I read Maisey Yates because I know exactly what I’m going to get. I don’t mean this in a predictable, comfort-read kind of way. Yates is NOT a comforting read; she is an angst-queen. I read her because I like her ethos: it’s as close to sexy inspie minus-God-talk as you’re going to get in contemporary romance. In Yates’s romances, encounters are meaningful; the past, redeemable; sex, mystical and earthy all at once; and, love, something huge, frightening, wonderful, and as much to be run away from as to run towards. These themes are reiterated in every romance, but they never get old and are expressed with urgency as the basis of self-fulfillment and a happy marriage. Most importantly, for Yates, as for my long-lamented absent romance-writing friend, Ros Clarke, the body knows before the mind and heart can come into its orbit.
In Yates’s seventh Gold Valley romance, she tackles a heroine with a daunting backstory. Vanessa Logan (Olivia’s sister, heroine of Yates’s first Gold Valley romance, Smooth-Talking Cowboy) returns to home-town Gold Valley because it is “the last refuge for her demons, and the final locked door in her life … her origin story. And everyone needed to revisit an origin story. She’d gone out on her own, failed, hit rock bottom and healed. But she had healed away, not at the site of her first fall from grace.” Teen-age Vanessa had shamed her family by drinking, carousing, and indulging in promiscuity. Running away to LA, she became an addict to drugs and alcohol. Now, she’s back to confront her family and teach art therapy to the hero’s, Jacob Dalton’s, brother’s therapy ranch for troubled boys.
One troubled night, before she left town years ago, Jacob Dalton, then an EMT, was her life-line, as she lay on her parents’ bathroom floor, suffering a miscarriage. From thereon, Vanessa “hit rock bottom” and brought herself back up by art and therapy. She’s back sober and beautiful. At present, Jacob is a troubled soul, without Vanessa’s conscious awareness of what she needs to do, where’s she’s come from, and how to never return to the bad place in herself. Jacob is haunted by guilt, over being the one to survive a helicopter crash that killed his firefighting best friend, Clint, and left Clint’s pregnant wife, devastated. Jacob is equally haunted by a childhood loss. Guilt compounded on guilt confronts a woman to reckon with in an art therapy classroom for delinquent youth. The attraction is immediate and the love-making wild, passionate, and intense. But, for Yates, an HEA-marriage cannot come about until the hero and heroine have worked things out in themselves. For Vanessa, this means reconciliation with her family; for Jacob, the working-out of his guilt, isolation (he lives a hermetic existence on a mountain-top), and self-loathing before he can admit his love for Vanessa and merge with her in a unit of happiness and purpose.
With Yates’s first romances, there was a diffidence, maybe reluctance?, to come out and say that couples are fated for each; their connection, visceral and permanent from first meeting, or reuniting. But Yates makes this explicit in Lone Wolf Cowboy:
He met her gaze, and it was the strangest thing. It was like looking into the past, and looking into the future all at once. He could remember her, scared but so very brave that night she called for help. He could see her now. Reckless and untamed. But there was something else. Something deep and wide that stretched out beyond the present moment, and for the life of him he didn’t know what the hell that was. What it meant. It was so momentous, he had to look away from it. It echoed inside of him, and places that he didn’t want her to touch.
There was just something about her. It wasn’t the first time he felt it either. Like he was staring into his future every time he looked into her eyes.
Sex was the dividing factor between marriage, and not. It was a strange thing. And some people would say, sex could be a small thing. A casual thing. She would have said that in the past. But that was because she’d never had sex the way she did with Jacob. Sex with him went down beneath her skin. It touched places inside of her that she hadn’t known existed … She would never be able to keep her feelings neutral. And it made her wonder how much ground was between neutral and … love.
These passages encapsulate Yates’s romance ethos, what she explores over and over again with each romance narrative, with each both unique and yet-familiar couple: that bodies are wise, minds are slow to understand, and hearts must “open in a fundamental way” (thank you, once again, to my favourite poet, Leonard Cohen, for the words) for love, marriage, family, a deep, everlasting, and elemental commitment to take place. In the scheme of Yates’s oeuvre, Lone Wolf Cowboy can stand with the best of them. With Miss Austen, we’d say it’s inspired by “a mind lively and at ease,” Emma.
Maisey Yates’s Lone Wolf Cowboy is published by HQN Books. It was released on July 30 and may be found at your preferred vendor. I received an e-galley from HQN Books, via Netgalley.