Carolyn Brown's cowboy novels are so country you can almost taste the grits. Toughest Cowboy In Texas is the first in a new series set in the small town of Happy, Texas, following the three siblings of the Dawson family.
I'm not even American, but Carolyn Brown sets the scene so well I can almost see the big Texas skies, hear the country music on the radio - country songs are sprinkled throughout the book and often used as metaphors to express the characters' emotions, so if you're not a fan of country music a few things might go over your head. I had to look a few songs up to have a listen!
The country theme could feel overdone, with the cowboy boots and hats, bull wrangling and even an actual barn dance (disguised as a 'family reunion') making their appearance in the story, but it doesn't; it feels like a natural part of the story, of the characters' lives. And speaking of the characters...
Lila Harris left Happy, Texas, when she was seventeen years old. She was a wild child back then, and while the phrase 'the wrong side of the tracks' is never used in the book, it is certainly implied. Going back again, even though she has made a success of her life since then, Lila finds out the hard way that in the eyes of the townsfolk, she's still that wild child who was never good enough for Brody Dawson.
Brody comes from a wealthy ranching family, and back when he was seventeen, he didn't have the guts to stand up to his family and publicly lay claim to Lila as his girlfriend. He hurt her in doing so, and when she left down, she took a big piece of his heart with her. Now she's back, he's not going to let anyone stand in between them, not his family or hers. Now, his only problem is winning over Lila herself.
I absolutely loved this book. Lila was spirited, full of sass and not about to let anyone put her down, and Brody was self-aware enough to recognize how badly he let her down the first time around and let her know in every way he could that this time around she could count on him. In turn, Lila realized that Brody was only seventeen back then and under enormous pressure, and she didn't hold that against him. Toughest Cowboy In Texas was a really great story about two people recognizing the mistakes of their past and moving on together.
I also loved Kasey and Jace, Brody's siblings who will get their own stories in the series, and I'll be eagerly looking forward to more books set in Happy, Texas.
Toughest Cowboy In Texas is available now, and THIS is where I get mad, because the Kindle edition is $6.99. ARE YOU KIDDING ME? The paperback is only 20 cents more! Ugh. Hachette need to get their act together.
THIS is why Big Publishing are reporting a decline in ebook sales; because they are overcharging for them. Readers know what an ebook costs to produce compared to a paperback; yes, editing costs etc are equal, but the printing costs comprise over 70% of the cost of producing a paperback. You CAN'T charge more than 50% of the paperback price for an ebook, because buyers KNOW that they're being ripped off.
Do better, Hachette!
Disclaimer: I received a copy of this book for review from NetGalley.