When I started reading Yates’s upteenth Copper Ridge novel, Want Me, Cowboy, I thought of abandoning it because it was too much like Helm’s A True Cowboy Christmas. In both cases, hero and heroine have known each other for years and SUDDENLY the hero decides he wants to be married and SUDDENLY notices the heroine’s appropriateness for the starring role of wife and mother in his soon-to-be neatly arranged life. The heroes think everything will be emotionally tidy, calm, organized: he and the heroine will cohabit, get along like affectionate roommates with sex and segue into being calm, adult, responsible parents. Bwahahahaha … “famous last words.” A great premise, a great trope, but did I really want to read another one? Turns out I did and I would recommend you do too. Review over. They’re both good and worth reading.
After my initial eye-roll of exasperation over the sameness of Yates’ and Helm’s novels, Want Me, Cowboy had me thinking about the Romantic in romance. If the Romantic (yup, those guys, early 19th century, etc.) ethos, and I’m simplifying here, posits the primacy of emotion over reason and nature over intellect then, quite often, the romance genre is about the same: the “irrationality” of reason when it denies the primacy of not just “feelings”, but emotional connection with the other. No one does this better than Yates. In Want Me, Cowboy, uber-rational billionaire Isaiah Grayson advertises for a wife and asks his PA, Poppy Sinclair, to interview the candidates.
Nuts, right? The idea that marriage can be an arrangement between two compatible adults, agreeing upon shared values and way of life, why wouldn’t that work? It’s not long before Isaiah realizes that the best candidate for the wifely job is none other than Poppy herself. He argues rationally why she’s the best candidate:
“You’re good with people. You’re good at anticipating what they want, what they need. You’re organized. You’re efficient.”
“You make me sound like an app, Isaiah.”
“You’re warm and … and sometimes sweet. Though, not to me.”
“You wouldn’t like me if I were sweet,” she pointed out.
“No, I wouldn’t. But that’s the other thing. You know how to stand up to me.”
And she sure does, witness this delightful exchange: ” ‘Lead with being less of an asshole.’ ‘I am an asshole,’ Isaiah said.” Of course, Isaiah is right: Poppy is all those things and more. His reason has anticipated what his heart has yet to discover. Poppy, on the other hand, is and “was tragically in love with him.” Because she knows he doesn’t love her back. He respects her, cares about her; he’s a good, loyal friend and appreciative, considerate boss, but he isn’t in love with her. Or at least that’s what reason tells him.
While the Romantic poets had nature as an intermediary between their rational selves and their desire to tap into the sublime, romance, much more entertaining, has the body. Sex. Isaiah may tell himself that he doesn’t, can’t, love Poppy, but his rational self is already being superseded by his physical desire: ” … as he looked at her, as those familiar grey eyes, so cold and rational most of the time, went hot.” Just as reason is swept away by Isaiah’s physical need for physical possession. This is an equal desire, as Poppy wants him as much as he wants her, except Poppy knows that her desire is a result of her love for Isaiah and that love is expressed by physical fidelity, a value that is eminently important to the genre and categorically distinguishes it from erotica. It isn’t long before Isaiah is disturbed by his exclusive physical need for Poppy: this is good old Biblical “cleaving”, so important to the genre’s HEA.
As the novel’s emotional tension builds, Isaiah and Poppy have to overcome their brokennesses, their emotional impediments to love. Especially Isaiah. In trying to understand their woundedness and why they’re suddenly caught in this philosophical conflict between reason and feelings, Isaiah and Poppy begin to articulate that very argument. As Isaiah says to Poppy:
“Things are easy for me when I can line them out. When I can make categories and columns, so whenever I can do that, I do it. Life has variables. Too many. If you turn it into math, there’s one answer. If the answer makes sense, go with that.”
“But life isn’t math,” she said. “There’s not one answer.”
If Isaiah knew anything about higher level mathematics, neither is math. But probability is still about the ability to predict rationally and that’s not what Poppy is trying to tell Isaiah. Her impassioned cry to him is a perfect counterpoint to his logical reasoning:
“So don’t try to tell me you’re being logical. Don’t try to talk to me like I’m a hysterical female asking something ridiculous of you. You’re the one who’s scared. You’re the one who’s hysterical. You can stand there with a blank look on your face and pretend that somehow makes you rational, but you aren’t. You can try to lie to me. You can try to lie to yourself. But I don’t believe it. I refuse.”
I loved that an emotional impasse is “hysterical”. Women’s “wombs” are so often the site of their irrationality, their hysteria, their excessive, immoderate, overblown, disproportionate FEELINGS. But it’s Isaiah’s impassivity, his lack of emotional expression that is the illness here. As Isaiah realizes, he has way TOO many feelings, all of them centred on his love for Poppy, that prove to be the ultimate in denial and the true cause of his half-life, half-soul, and mixed-up, misunderstood, and ignored heart. But there must’ve been something in Isaiah to lead him to decide on that ridiculous ad: it was his fist step towards emotional resurrection, the recognition that connection is the raison d’être of life, not money, success, or keeping safe from being hurt. It’s a story I’ll never tire of and so, in the end, both Helm and Yates told it and told it well. In this case, with Miss Austen, we say Want Me, Cowboy proves there is “no charm equal to tenderness of heart,” Emma.
Maisey Yates’s Want Me, Cowboy is published by Harlequin Books. It was released on November 1st and may be found at your preferred vendors. I received an e-galley from Harlequin, via Netgalley.