Kathleen Eagle has been writing and publishing for a long time, and I have read her books before. A long time ago. A few single title contemporaries that I recall really enjoying. Why I didn’t keep on reading her, especially since she’s back to working within category romance, I have no clue. Too many books, not enough time I suspect. One Less Lonely Cowboy is a good reintroduction and reminds me that what I enjoyed most about my past experiences with Eagle’s work is her way with characters.
Lily Reardon left home at seventeen, kicked out of the house by her alcoholic father when he found out she was pregnant. Lily went to live in the big city of Minneapolis, moving in with her mother, who isn’t exactly Mother-of-the-Year material. But she gave birth to a beautiful baby girl, Iris; got herself through college; and has a nice career as an English teacher. Well, that is, until cutbacks lead to her getting laid off. Now with no money, no nest egg, and no place else to go – Lily is coming home to Montana, bringing the now 13-year-old Iris with her, and moving back in with dear old Dad.
Mike has stopped drinking, and he has many regrets. He’s also an old man now, hiding some fairly serious health problems from his daughter. He still raises cattle but has formed a co-op that promotes grass-fed, organic methods to ranching. It’s a small operation, which is the way he likes it, and he has a day worker who helps him out, Jack McKenzie. Naturally, when Lily arrives on the scene, the sparks start flying between her and Jack.
If I have to describe this story in one word, it would be quiet. Even with a serious load of emotional angst serving for backstory, this isn’t a story with a lot of fireworks. The conflict mostly centers around the characters, their lives, and their pasts. Jack is also an alcoholic, having stopped drinking in large part thanks to Mike. He’s divorced, with two kids, and has made a decent living for himself hiring himself out as a day laborer. He doesn’t contract with any one rancher in the area. Whoever has work for him that day, that week – he takes the job. He gets paid hourly, he’s good at what he does, and he’s reliable. So what if he lives like a nomad?
Lily’s mother left both her and her father when Lily was young. From then on it was her and her Dad – who was not necessarily a mean drunk, more like a very hard man. Lily getting pregnant, by a cowboy who turned tail and ran, serves as the catalyst in Mike’s life. He has regrets, but isn’t quite sure how he can repair the damage. Likewise, Lily has her own baggage that stems from her mother’s abandonment and her father’s drinking. These people have a whole lot to work through.
With internal conflict of this sort, one would expect a heavier book – and this one really isn’t. Eagle writes a lot of bantering dialogue. It’s an easy story. A breezy story. Certainly there are emotional pay-off scenes, but it’s not nearly as wrenching as one may expect. In some ways this is disappointing (what can I say, I’m an angst junkie), but in other ways I appreciate that I don’t have to spend the entire novel reading about characters constantly screaming at each other.
In the end, this is a quiet story with interesting characters, but it just sort of stops. One gets the impression that Eagle could have kept going for another 100 pages, and while it does end “happily” – there isn’t a finality to it. It’s a lot like real life. Yes, you’ve fallen in love – but your life isn’t over. It’s just beginning. It’s a story with an excellent sense of place, nice characters who have made past mistakes, and a pleasant love story thrown into the mix. It’s not a great read, but it’s a good, solid one.
HE’S READY AND ABLE…
Jack McKenzie is an old-school cowboy. A loner making a good living at a Missouri ranch, he just wants to collect his pay, keep to himself and-most important-forget the past. But the return of his boss’s daughter changes everything…and makes him long for more than his solitary life….
BUT IS SHE WILLING?
The last place Lily Reardon had ever imagined going was home, but there she is-the prodigal daughter with a child of her own. Estranged from her father, she struggles to reconnect. Slowly, with the help of strong, silent ranch hand Jack McKenzie, she begins to see her past-and even her future-in a new light. But can Jack trust in love enough to take his place in Lily’s renewed family?