Over the summer, I jumped off the Maisey Yates bandwagon. She’s prolific and I did have an ARC in the TBR. Something Something Cowboy. I read the first page, slapped the Kindle shut and moved on. No can do. There it was *eye roll* the typical Yates antagonism, the heroine with the defiant mouth, the surly and/or laid-back hero … usually, this is reading catnip for me. I quixotically thought, Yates and I are parting company. You’d rightly say: here you are, MissB., reviewing another Yates romance. (Which I loved, btw … ) So, what happened? I have a terrible reader confession, so petty, kinda mean: I cannot read tall heroines, just can’t. No way. Every other ilk I’m cool with, but once a heroine confesses to tallness, there’s a disconnect. And that points to something about what I want as a reader: a tiny connection with the heroine that says, “You’re small, but you can do this.” Maybe because I’m small, like Jane-Eyre small, and since reading Brontë’s novel, it has stood as a model of what a heroine should be: humble, but never diminished. It’s terrible and … prejudicial … and goodness knows, we don’t need any more of that in the world, but there you have it. But with Good Time Cowboy, Yates hit all my satisfaction levels and I’m back on the bandwagon.
Good Time Cowboy is another volume in the vast world that Yates has built around two fictional Oregon towns, Copper Ridge and Gold Valley. Hero and heroine will be familiar to long-time Yates readers. Wyatt Dodge and Lindy Parker had cameos in the first two Gold Valley novels. More importantly, they’re signature Yates. Somewhere in their mid-thirties with their past to work through, circumstances and people in their lives who have knowingly or unknowingly, and because of an inner reluctance to confront, blocked them emotionally. Impeded them from falling in love. At this stage in their lives, Yates’s hero and heroine tend to think in terms of why they cannot embark on a committed relationship. While this state of mind and heart seems entrenched, there’s maturation that the hero and heroine have reached that allows them to overcome their past wounds and make that commitment. The journey, however, is a painful one, like giving birth. There’s pain, drama, uncertainty, but also anticipation and joy, possibility and fulfillment.
Wyatt Dodge, former bull-rider, is trying to make a success of his family’s ranch, Get Out of Dodge. Though he appears laid-back, he’s anxious to ensure the ranch’s solvency for his younger brothers, Grant and Bennett, and sister, Jamie. The siblings do not know that their father, Quinn, has given Wyatt an ultimatum: prove the ranch a success or Quinn sells. Wyatt and Quinn’s relationship is strained; there is something that lurks from their past that must be resolved for Wyatt to be able to love and commit to heroine Lindy. (Please note that Wyatt had a transgressive relationship in the past. I thought Yates handled it well, but some readers may not agree.)
Lindy’s emotional impediments come from her difficult relationship with a cold, lacking-in-love mother, her sense of herself as less-than because of her “trailer-trash” childhood, and her divorce from cheating husband, Damien. While Lindy and Wyatt are all kinds of messed-up internally, they’re successfully working towards building their respective businesses, Lindy’s Grassroots Winery and Wyatt’s ranch. In the past few months, they’ve been partnering on offering a tourist experience: the great outdoors and horses at the dude ranch and sophisticated wine pairings for meals and picnics.
From the get-go, their business acumen is left in the dust by their antagonistic banter (loved it!) and physical attraction. Yates is marvelous at shedding her characters’ emotionally protective carapaces as they shed clothes. Lindy and Wyatt’s business proximity sees them agree to sleep together, reasoning it’s only “for sex.” Famous last romance words. This is what distinguishes romance from erotica, sex is not primary to the romance narrative. A physical relationship, even in a kisses-only romance, is integral to the emotional work that needs to be done. It can be a conduit, a metaphor, a threshold, but like dialogue, it can only go as far as the characters are willing to go emotionally.
I believe that Yates writes romance as a carnal experience of faith. Wyatt and Lindy’s first encounter, when Lindy was still married, is described as a prefiguration:
He’d looked at her … This had been like a lightning strike. Electric. Immobilizing. Lethal. She’d had to force herself to keep moving forward, and the whole time he’d stared. His brown eyes locked on to hers, his expression filled with a kind of intensity she had never seen before. It had been like her whole body had been hollowed out, making room for this feeling that he had created and placed inside of her. There had been nothing but that. For a full thirty seconds. Nothing else existed outside of it. Not her life. Not her marriage.
In this first moment, and expressed as a flashback, Yates establishes the idea of the beloved as predestination. But I also like that predestination doesn’t mean predetermination. Lindy and Wyatt have to work on themselves, overcome their fears, acknowledge their internal impediments and make a free choice to love, to choose the beloved. Maybe it was “meant to be”, and certainly for Yates there are no coincidences, but it must also be chosen. Yates’s language strains here, but it is rich in religious imagery:
The full burst of that moment she had first laid eyes on Wyatt Dodge. It hadn’t been love at first sight. But it had been the promise of love. The taste of it. And now, she was immersed in it, like a baptism. In fire, in heat and desire. An unending, all-consuming love. This was the moment she had known she would have. The fulfillment of that destiny that had been promised the moment she had walked into that bar.
Wyatt mirrors Lindy’s revelation when he admits to himself that he loves her:
Perhaps he had from the moment she had walked into that bar. Like a moment of faith. One he wouldn’t ever fully understand. Like he had seen her and known something, deep in his bones. Like he had looked into a crystal ball.
Finally, there is a familiar echo, for any person of faith, in Wyatt’s final realization, that love abides:
… there was only one thing that endured. That lasted. That lived on after people died. It was love. And of all the temporary, vain things in the world, it was the only thing that would stand tall in the end.
Yates echoes Ecclesiastes and St. Paul’s Corinthians 1, chapter 13. Before reaching the point when the past is burned away, love stands sentinel. But for the sentinel to have motion and possibility, the hero and heroine must choose. Then, possibility becomes reality and the shadows in the mirror, darkly, clear.
What else can I say, folks, other than I’m a Yates fan-girl. I loved Good Time Cowboy not because it did something new, not because Wyatt and Lindy will stand out. They’ll meld into Yates’s world, along with all her happy couples. What will linger is the sense that in the humble romance, in our carnal, temporal, and temporary reality, we can fulfill our human calling: to love and be loved. (Good Time Cowboy is followed by a Yates novella. I didn’t read it. Even for Yates, I can’t do one after another. But I’ll be back for it.) With Miss Austen, I say that Yates’s Good Time Cowboy is proof “there is no charm equal to tenderness of heart,” Emma.
Maisey Yates’s Good Time Cowboy is published by HQN Books. It was released on August 21st and may be found at your preferred vendor. I received an e-ARC from HQN, via Netgalley.