Billy & the Kid

The Bride Rode West

The Wrong Man in Wyoming

 
Blame It on Cowboys
by Kristine Rolofson
(Harl. Tempt. #802, $3.99, PG-13) ISBN 0-373-25902-6
****
Okay, for all you readers out there who think I hate cowboy books, let this review stand as proof that it ain’t so. Not all the time, anyway. Blame It on Cowboys is sharp, funny, and has tongue firmly planted in cheek much of the time. Where else could it be when the author turns a Shi Tzu into a ranch dog?

Jake Johnson is a thirty-five-year old Texas cowboy who’s spent half his life as guardian and foreman to Bobby Calhoun, the young owner of the Dead Horse Ranch. Jake has his own place forty miles or so away, but he lives at the Dead Horse and keeps the place running. Bobby, with his angel face and penchant for chasing women, is ten years younger and about the least likely candidate for husbandhood that Jake can think of. Until the night Bobby announces he’s getting married to Amy Lou Comstock, a college coed he met in Colorado who once appeared on Baywatch. It’s love at first sight for Bobby, which makes Jake’s antenna tune to Full Alert.

Bobby? Getting married? Before Jake can even get a skeptical “thank you, God” out of his mouth, Bobby announces that Amy Lou is coming for a visit, and she’s bringing her spinster Aunt Elizabeth along as a chaperone. Somebody needs to take care of Aunt Bea. You know, fix her tea, take her to quilt shows, help her in and out of the car. Jake is elected, sort of, when he loses a poker hand. But when Amy Lou and Aunt Bea arrive, “Aunt Bea” is about thirty years old with a knockout figure. What’s more, she’s as suspicious of this pending marriage as Jake is.

Elizabeth Comstock is the oldest surviving member of her family, so it’s natural that she “inherits” things. Like a niece. And a Shi-Tzu dog named Pookie. Twenty-one-year-old Amy isn’t nearly ready for marriage, but how can Elizabeth convince her of that? Going with her to Texas and hoping that the stars are shaken out of her eyes seems like a good start. Old Pookie will have to come along. Only Elizabeth is shocked when she meets Jake Johnson. He’s the very man with whom she had a one-night stand while stranded in a Chicago hotel room in a snowstorm six months earlier. That out-of-character interlude has haunted her. And now here Jake is, ready to be her escort for two weeks.

Jake is an enormously appealing character as he alternates between remembering his previous interlude with Elizabeth and denying that she could ever be happy on a dusty ranch. Elizabeth at first pretends she never saw Jake before, but soon gives up the pretense. She isn’t sure she wants to take up where they left off, no matter how attractive Jake is. But darn it, she’s so tired of being alone, and the more she gets to know him, the more she likes him. Bobby and Amy, meanwhile, are having fun with the idea of being in love. Pookie the dog bonds with Shorty the cowhand. And the housekeeper quits for the fifth time, prompting Amy to discover what she’s really good at.

Blame It on Cowboys is an enjoyable, fast-paced romp with plenty of steam between the two leads and a cast of amusing secondary characters to round out the tale. These aren’t cardboard cowboys, they’re realistic characters who are discovering what love is all about. And that’s a good romance.

--Cathy Sova


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