I looked forward to a new-to-me author, Weatherspoon, and have always been a sucker for an amnesia narrative. It’s residual love from my many years of day-time soap-opera watching. Weatherspoon’s premise attracted me; sadly, her execution didn’t hold my love, or attention.
Premise first: Chef Evie Buchanan, tv-cooking-show-darling, is pushed down the stairs during a pre-Christmas cast-party and left in the stairwell for two days. (The believability-metre for Weatherspoon requires a wide reader berth.) Her agent, Nicole Pruitt, finds her and takes her to the hospital, where she’s declared fit (after two days unconscious at the bottom of a stairwell?!), except for the teensy problem of brain trauma and total amnesia. Best-friend Blaire and assistant Raquelle enter the picture to care for her while she’s in hospital. We soon learn, however, that Evie is without family, though her emergency contact is one Jesse Pleasant, co-owner of a California dude ranch. (Why did Evie name him her emergency contact when she lives with Blaire?) Jesse and his brother, Zach, come to NYC to take Evie home with them for recuperation. In the meanwhile, Nicole and Raquelle will hold the SM fort and keep Evie’s memory-loss out of the media spotlight. In California, Evie will have a chance to heal, reunite with her found-family (parents and beloved grandmother died ten years ago), as well as the man who broke her heart, Zachariah Pleasant, cowboy, entrepreneur, and heart-crusher.
I wanted to like Cowboy to Remember and, indeed, I thought the first few chapters were promising. It devolved into a narrative that could never make up its mind on a direction. As a result, it went in too many and none at all, often feeling stalled and stagnant.
A Cowboy to Remember had as much potential as it did problems. To start, romance depends on either a liking for, or fascination with, the protagonists. I think the opening chapters were the strongest because we got to know Evie. I liked her: her aspiration and energy. This ended with her amnesia and she then became a blank. Sadly, Zach didn’t fare any better. He remained the smirky, charming cowboy Evie knew from her teen years. The lack of three-dimensionality was made worse by the joining of the amnesia narrative to the reunited-HS-sweethearts trope. Zach behaved badly and Evie doesn’t remember it. He was an ass … when Evie finally remembers, it doesn’t seem so important. At the same time, abandoning Evie when she lost her only family, her nana, was such a dick-move that it’s hard to see how she could ever forgive him. Weatherspoon could have made it work, but the card-board quality of her main couple augmented the problematic nature of her double-trope narrative. A man who has much to atone for and a woman who doesn’t remember what he did.
I also found the writing style flat: so much telling, devoid of showing. This was compounded by the chef-villain narrative, strange forays into Evie’s agent’s, Nicole’s, POV, and so so many secondary characters. Weatherspoon was aiming for a sense of a found family, an ensemble cast, à la Sosa’s Worst Best Man (which succeeded where Weatherspoon failed), but she didn’t have the necessary control over her material.
In the end, the few sparks in the narrative: Evie’s dream sequences and her relationship with the Pleasant matriarch, Leona, couldn’t make up for a dull romance. Evie and Zach are rarely together. When they are, because Evie is a blank and Zach remembers his past betrayal, they don’t get to know one another, hash it out, fight, make up. Their convos are stilted and that is sadly true of all the dialogue. I wanted to like it, I couldn’t. I think Weatherspoon shows promise and I hope to see it in her next romances. With Miss Austen, we found A Cowboy To Remember, “had a high claim to forebearance,” Emma.
Rebekah Weatherspoon’s A Cowboy To Remember is published by Dafina Books. It was released in February and may be found at your preferred vendors. I received an e-galley from Dafina Books, via Netgalley.