To date, there are 19 Copper Ridge romances and this, Cowboy To the Core, sixth in the complementary Gold Valley series. And here I am, having stayed up late to inhale yet another Maisey Yates romance. You’d think, after 25 of an author’s works, I’d be ready to roll my eyes and thrown in the reader bookmark. Nope. If you asked me which are my favourites so far (’cause I know you’re aching to read these, but may not be willing to tackle all 25), I’d say Brokedown Cowboy (Copper Ridge #2), One Night Charmer (Copper Ridge #7), Seduce Me, Cowboy (Copper Ridge #12), and A Tall, Dark Cowboy Christmas (Gold Valley #4) are top-notch, but I’ve enjoyed each and every one. (Any Copper Ridge/Gold Valley may be read as a standalone, but there are cameos of happy couples from previous books. So you’ve been warned.)
For those familiar with the series, the final Dodge sibling and sole girl, Jamie Dodge, of the Get Out of Dodge ranch, finally gets her HEA. A surly shadow, a good friend to Beatrix and McKenna (heroines of previous books, who make appearances here), a tom-boy to her brothers and dad, Jamie was not, at least for me, the most interesting of potential heroines. I’m not keen on tom-boy heroines who discover womanhood. Yates, on the other hand, does love a tom-boy heroine who, in the course of her sexual awakening with the hero (another Yates signature), also discovers pretty dresses and make-up. Ugh, it’s the cowgirl version of the secretary who takes her glasses off and puts her hair down and ta-da, insta-beauty. To give Yates credit, it makes no difference to the hero: he finds the heroine beautiful in Wranglers and a sports bra. Thus with hero Gabe Dalton and Jamie.
Gabe and Jamie spend time together when Gabe hires Jamie to help with rehabilitating former rodeo horses on his family’s ranch. With daily contact comes conversation and physical proximity, kindling to the Yates romance-fire. Thematically, Yates believes that meeting your one, true love upends your life in painful, cracking-things-open ways and resurrects you emotionally where you were soul-protective and numb before. Falling in love also dredges up the past in a way that exposes old childhood wounds, wounds that until now festered but appeared healed over. The emotional dissonance of falling in love makes those wounds ache; unless they’re admitted, acted upon, and resolved emotionally and oftentimes practically, hero and heroine cannot reach their HEA (except they always do, because hey, romance, that’s why we love it). The Yatesian HEA’s foreshadowing is in the love-making’s intensity; the hero and heroine’s pleasure in which has a resonance and meaning that leave them astounded. They’re dense, though, and cannot yet admit what their bodies already know.
The hero and heroine’s emotional unblocking always comes in the form of confession to oneself, admitting you need and love the other, and then, admitting that you need and love the other to him, or her. Both are painful and difficult, but unless enacted, the person cannot be free to cleave to the other. Gabe and Jamie’s wounds stem from their childhood experiences and prove to be complex and interesting in a way their courtship, no matter the sexy times, does not. Yates’s characters tend to be mired in some notion of who they are that tells them that love, intimacy, and vulnerability are not for them. In Gabe’s case, it involves his unfaithful father and his betrayal of Gabe’s mother and Gabe himself and his love of ranching. Jamie’s blocking self-concept involves her mother’s death mere days after she gave birth to her and being brought up by four men, all loving but not exactly versed in the ways of bringing up a girly girl. As is Yates’s wont, conflict lies within; the nature of what is “within” leads to a rupture between hero and heroine. Betrayal is never a contrived situation, or even conflicted loyalties, it is always arrive in the form of the hero and heroine’s emotional impediments.
The important moment comes when the hero and heroine break through this notion, a notion that tends to be mired in a false self-reliance (and it is to Yates’s credit that opening oneself up to love goes hand in hand with opening oneself up to needing other people, like friends and family). A beautiful sense of new-ness accompanies the HEA’s accomplishment which, for this reader, happily also comes with a commitment to marriage, family, and a continued pursuit of meaningful work. (I thought, if I could fault Yates for something here, it’s that the HEA is short and somewhat hurried.) These are the reasons why I read and will continue to read Yates. In the case of Cowboy To the Core, with Miss Austen, we say here is “a mind lively and at ease,” Emma.
Maisey Yates’s Cowboy To the Core is published by HQN Books. It was released on June 18th and may be found at your preferred vendor. I received an e-ARC from HQN Books, via Netgalley.