2018 will prove to be yet another Maisey Yates year for Miss Bates, as she can’t seem to quit Yates’s romances. Last year, she read seven … let’s see how many MissB manages to read in 2018?! If Slow Burn Cowboy is any indication, then MissB’s love affair with the Yates romance isn’t over. Every time she reads one, Miss Bates ponders what draws her to Yates’s romances and every time, her understanding of what makes Yates a great romance writer grows. Not every book is perfect, or memorable, especially after you read so many, you’re no longer reading for individual storylines, but for those writer “tells” that make the books so attractive to a reader-fan. Miss Bates finds in Yates a combination of an upholding of love and fidelity with a healthy dose of raw sexuality. This is not a new observation to Miss B.’s readers. This time around, however, Miss Bates noticed yet one more thing that she loves about Yates: she puts wit and sophistication into her banter/dialogue for characters who’d normally not be associated with wit and banter: cowboys and uneducated, albeit successful, nonprofessional, carpenters, builders, and small-business-owners, or as the hero of Slow Burn Cowboy identifies, a “laborer”. Her characters are wonderful combinations of earthiness and clever wordplay. Does Slow Burn Cowboy hold any surprises for the Yates reader? Not really. Does it satisfy? Absolutely.
At last count, thanks to Miss Bates handy referencing of Fantastic Fiction, there are eighteen novels making up the Copper Ridge, Oregon, and environs series. Some to come and already in Miss Bates’s TBR, some already read and reviewed, and this isn’t counting the novellas. A Maisey Yates romance has graced every year’s Miss Bates favourites, from 2013 to 2017.
Slow Burn Cowboy has long left the world of the Garrett brothers that introduced Copper Ridge to romance readers. But “brother” trilogies are one of Yates’s “tells” and Slow Burn tells the story of Finn Donnelly, brother to Liam Donnelly, Chrismastime Cowboy‘s hero. (In the meanwhile, Slow Burn‘s heroine, Lane Jensen, is one of Rebecca Bear’s best friends, heroine of Seduce Me, Cowboy, the Yates romance that made Miss Bates’s 2017 favourites list.) Finn and Lane’s journey to the HEA is a friends-to-lovers romance, with Yates’s signature sharp humor and plenty of angst. Like all of Yates’s couples, Finn and Lane rib each other, growl at each other, fight, make love, regret, confess, and heal their way to admitting their love and joining in a love, fidelity, and babies marriage. As perfect an unapologetic romance as a romance reader can find.
When the novel opens, Finn’s and Lane’s pasts have returned with a vengeance. Finn’s grandfather died and left the ranch he’s worked his whole life to him – and, not surprisingly causing resentment and anger – Finn’s four half-brothers. Half-brothers who scream sequel-bait, but if you know and love Yates, not a bothersome idea. As Lane hangs with her friends at the local watering-hole, she espies an aspiring senator, Cord McCaffrey, who brings on unwanted feelings and memories, painful ones. About the only steady thing in each other’s lives is each other, their ten-year-old friendship. But Yates is not a great believer in men and women being able to be friends, and neither is Miss Bates. Finn has always desired Lane and Lane has buried her own lust for Finn, but it’s still there. Separate but simultaneous personal pressures see Finn and Lane unravelling. Typical to Yates is the idea that this kind of personal confrontation with long-buried hurt also leads to cracking open relationships that have been held “in check” as tightly ignored, suppressed feelings and desires.
Yates sets the Finn and Lane scene beautifully, succinctly showing the reader how well they’ve integrated into each other’s lives, how well they fit, how well they get along, how important they are to each other, and how much they’re lying to themselves:
He took care of everything in her house that she considered to be man’s work. Any kind of plumbing or wiring issue, arachnid-related concerns and the extermination of the odd errant vole in her yard. In return, she often took care of things like feeding him, or buying him clothes when she went into Portland or Eugene. He never even had to ask. She just appeared with things. … Basically, Lane was his wife.
… he was gruff and he didn’t share his feelings easily. He was the kind of guy who led with angry, then made up for it with grand gestures. Finn was more hammer and nails than hearts and flowers. He had a soul of gold beneath his general cranky exterior.
The above passages show you, dear reader, if you haven’t read Yates, that her prose is sharp, funny, easy, but packs an emotional wallop. Finn and Lane know each other, love each other. It’s so obvious to everyone around them and the reader, as obvious as it is hidden to them. Which is why Yates loves to crack them open, “unravel” them as her characters refer to the experience of letting go of the holds on their feelings.
And, for Yates, the most important way they do so is by revealing whatever it was that: a. makes them vulnerable to the other and b. whatever has caused them to resist the call of the heart, usually nicely foiled by the call of the body, which also cracks things open. Sexual intimacy is bound up with emotional intimacy and emotional intimacy has its being in confession to the beloved. That may lead to more resistance and emotional betrayal, running away, denying the other, denying the desire for marriage and children. It takes a variety of forms, but the latter is the crux of the matter. Integrity and honesty are often some of Yates’s characters most important qualities because being honest about your past, your feelings, your vulnerabilities and desires is the only way to being open to loving and being loved. Yates proves this in every romance and no less in another Copper Ridge addition, in the story of deserving, maddening, volatile, sexy Finn and Lane. With Miss Austen’s gimlet romance eye, Miss Bates says of Slow Burn Cowboy “a mind lively and at ease,” Emma.
Maisey Yates’s Slow Burn Cowboy is published by Harlequin Books (HQN). It was released in April 2017 and may be procured from your preferred vendor. Miss Bates received an e-ARC from Harlequin, via Netgalley.