Author: Lori Wilde
Publication: Avon; Original edition (March 27, 2012)
Description: Ex-champion bull rider-turned-cutting-horse cowboy Joe Daniels isn't quite sure how he ended up sleeping in a horse trough wearing nothing but his Stetson and cowboy boots. But now he's wide-awake, and a citified woman is glaring down at him. His goal? Get rid of her ASAP. The obstacle? Fighting the attraction he feels toward the blond-haired filly with the big, vulnerable eyes.
When out-of-work wedding planner Mariah Callahan learns that her estranged father has left her a rundown ranch in Jubilee, she has no choice but to accept it. Her goal? Redeem her career by planning local weddings. The obstacle? One emotionally wounded, hard-living cowboy who stirs her guilt, her heartstrings, and her long-burned cowgirl roots . . .
My Thoughts: I think what I liked the most about this romance was that the romance didn't come easy. So often the hero and heroine take one look at each other, fall madly in love, and then have to deal only with outside forces trying to disturb their romance. In this story the conflict in the romance came from inside both of the main characters.
Mariah comes to Jubilee, Texas, after she inherits a ranch from the father who abandoned her and her mother when she was seven. Her father had to follow his obsession with cutting horses and left his family behind. Mariah was raised by her mother who worked as a housekeeper for rich Chicago families. Mariah has learned to blend in no matter what the social situation but has never felt like she belonged anywhere or had anyone but her mother to love her. She has worked for eleven years as the assistant to a society wedding planner and likes seeing other people's dreams come true. Her mother has found her own true love and has moved with him to Argentina. So when Mariah's dream job falls apart and she is fired and blacklisted she jumps at the chance to go to Jubilee. She hopes to quickly sell the ranch and get back to her "real" life in Chicago.
The first person she meets in Jubilee is Joe Daniels. When she first meets him, he is lying drunk and almost naked in a gold-plated watering trough in front of his home. Joe is using alcohol to dull the pain of the loss of Mariah's father Dutch who was his mentor. Coincidentally, Dutch died the same day that Joe lost his beloved young wife two years previously. He isn't doing well dealing with the grief of either loss. Mariah resents the closeness that Joe and Dutch had; Joe is angry at what he sees as Mariah's neglect of her father.
Mariah bears some physical resemblance to Joe's wife Becca but she quickly shows that her personality is very different. They are attracted to each other but seem to have so many obstacles in the way of a romance. Mariah thinks of herself as being in Jubilee only temporarily; Joe is the fifth generation to live on his ranch. Joe is as involved with cutting horses as Mariah's father was; Mariah is a wedding planner and sees herself as a city girl. Mariah fears that Joe is just like her father and will abandon her for horses like her father did. Joe is just afraid to risk his heart again after having it so badly broken by losing his first wife.
The book makes lots of allusions to Sleepless in Seattle. There are quite a few parallels between the movie and Joe and Mariah's situations. It takes hard work on both their parts before their romance can be successful. I liked both Mariah and Joe and thought they were realistic and well-rounded characters. I thought the secondary characters were also interesting people with stories I want to hear. I haven't read anything else by Lori Wilde but I know I will be adding her books to my stack.
"Aw, poor baby. He got one helluva bruise and now he never wants to ride another horse again."I received this ARC from Avon Books via Amazon Vine. You can buy your copy here.
"It's not the same and you know it."
"Isn't it? So you had your heart broken. Any of us that have been around for any length of time have had our hearts broken. That's life. That's all it is. Loving, getting hurt, but daring to love again, even though you know you're probably going to get hurt again. That's the triumph of the human spirit. The infinite capacity to love."