Seduce_Me_CowboyJonathan Bear, grumpy, huge, solitary, made several cameo appearances in previous Copper Ridge romances, as heroine Rebecca Bear’s overprotective, gruff, and scary older brother in Last Chance Rebel, one of the many Yates contemporary roms set in Copper Ridge, Oregon. With each one Miss Bates picks up, she thinks this’ll be the one to break her, the one where she throws her hands up and says, “I’m done with this series.” Well, hell no. Seduce Me, Cowboy is fresh and moving and one of the best of the lot. It gripped MissB., kept her up till the wee hours. She’d been drumming her fingers in impatience and anticipation of Jonathan’s story and Yates delivered, giving him an unlikely yet perfect heroine. Twenty-four to Jonathan’s thirty-five, Hayley Thompson is already far removed from Jonathan. She is a “good girl” to his “bastard son of the biggest bastard in town,” a beloved, coddled, and protected pastor’s daughter to his abusive, abandoned childhood, and virgin to his one-night-stands experience. But Hayley is preparing to break out, to be more than what she calls her family’s “beloved goldfish” and she starts by taking a job with the elusive, mysterious, and bearish Jonathan Bear, on her way out of Copper Ridge and the first step to her “plan for independence.”     

And that’s really about it plot-wise. Yates has never been interested in plot; sometimes that works well for her and, infrequently, it leaves her with a hot mess. In Jonathan and Hayley’s case, Yates’s romance is near-perfect. Yates is a romance writer more interested in what Miss Bates calls emotional archaeology. She loves to unearth her characters’ deepest fears, their shameful obstacles to loving and accepting love. The emotional strain between her hero and heroine is often played out, though not ultimately reconciled, in the love scenes. Because the flesh knows and recognizes the Beloved way before the mind and heart follow. This is Yates’s romance credo and it is compatible with Miss Bates’s viewpoint, which is maybe why Miss B. has never, and will never, be able to quit reading Yates … though, at times, it certainly does feel as if her books are coming out fast and furious.

One of the many things Miss Bates loves about Yates’s romances is the disorienting strangeness of the hero and heroine’s initial encounter. In this case, Hayley knocks on Jonathan’s house-door, his new enormous state-of-the-art house that he had built with his own company (a custom-homes building business, Gray Bear Construction) in response to an ad he put in the paper for a secretary-PA-cook. To Hayley, Jonathan is ” … somebody who towered over her like a redwood.” And to Jonathan, Hayley is a “pale, strange little creature who looked twenty and wore the outfit of an eighty-year-old woman.” There is no attraction, no insta-lust, no starry eyes, or bulging muscles, to Hayley, Jonathan is stolidity, something hard and natural to confront. And for Jonathan, Hayley is ghost-like, something vague, unrecognizable, alien, and NOT impressive. Yates’s skill as a romance writer is to take that initial oddness and turn it into awareness, turn awareness into sexual attraction, attraction into desire, and desire into recognition. With recognition comes resistance: resistance is the pull of love, the protective layers of the character’s psyche to oppose emotional exposure and vulnerability.

The purpose of an archaelogical dig is to bring the past into the light of understanding. And this is the trajectory of Yates’s romances: to bring to light her characters’ secret fears of rejection, abandonment, shame, admitting love to someone who may not love them back. And no one is stronger and yet more fearful than Jonathan Bear. In the end, Hayley is the emotionally stronger of the two, but she too has fears. She is just better at working them out. Jonathan’s experience of parental abuse and abandonment has made him resist relying on anyone but himself. He has worked to amass wealth and security as bulwarks against the precariousness of human love, of relying on another person. He has ensured financial security, but his heart is a great, big, hungry old hole, cavernous and needy. And Pale Miss Hayley totally fills it. That’s when Jonathan runs as far and as wide as he can.

Hayley’s fears come from both her identity and rejection of being the “good girl,” the pastor’s daughter, who wants to break away from and yet fears her family’s disapproval. Or, rather, fears losing their approval, a subtle distinction, but an important one. Hayley has to learn to live with not always being the perfect daughter, the one with the town’s undivided admiration for her virtue. Between Jonathan’s emotional reticence and Hayley’s “keeping up appearances” despite the affair with the town bad-boy, these two have much to overcome. Yates keeps the emotional tension as taut as the sexual, even the love scenes, though anatomically ordinary, are emotionally edgy. And what Miss Bates really liked here is that, thanks to Jonathan’s and Hayley’s weaknesses, the romance betrayal, a crucial moment in every romance narrative, is mutual. Jonathan and Hayley betray each other and are betrayed by the other, not at the same time, but in separate painful ways that demand confession (“grovels”) and forgiveness. There is so much to unearth, in Jonathan especially, but Hayley as well, that Yates’s romance is marvelous with it. Miss Bates enjoyed every bleary-eyed moment as she read into the night.

With her reading intimate, Miss Austen, Miss Bates says of Maisey Yates’s Seduce Me, Cowboy,”there is no charm equal to tenderness of heart,” Emma.

Maisey Yates’s Seduce Me, Cowboy is published by Harlequin Books. It was released in March and may be acquired through or at your preferred vendors. Miss Bates received an e-ARC from Harlequin, via Netgalley.