One Hot Cowboy Wedding
by Carolyn Brown
(Sourcebooks, $7.99, PG-13) ISBN 978-1402253645
**
When an author has to work as hard to set up a story as Carolyn Brown does with One Hot Cowboy Wedding, it sets off huge warning bells that the rest of it may be on shaky ground. In this case, the bells rang true. It’s more like One Hot Cowboy Mess.

Ace Riley and his good friend, Jasmine King, are in Las Vegas to get married. Seems that Ace will lose his ranch to a smarmy cousin if he doesn’t marry – and stay married for a year. Jasmine offered to do the deed, and after a year, they’ll get a quiet divorce. Jasmine has secretly admired Ace ever since his first visit to her Chicken Fried Café, and Ace thinks Jasmine is pretty hot, too, but they’ll just be friends. Uh huh.

Upon arrival at Cupid’s Wedding Chapel, there are lots of people and photographers. Thinking there’s another wedding to follow theirs, Ace and Jasmine are surprised when it’s announced they’re the 5000th couple to get married and they’ve won a honeymoon package at the Bellagio. All is fine until they flip on the ten o’clock news and see their photos on the local channel, along with a story about their wedding.

Here is where the story takes a turn for the ridiculous. Apparently the local news in Las Vegas (which has over 50 wedding chapels, so the fact that the story even makes the local news is suspect) is broadcast all over the Southwest, because within five minutes nearly everyone Ace and Jazzy know back in tiny Ringgold, Texas is calling them to ask about their wedding. Since Ace has six or so brothers and Jasmine has four best friends and there are additional mothers, fathers, and assorted local folk, it’s a big list. And they have the same conversation about six times, so by the end of the list, readers might be a bit tired of it.

Getting past the lame setup, Ace and Jasmine return to Texas to find that cousin Cole is suspicious. To convince everyone that the marriage is real, Ace and Jasmine decide that she’ll move out to the ranch for a year. They fight their attraction with the usual results, and in the meantime every single person they know or are related to will troop through the story, fighting for page space.

I never connected with Ace or Jasmine. Ace is standard hunky-cowboy fare, with a little red book full of previous conquests and a barbed-wire tattoo around his bicep, showing the world that he guards his heart and no woman can get close. Yawn. Since there’s little motivation for this other than Ace wanting to play fast and loose, it’s not exactly captivating. Jazzy fares a bit better, having come out of a bad relationship that lasted a few years. I could understand why she’d be wary.

Jasmine wants to make a go of her café, and she knows it’s not a good idea to get involved sexually with Ace. But her character is inconsistent. One moment she’s all mouthy bravado, swearing like a sailor on a bender, and the next she can’t say no to her own mother, who wants to foist an over-the-top wedding extravaganza on Jasmine and Ace. Since Jasmine is thirty years old, this felt like nothing more than a plot manipulation and it takes way too long for Jasmine to grow a spine and deal with her mother like and adult.

The middle third of the story is filled with endless chapters of conversation between Ace and Jasmine, Ace and his brothers, Jasmine and her friends, their parents, etc. Maybe some of these brothers and friends are destined for future books, so the author felt she had to shove them into the limelight, but it didn’t do much for the story. Eventually Jasmine and Ace have to drop their pretenses and learn to deal with one another, and the story picks up steam in the last quarter of the book.

Fans of Carolyn Brown’s other cowboy books may want to pick up a copy of One Hot Cowboy Wedding, but it didn’t offer much that was new or fresh.

--Cathy Sova


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