Publish date: October 30, 2012 (out now)
How I got this Book: eARC from publisher
It’s Christmastime in Jubilee, Texas, but Lissette Moncrief is having a hard time celebrating . . .
Especially after she accidentally smashes her car into Rafferty Jones’s pick-up truck. Yes, he’s a whole lot of handsome—from the tips of his boots to the top of his Stetson. But he’s no Christmas present. Lissy’s not about to let herself get whisked away by his charming ways and words . . . only to watch him drive away in the end.
But what Lissy doesn’t know is Rafferty’s in town just to meet her—and to give her a share in a windfall that doesn’t rightly belong to him. At first, he just wants to do his good deed and get out. But one look at this green-eyed beauty has him deciding to turn this into a Christmas to remember . . . making promises he’s determined to keep—whether she believes in them or not.
*Blurb taken from Goodreads
A Cowboy for Christmas is the third book in Wilde’s Jubilee, Texas series but it reads fine as a stand-alone. The characters from the previous books are included but not in a way that interferes with the progression of this story. Lissette has been dealing with the aftermath of losing her husband, Jake, in Afghanastan. Her late husband had not assigned her as his beneficiary so she has to figure out how she is going to support herself and her son. Rafferty is a horse trainer from California and he’s come to Jubilee, Texas to make good on a promise.
I’m such a sucker for holiday stories. I had been looking forward to whittling away at the TBR pile in order to get to this one and was happy when its time came. I settled in with a cuppa non-dairy hot cocoa and got to reading. Before I dig into the review, let me just say up front that the overall story concept is actually quite sweet and there were many story elements that touched the heart strings – I just had problems with the execution.
As for the writing style, it became evident to me that exposition (read: Tell) was going to play a large role in the narrative of this story. Pages and pages and pages of exposition presented in the guise of indirect internal dialogue by the various characters. Oh joy.
Take the very opening scene for example. Here we have Lissette at the grocery story trying to purchase baking supplies. She proceeds to have a meltdown but where are we, the readers? We’re stuck in her head in reverie land getting fed tons of backstory and personal ruminations. Chaos is breaking loose all around her, she’s becoming unhinged and yet we never get to fully experience her meltdown so it just doesn’t feel real. The amount of exposition kept me removed from the action of the story as it was happening and in the end, I was just meh about that whole scene. And yet this scene sets up the next set of events, so I really should want to care about her state of mind. I just don’t. Sadly, this wasn’t an isolated example.
And from that opening scene, we moved on to the next plot development: the introduction of the Insta-Attraction trope. I’m batting two for two now. First I have exposition keeping me disconnected from the feeling of the story. Now I have Insta-Attraction keeping me from connecting to the romance. Dagnabbit. Within minutes of meeting Lissette, Rafferty is already musing about how he’s instantly aware of everything about her, how he’s feeling trapped but then in the next instant realizes he feels contentment. Gah! There’s just no foundation for these kinds of feelings yet. Chemistry? Sure. Trapped/Contentment? Not yet. I think Insta-Attraction is difficult to pull off well and requires a strong grounding in the story which just didn’t happen for me here.
As for Lissette’s character, I did like that she wanted to stop being a people-pleaser and figure out how to not only say what she wanted but to stop caring about what other people wanted her to do. She recognized that her problem was she tended to lose herself in her attempts to appease other people. She wanted to stand on her own so she was reluctant to accept help from Rafferty, fearing she would slip back into old patterns. And while I felt there was some incongruency within the character on this point, overall her personal development had a nice flow to it. She had a lot on her plate to cope with but I liked how she just kept moving, learning, growing. She knew she had to be both an example and advocate for her son and she just got to work once the initial shock had passed. I admired that. It was good to see her make some boundaries in the end and stick to them.
Rafferty grew up in a less-than-ideal family situation. As a result of that, he had a major rescuer archetype pattern. His rescuer nature kind of fed into the whole Insta-Attraction so I do get how that played into the plot. He helped Lissette to recognize her own strengths and encouraged her to speak up for herself. He was great with Lissette’s son, Kyle. At times, however, I felt he was too perfect. Too benevolent. He had no discernible flaws. Some of his internal dialogue came off as just a bit too balanced – like platitudes one would find in a self-help book. Most rescuers have to learn the hard way how to rescue someone in a healthy way without turning the situation into a dysfunctional codependent relationship. Everything here just sort of came easy.
I felt the pact they made towards the end put too much onus on Rafferty, leaving Lissette no active role in the outcome of the pact at all. This seemed in direct conflict with her desire to take a stand for what she wanted in her life. Why would she make a pact where she played a passive role in something so pivotally important to her life? Once a reference is made to a certain movie – well, I knew what was going to happen. And yes, I was right. But then, that’s what makes a holiday-themed story so comforting. Familiarity. Tradition. Happy endings. Or maybe it was just the hot cocoa.
While I struggled with the first half of the book, the second half did pick up the pace a bit. While I never really felt fully connected to the story or the romance, again, the second half of the book seemed to provide a bit more foundation for the relationship. Although, I continued to feel the exposition was a bit overdone throughout. The ending was predictable but that’s not necessarily a bad thing given the context. And I generally liked the characters themselves even if I felt a bit removed from their experience within the story.
I give A Cowboy for Christmas a C-.