Though I read less and less inspirational romance these days, I chose to read Henrie’s A Cowboy Of Convenience because Harlequin is shutting down its Love Inspired Historical line and I was feeling nostalgic. Like Superromance, I’ve found some authors I’ve loved in it: Lacy Williams, Sherri Shackelford, Karen Kirst, and Alie Pleiter. I hope they’ve found writing pastures and are busy and happy sowing their talents.
Henrie’s Cowboy Of Convenience contains much of what we’ve come to expect of the subgenre and, most importantly, what I appreciate of it: a certain humility in its world-building and characterization. Nothing in Henrie’s romance rocked my romance-reading world, but I appreciated what it had to say nonetheless. Its story is typical: a cowboy, Westin McCall, who yearns to start his own dude ranch asks the ranch (where they both work) cook, widowed single-mother Vienna Howe, to pool their resources, marry as a “business arrangement” and start their own enterprise. Vienna, with her daughter Hattie, recently inherited her abusive, deceased husband’s near-by ranch, in Wyoming. Until West’s proposal, Vienna was uncertain as to what she would do with her windfall. The idea of creating a country home and business that her daughter could inherit was too good to pass up and Vienna agrees to marry, in name only, with West.
Henrie’s gentle romance is about gentle people. They are surrounded by the beauty of early 20th century Wyoming just as city folk are discovering the virtues of countryside vacations. It looks like Vienna, Hattie, and West are going to be able to make a go of it, though the business aspect of their venture is not the novel’s heart.
Henrie centres her novel on her characters’ growth, making it richer and more interesting. Though A Cowboy Of Convenience is light on external conflict, there’s enough going on inside Vienna and West to move the novel along and keep the reader engaged. I liked the themes that comprised both Vienna and West. Vienna is a woman who has lost her confidence after her abusive marriage to Chance Howe. A prison sentence, for him, kept her safe and free for the past three years and though she cannot mourn his passing, she feels sorry for his wasted life. In her life working for her friends and with West close by as a friend, Vienna has grown happy with her daughter and the loving people who surround her. Romantic love, marriage, however, are not for her. There is a hint that she felt things for West when they met years ago, but her lack of womanly confidence and West’s own withdrawal saw that affection smoulder, but never flame. West too has a lot of feelings for Vienna, but they are subsumed by guilt: that his withdrawal to give Vienna a chance to choose between him and Chance caused her to live in an abusive relationship for as long as she did. West is also troubled by memories of his estranged family.
One of Henrie’s strengths is in the gradual resolution to West and Vienna’s doubts. The faith aspect is present as an internal bolster to how they figure out how to overcome their hesitations, insecurities, and emotional inhibitions. I thought it was a thematically rich endeavour to show how West and Vienna must build a friendship through hard work and companionship to reach their HEA. As with all inspie romance, there is attraction, but it never strays below the protagonists’ chins. There is a modicum of touch, but it is proper and relegated to chaste kisses and arm-touching. There is no external conflict and the community, unlike others I’ve read in inspie romance, isn’t too given to gossip and judgy-judgy. On the other hand, West and Vienna took care of that by a marriage of convenience. I’ve read more fraught, engaging romances in Williams, Kirst, and Shackelford, but Henrie’s humble prose, gentle, but nuanced characterization, and tiny little raised fist for women taking control of their destinies, with a lovely beta-hero beside them has a lot to be said for a subgenre we sadly won’t see as much of.
With Miss Austen, we say that Stacy Henrie’s A Cowboy Of Convenience offers “real comfort,” Emma.
Stacy Henrie’s A Cowboy Of Convenience is published by Harlequin Books. It was released on June 5th and may be found at your preferred vendor. I received an e-ARC from Harlequin Books, via Netgalley.