J-Bar ranch foreman Malloy pretty much keeps to himself—slinking around the edges of everybody else like an old coyote, doing his job and staying private. That is until Crispin Carrasco shows up.
Lean, muscular, and with a motor mouth that won’t quit, Crispin sparks something in Malloy—something the foreman didn’t know was there. But how does a lone coyote approach the warmth of a fire?
And more important, what would happen if that fire burned?
This blurb came from the author’s website.
I have a weakness for the lone cowboy, probably as a result of voraciously reading westerns so when I read the blurb for this book I was curious. This was my first Z. A. Maxfield but I had heard good things about her writing before so I decided to give My Cowboy Heart a try. I didn’t really go into this with expectations as to how the story would go beyond the blurb so I was pleasantly surprised at how many layers Maxfield included in this story beyond Malloy and Crispin’s relationship.
Malloy had a special relationship with the owners of the J-Bar. After a very rough early childhood, he grew up on the farm as an older foster child who ended up becoming the ranch foreman. Mr. Jenkins, his wife and two daughters were the first good thing to happen to Malloy and they remained a constant fixture in his life. Because of his childhood Malloy never opened up to anyone outside the Jenkins family and even with them he kept them at a slight distance. As a result, he never developed a relationship outside of paying a woman for casual sex to scratch an itch. He even remained distant from the other two hands on the J-Bar Ranch. Then came Crispin, who seemed not to know the meaning of distance or silence.
Crispin was a shock to the ranch. He was young, energetic, had a huge soft spot for animals, and enjoyed taking care of people. He also managed to make all of the hands believe he was gay from his initial introduction. This ended up causing all sorts of issues but not exactly for the reasons you might imagine. I won’t spoil that part because the discovery is something that happens later in the book in bits and pieces for a reason. Yet for all of Crispin’s joy in life he had darkness in his past and was a lot stronger than anyone would have guessed.
I found My Cowboy Heart both enjoyable and touching. At certain points I had to pause and look around to make sure no one noticed I was struggling to hold onto my composure. Public transportation is not the place to need a tissue to dab your eyes. Crispin and Malloy didn’t have a smooth transition to friendship and then to lovers. It was a rather bumpy rollercoaster of a ride. Crispin made some assumptions about Malloy and then reacted harshly when he found out he was wrong. Malloy was bumbling and somewhat resisting his way though his first of many things. I loved the conversation he had with his doctor as he tried to figure things out. And then the conversation between Malloy and Mr. Jenkins later in the story **cue heart melt.**
As Malloy and Crispin were trying to find their way, the atmosphere with the other two hands remained tense and sometimes almost explosive. I have to admit that I wish Malloy would have confronted them on a couple of different occasions but given what happened when he did and his own taciturn nature I mostly understood his actions. But when the chips were down Malloy did everything that needed doing regardless of the consequences or his own personal feelings. Given that, it was fascinating to see the roles that he and Crispin filled in their relationship.
I enjoyed Malloy’s journey as he learned who he was and that he belonged. I didn’t see as much growth in Crispin but I think he did manage to exorcise some of his inner demons and he also matured when it came to commitment. I let out a little cheer when they decided to disregard the potential negative thoughts and opinions of others and instead focus on being openly happy together. I have decided that while My Cowboy Heart was my first Maxfield, it won’t be my last. I am looking forward to the sequel and reading her backlist.
I give My Cowboy Heart a B+