Is there anything better than a lazy Saturday where you open windows letting the breeze in, lie on the couch, occasionally glance up from your book to watch the leaves dancing, and read to the final page? Nope, there isn’t. I gave the pile of work from the day-job a disdainful smirk-and-sniff and went right to the Kindle. With a compact Maisey Yates Desire, Claim Me, Cowboy, I knew it would be a reading-snack in one setting.
I’ll start right by saying I loved Yates’s outlandish premise. Rich-guy hero Joshua Grayson’s father puts an ad in the Seattle paper for a wife for his son. Joshua is over-the-top handsome and rich, but he eschews love and marriage. He lives in an idyllic, state-of-the-art house in the Oregon mountains in Yates’s mythical Copper Ridge (this being book 6). A sad thing once happened to Joshua and his life is now made of money-making, riding horses, and living in solitude (except for an occasional one-night-stand) in his big-ass house and ranch. His father, Todd, a farmer of modest means, but a big, loving heart places the ad to shake Joshua out of his self-condemning love-exile. Joshua, in turn, advertises for a fake fiancée, “an unsuitable, temporary wife” to get back at his father and gets her in the form of “elfin” Danielle Kelly, 22, with a baby in tow, the well-mannered, sleeping four-month-old Riley.
I have unabashed crazy-love for all things Yates and Claim Me, Cowboy, didn’t disappoint. Au contraire, it gave me exactly what I was looking for: pointedly, sharp banter tempered by the hero and heroine’s emotional baggage, just angsty enough, and an ethos that posits fidelity and love are brought about by a force beyond the protagonists’ will. I would say that in her own Yatesian way, this might be God, but Yates never names Him and I won’t purport to read more than that in her romance ethos.
For my readers’ purposes, I will say I loved Yates’s Joshua and Danielle and their Cinderella premise. Joshua is taciturnly determined to treat Danielle and Riley as the means to foiling his sentimental father. But, like all of Yates’s heroes, Joshua suffers from a closed-off-ness to love out of a heightened sense of how a man should be, with love, generosity, a gentlemanliness and knight-hood capacity for sacrifice. If there is even a possibility that he can’t reach these heights, especially one couched in past failings, then, the hero sees himself as lacking in worth and hides his light under a chosen demeanor; whether gruff, or ruefully charming, it’s a mask. But the light comes through anyway when Joshua realizes how straitened and miserable Danielle’s circumstances are. She’s too thin, too brittle, too vulnerable, too young – and she has a tiny, little life attached to her. He pays for nannies, ensures that Danielle has plenty to eat, and treats her, despite his protestations to the contrary, with respect and consideration.
I loved Danielle too. She’s a woman who’s had a life devoid of love and care and yet, she’s chosen to lavish it on baby Riley, who, it turns out is not hers (not a spoiler, we pretty much learn this from the first chapter). Despite her desperate poverty and the ethical ambiguity of accepting Joshua’s offer, Danielle IS principled. She’ll do anything to keep and care for Riley, even accept Joshua’s unorthodox proposal. True to Yatesian fashion, Danielle’s spirit soars as her body recovers from privation. She makes a bargain to gain a decent life for herself and Riley, but as her deprived heart begins to see the good in Joshua, she loves him. And when she learns she loves him, like all Yates’s heroines, she cannot settle for anything less than his love, no matter how much she may need his money, or support, or name, or any his possessions.
You would rightly think that if I know all that Yates has to offer and can identify it thus, why keep reading her? Why do I keep reading Betty Neels, with her cryptic, knowing heroes and humble heroines? Several reasons, I think. One is that I agree with their ethic: both Neels and Yates show a couple that instinctively know they belong to each other; obstacles are of the mind, of ingrained emotional habits that need be overcome, of circumstances, but not of the heart and body. The body, whether a subtle attraction in Neels, or Yatesian coupling, and heart know what the mind ratiocinates. I also read for the how, how they bring the reader along, how they write their scenes. Here are favourite snippets from Claim Me, Cowboy to entice you:
“You’re right. We have to do a better job of looking like a couple. And that would include you not scampering under the furniture when I get close to you.” She sat up straight and folded her hands in her lap. “I did not scamper,” she muttered. “You were perilously close to a scamper.” “Was not,” she grumbled.
The kiss hadn’t changed anything for him at all. Hadn’t been more than the simple meeting of mouths. It had been her first kiss. It had been everything. And right then she got her first taste of just how badly a man could make a woman feel. Of how – when wounded – feminine pride could be a treacherous and testy thing.
A combination of incisive, droll banter and emotional wisdom, a boring beyond what people say to each other, to themselves, to the sagacity of heart and body. Was Claim Me, Cowboy perfect? Not by any means, given the pace at which Joshua and Danielle were brought to the love moment, it was all too precipitous. But it was perfect for me, for this care-light Saturday afternoon. With Miss Austen’s agreement, I would say that Yates’s Claim Me, Cowboy is indicative of “a mind lively and at ease.”
Maisey Yate’s Claim Me, Cowboy is published by Harlequin Books. It was released on April 3rd and may be found at your preferred vendor. I received an e-ARC, from Harlequin Books, via Netgalley.