet another of Miss Bates’s belated Christmas romance reads, Hold Me, Cowboy. It was the perfect antidote to the bad after-taste of Sandas’s Untouchable Earl. Miss Bates was captured and gave a rueful chuckle when she read in Yates’s first chapter: ” ‘I just need to … I need to rip the Band-Aid off.’ ‘The Band-Aid?’ ‘The sex Band-Aid.’ He nodded, pretending that he understood. ‘Okay.’ ‘I want this,’ she said, her tone confident. ‘Are you … suggesting … that I give you … sexual healing?’ ” You see, dear reader, Miss Bates suffered from nearly 300 pages of “sexual healing” in her previous rom-read/review and it brought out the snark big-time, but Yates understands the fundamental untruthfulness of the healing in “sexual healing.” It takes all manner of touch to heal. What distinguishes romance from erotica is that the central couple may start with sexual touch, but to make a romance and reach the HEA, there must be other kinds of touch, motivated by emotions that aren’t lust, emerging from the impetus to comfort, care for, and succour. To give Sandas some credit, Miss Bates thinks she understood that, but failed in execution. Yates, on the other hand, did the clever and adroit romance writer thing: there’s lust and it’s pleasurable for her protagonists, but it’s a stopgap to other kinds of touch and talk that will connect, bind, and drive them to an HEA of commitment, fidelity, and love.
What brings Hold Me, Cowboy‘s hero and heroine to have the above tongue-in-cheek, trope-twisting exchange? The romance’s opening contains masterful hero and heroine verbal sparring. After a ten-year sexual drought, Madison West is ready to slake her thirst with a safe choice. She rented a cabin away from Copper Ridge, drove up, donned lacy lingerie, and awaits his arrival. Sadly, the only thing arriving is a snowstorm and power failure. Clad in her seduction ensemble and a parka, she makes her way to a light-and-warmth-emitting nearby cabin for help. Lo and behold, her long-time nemesis, West family ranch farrier and now also successful sculptor, Sam McCormack is there. Their surprise encounter tells you what a talented romance writer Yates is:
He didn’t like Madison West … he’d never received one polite word from her. But then, he’d never given one either. She was sleek, blonde and freezing cold – and he didn’t mean because she had just come in from the storm. The woman carried her own little snow cloud right above her head at all times, and he wasn’t a fan of ice princesses. Something about her had always been like a burr beneath his skin that he couldn’t get at. “Thank you,” she said crisply, stepping over the threshold. “You’re rich and pretty,” he said … “And I’m poor. And kind of an ass. It wouldn’t do for me to let you die out there in a snowdrift. I would probably end up getting hung.
In one short passage, Yates accomplishes a lot. She establishes the cross-class trope of rich girl slumming it with the farrier. She gives us delightful sparring-banter. And, by the way, Yates is no metaphoric slouch, look at Maddie’s response to Sam thereafter: “He was the deadly serpent to her Indiana Jones.” Reading Yates is fun: her protagonists are witty and sharp-tongued and they don’t hold back from speaking their minds.
Sam and Maddie don’t only verbally swipe at each other. They share some irritated fascination and, since Maddie was determined to end the drought and Sam is gorgeous, they agree to sleep together for the twelve days leading to Christmas. While they’re both hard and sarcastic, their shells hide a world of hurt. Maddie and Sam are haunted and stunted by pasts failed, stalled, or badly concluded relationships. They’ve allowed those bad experiences to dictate their lives by withdrawing, protectively, into solitude, pride, and fear of being hurt. Their sexual encounters turn into something more, even when Sam, in particular, is the more closed off and resistant of the two. Yates has rightly identified something important when at-core-monogamously-inclined heroes and heroines have a friends-with-benefits arrangement, or temporary sexual affairs, one understanding conversation, one revelation of vulnerability, one tender, or comforting touch and, suddenly, we have a whole new emotional ballgame.
This happens to Maddie and Sam. They’re good people, vulnerable and emotionally starved: how they answer these needs for each other is psychologically astute and fidelity-and-love-affirming. But a niggling dissatisfaction entered Miss Bates’s love for one of her favourite romance authors. Yes, she’ll still read and enjoy Yates, because Yates can read and write the heart like very few. BUT, Miss Bates did notice that nothing ever happens in Copper Ridge. Couples meet, often initially under quite original and engaging circumstances, and then the novel devolves into the revelation of past hurts and realization of present feelings in conversation, with some amorous scenes thrown in. Miss Bates doesn’t need a lot of plot, but some scene-setting and external events would break the confessional monotony. Misses Austen and Bates, nevertheless, would say that Hold Me, Cowboy, Yates’s twelfth? Copper Ridge romance, still has the power to offer “real comfort,” Emma.
Maisey Yates’s Hold Me, Cowboy is published by Harlequin Books. It was released in November of 2016 and is available at your preferred vendors. Miss Bates received an e-ARC from Harlequin, via Netgalley.