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Book CoverLynneC’s review of A Real Cowboy by Sarah M. Anderson
Contemporary Romance published by Harlequin Desire 5 Feb 13

Recently books from the Desire line have been disappointing, with flat characters who have no chemistry together, but this book is most definitely an exception to that rule. A Real Cowboy involves a man running from his past and a woman sent to find him but who finds much more than she expected.

Thalia arrives at a cold ranch in Montana in search of the reluctant actor, James Robert Bradley, and instead she finds rancher JR Bradley. JR, as he’s known in this book, created a sensation in Hollywood eleven years before and has the awards to prove it, including an Oscar. A kind of cross between Brad Pitt and Daniel Day-Lewis (did I hear a “yum”?), JR found himself swamped by Hollywood and in serious danger of losing himself in drink and drugs, so he took his money and ran, finding contentment with a surrogate native American mother and son, who are the only staff he needs at his ranch this time of year.

Thalia is sent by her sleazy boss, Levinson, who she had an affair with when she first arrived in L.A., but now she’s in danger of losing her job if she doesn’t persuade JR to take the lead in a new movie she’s attempting to produce. She has some big names lined up, but it all depends on JR’s agreement to the project.

Of course she meets with a refusal, but she decides to stay for a day in order to persuade him. Otherwise, she has nowhere to go except to her mother’s house in Oklahoma. She might as well go to L.A. only to pack her bags.

JR refuses, but then the blizzard happens. Often in romance novels, a blizzard is just an excuse to keep a couple together, and while this is obviously the case, Anderson describes the blizzard much better than most. It takes on a really terrifying presence and we learn, along with Thalia, how dangerous a real blizzard can be. Thalia’s background as a country girl means she is willing to muck in and indeed muck out, and she helps with the horses while they wait for the blizzard to clear.

I enjoyed Thalia. She isn’t perfect, and that’s one thing I enjoyed about her, but she is open to new experiences and new people. She has a realistic view of L.A., too and knows she’s working with sleazeballs and power brokers, but that doesn’t stop her trying to do her job. When she is afraid JR will discover her past affair with Levinson, one of the people JR particularly hates, I would have preferred her to tell him, and, of course, this part provides the tension later in the story.

JR is an honest man and has found his redemption in ranching. He wears a beard for most of the story, as ranchers do in Montana in the freezing cold. I should add that I just described JR as a “cowboy,” realized my mistake and went back and changed it to “rancher,” because Anderson makes the reader aware of the fact without ramming it down our throats. That I, an urbanite from England, recognize it is an indication of the detail and the care with which this story was written. However, JR has a temper and is all too aware of the fact that he loses it spectacularly, something that made him pack up his film career and move to Montana. He was a child of Hollywood, although not a wealthy one until he started acting, with a mother who pushed him into his career, but he doesn’t blame her. And he’s good, good enough to get an Oscar, and other awards.

I enjoyed the denouement of the book, but I do feel that it is rushed and that some parts of the story might have been cut, because there are references to things Thalia and JR do offstage that I feel would have strengthened the story. The way she coaches him. I want to see how good she is at her job instead of being told about it, but the end does read as if cuts were made or shortcuts to valid parts of character and plot development.

However, I like this book and I’m keeping my fingers crossed that I’m out of the slew of “meh” books that have attacked me recently.

LynneCs iconGrade: B


James Roberts Bradley burned out early. Ten years ago, he walked away from multi-million dollar film roles and disappeared into the Montana back country. As an assistant producer for a blockbuster Western that already has Oscar written all over it, it’s Thalia Thorne’s job to track Bradley down and sign him to the project. She’s used to dealing with Hollywood egos and hardball negotiation tactics. She never expected to find a real-life cowboy who tips his hat and says ‘no’ with a smile. Can she convince Bradley to take the comeback role of a lifetime?

Read an excerpt.