Never Love a Cowboy is a follow-up to Lorraine Heath’s A Rogue in Texas. In the opening scene, Jessye Kane, the strong, determined heroine makes a deal with two smooth-talking Englishmen. They form a partnership to drive a herd of cattle across Texas to the North. Jessye will be financing the operation and the two men will help her carry it out. But there’s one hitch -- Jessye doesn’t trust one of the men, Harrison Bainbridge. Convinced that Harry is nothing but a smooth-talking, cheating gambler, Jessye agrees to the venture only if the profits are split two ways; between herself and the third partner, Christian Montgomery, Harry’s best friend. Thus begins the saga of Harry and Jessye.
Jessye is a saloon-owner’s daughter in small-town post-Civil-War Texas. She has good reason to mistrust smooth-talking men. Her heart was once broken by a man who promised the moon and then left her devastated. As a result, she has decided to never marry and has resolved to become independent so that she never has to rely on anyone again. This motivates her to take part in the risky cattle-driving venture. If successful, the venture will make enough money to give her a fresh start.
Harry has a dark past of his own. He and Christian are the disgraced younger sons of English nobility, banished to America for their scandalous behavior. Jaded and cynical, Harry makes it plain that he has his eye on Jessye, but he also makes it plain that what he is after is her body. He doesn’t believe in love, but he pursues Jessye with cheerful persistence. He takes Jessye’s refusal for business partnership in his stride and agrees to participate as an employee.
As the cattle drive proceeds, Jessye and Harry have a hard time fighting the growing attraction between them. They face many hardships and a few tragedies along the way. Jessye discovers that Harry is not the shallow, lazy rake that he makes himself out to be and Harry discovers the secret of Jessye’s unhappy past.
Harry and Jessye’s story is an engaging and poignant one. There are lots of nice moments in this book, but somehow the pieces never quite fit into a satisfying whole. Jessye’s constant rejection of Harry and her determination to always see the worst in him get downright annoying. At times, it’s hard to see why Harry still bothers. The secrets of Harry’s past are a bit too melodramatic and could have used some more explanation. They read too much like convenient plot devices.
The dialogue is often inconsistent and Heath doesn’t always establish a clear voice for her characters. For example, Jessye is supposed to be a plain-speaking Texas gal and we often have internal monologues where she makes such comments as ‘durn his hide’. Next thing we know she adopts the haughty tone of a schoolmarm and calls Harry a ‘scoundrel’ and a ‘pitifully small man’. Harry and Christian’s dialogue is also too stilted to be natural at times. True, they are supposed to be English noblemen, but they needn’t sound so overly-mannered.
However, Never Love a Cowboy has lots of good moments and you’ll get some entertaining hours of reading, especially if you’re a western historical fan. And for those who enjoyed Heath’s first book in this series, A Rogue in Texas, you’ll get to see Grayson and Abbie again. I suspect we’ll hear more from these characters in a future book, since Heath has yet to tell the story of the enigmatic Christian Montgomery. Stay tuned.