Maisey-Yates romances breed like bunnies. Yet another one on the recent horizon, fifth in the Gold Valley series, Unbroken Cowboy, features two of my favourite sequel-bait characters from previous books, animal-loving Bea(trix) Leighton, and bull-trampled rodeo star-no-more, Dane Parker. Because, like Betty Neels, I read and review every Yates romance, my review will always be tainted by my mood, whether Yates’s brand of theme and ethos work for me “in the moment,” or not. When they’re published as close together as Yates seems to produce them, I tend to feel less well-disposed. When a whiley-while goes by, then I’m eager to immerse myself in her world. If my introduction to Yates had been Unbroken Cowboy, I’d have been all in with enthusiasm and praise. As it’s one of many and followed by the recently reviewed, Need Me, Cowboy, I read it more for because she’s Yates and I read’em all. No surprises here. In “yatesian” fashion, hero Dane and heroine Bea experience personal transformation, in this case, as the title suggests, from brokenness to wholeness. The glue that brings their resurrection about is the mystical power of love.
The novel opens with Dane’s literal brokenness. Dane was trampled by a bull, sustaining injuries so grievous, they put him in a wheelchair. He physio-ed his way to walking with a limp, but his injuries are permanent and he’ll likely never see the bull ring again. His bodily “brokenness,” however, is a reflection of his broken spirit. When we meet Bea, she appears the stronger. Bea has loved Dane forever, living under the shelter of his little-sister affection for years. She knows she’s never been in Dane’s radar as a woman and plans to take her love-secret to the grave. For the time being however, as Dane is “stuck” in the big house on the property where Bea has her cabin, she is his annoyed-to-his-surly-‘tude caregiver: “She never lost her cool or brought harm to any being. But she was close, very close, to administering grievous bodily injury to one extremely irritating cowboy who was — no doubt about it — the worst patient she had ever tended to in her life.” Dane’s retort to her ministrations tells us all we need to know about Bea: ” ‘Your problem is that you’ve never met a stray you didn’t like.’ ” Bea works at the local vet clinic and, from the vantage of her hermetic cabin, takes in injured and abandoned wild animals (Evan, her raccoon, figures prominently and provides much-needed comic effect to this angsty romance).
Bea and Dane’s contrast between where they are in life seems, at first, to be in Bea’s favour, her strong sense of purpose and place in the world and Dane’s loss of purpose, his success and fame in the ring. But as Bea coaxes Dane back to life, slowly and surely and beautifully, by giving him an old dog to walk and care for for example, chinks appear in Bea’s armor as Dane dons a new one. As is Yates’s wont, deleterious parental figures are at the heart of her hero’s and heroine’s inner woundedness. And her usual reversal happens: love is the crux, focus, blessing and frightening new state that sends hero and heroine into a tailspin of crisis emotions and erratic behaviour. When Bea and Dane become lovers, Bea is empowered by her new-found sense of identity as a lover, woman, sexual being. But when Dane the fantasy becomes the flesh-and-blook man who wants commitment and connection, Bea’s insecurities and fears come to the foreground. Dane, on the other hand, is renewed by his new-found ability to care, slow down and just be with another person in place of chasing the crowd’s applause and approval. Yates’s courtship dance is always fraught, with a back-and-forth movement between approaching the other and/or running away from.
It’s a dance that Bea and Dane trip to, limp in, and finally take beautiful, smooth, long strides. Their HEA is lovely. The journey, however (sorry about all the mixing of metaphors) bogs down. There’s a point in the narrative where Bea and Dane become Yates’s mouthpieces for her view (and I’m sympathetic to it, hence, why I keep reading her) of love as a means of personal resurrection by admitting love, care, and need are what we’re made of: what are necessary to give and ask for if we’re to live a complete, full, and fulfilling life. At a certain point, Yates’s theme is the strongest voice in the narrative. It broke my concentration and immersion in Dane and Bea’s journey. With Miss Austen, we concur that Unbroken Cowboy offers “real comfort,” Emma, but didn’t rock our world.
Maisey Yates’s Unbroken Cowboy is published by HQN Books. It was released on April 23rd and may be found at your preferred vendor. I received an e-ARC from HQN Books, via Netgalley.