Single dad Tom Jarret has a problem. His nine-year-old daughter Jessie has been expelled from school after being involved with a fight, though she says she didn’t start it. However, the fight is only the latest incident. Tom learns from the principal that he had been sent nine messages and three phone calls about Jessie’s behavior, all of which she intercepted. Though there are only a few weeks left in the school year, Tom must find other school arrangements for his daughter.
Help arrives in the form of Andrea Larson, a guest at a local bed and breakfast owned by Tom’s sister. Andrea taught school for three years, and now she drifts from place to place. After meeting Jessie and discussing her credentials with Tom, Andrea moves into the foreman’s apartment and agrees to teach Jessie until the end of the school year.
Andrea turns out to be just what Jessie needs. Though clearly a troubled child, Jessie is smart and warms up to Andrea almost immediately. Andrea has a positive effect on Tom’s relationship with his daughter. He clearly loves Jessie, but work demands much of his time. Andrea advises Tom to spend more time with Jessie; she eventually comes to love both father and daughter.
While Andrea and Jake share an attraction, both are reluctant to act on it. Tom’s wife was unfaithful and left him two years earlier (they’re now divorced), so he believes that he doesn’t need or want a woman in his life. Andrea doesn’t want to make a permanent connection when she knows that she will be leaving soon:
“She’d only be here the few weeks until Jessie finished school. Then the restlessness would overtake her, sever any links she might have formed, send her back on her wandering path. She would be glad to leave, glad to escape the humdrum of life spent only in one place. She always had before. Leaving was one thing she did extremely well.”
Counting on a Cowboy uses a standard romance plot: two people overcome their previous experiences and find love. While I liked both Tom and Andrea, I was unable to see much beyond the surface. Through much of the story, Andrea and Tom fight their strong physical attraction and play a “kiss me,” “this won’t work,” “just kiss me” dance. While I did enjoy watching the characters interact, there’s a little too much emphasis on their physical attraction and not enough on the other reasons they are a good match for each other.
Tom is the more realistic of the two. At times, Andrea seems too good to be true, especially when she is dispensing parenting advice.
These elements make this a story I can’t completely recommend. If you approach Counting on a Cowboy with a mind to spend a few hours of light reading, you’re likely to enjoy it. Otherwise, you’ll want to try something else.