I guess I was wrong about finishing The Trouble with Cowboys in just twenty-four hours.
It was more like twenty-six, but who's counting? It only took that long because I had to stop and eat and go places. I would say I had to sleep too, but I only got an hour or two last night, because I just couldn't stop reading. Ah, I have missed books that keep me up all night! I also took it in the car everywhere. I was early to church this morning, so I sat in the car and read just one more chapter. We went out to dinner for my brother's birthday, and I was so anxious to get back to reading. I know, that's probably bad, but it was just that good.
Author: Denise Hunter
Preview: Annie Wilkerson is Moose Creek's premiere horse trainer and equine columnist for Montana Living. Money is tight as she tries to put her kid-sister through college and provide for her young nephew. When Anne's column is cancelled, she's given first shot at a new lovelorn column - and she can't afford to turn it down. Only problem is...Annie's never been in love. Always resourceful, she reluctantly strikes a deal with the town's smooth-talking ladies' man Dylan Taylor. She'll work with his ailing horse, Braveheart, if he'll help her answer the readers letters. Working closely with Dylan is harder than Annie imagined, and she quickly realizes she may have misjudged him. But her unwavering conviction that cowboys are nothing but trouble has kept her heart safe for years. And she can't risk getting hurt now. The more Annie tries to control things, the more they fall apart. Her feelings are spinning out of control, and her sister's antics are making life increasingly more difficult. Annie knows she needs to turn the reins over to God, but surrender has never come easily. When Dylan reveals his feelings for her, Annie doesn't know what to trust - her head or her heart. The trouble with this cowboy is that he might just be exactly what she needs.
Thoughts: I guess I kind of gave away my initial thoughts already. It was so fantastic! I've actually had it on my shelf for quite a while, but other books kept getting pushed up on my TBR list, and I knew I wanted to be able to really enjoy it. Oh boy did I! Denise Hunter never disappoints, truly. When I was about halfway through, it occurred to me that, with all the books I have waiting for me on my shelf, all I really wanted was a dozen more books from Denise Hunter to just devour. (Unfortunately, this was the last one I have that I hadn't read. I know what I'll be doing with any birthday money!) The Trouble with Cowboys is definitely my favorite of the Big Sky Romance series, and *probably* my second favorite book by Denise. I don't think any book could take the #1 spot from Surrender Bay, but this one is tied with Saving Grace. (Yeah, I rank my books.)
I loved: Everything. The story line was wonderful. It was sweet and sometimes sad and surprising, but not in a way that made me struggle through reading it, if that makes sense. I left feeling happy. I love the advice column theme and the snippets before each chapter.
I loved the characters. Annie reminded me of myself - mature and cautious, with a love for romance novels. Oh, and a headstrong little sister. Sierra was a great contrast and perfect for the story, but I found myself getting frustrated with her along with Annie. Ryder was just TOO cute, and reminded me of my little brother. I loved seeing the cast of characters from the previous two books, especially Miss Lucy! And then there's Dylan. Um. Wow. Dylan is...just, wow. What a man. That's all I'm gonna say. *swoon*
I loved the names. It might be a weird quirk, but a character's name can really influence how I feel about them. I've always had a thing for names, and a thing for books. Makes sense that I would want them to work well together. They definitely did here. Annie is a sweet, classy, name for a sweet, classy, reserved woman. I thought the idea of her possibly becoming Annie Oakley was great. Sierra makes me think of a fiery redhead, so that was perfect. I love the name Ryder, and it's perfect for a cowboy story. I've always loved the name Dylan (I actually begged my mom to name my little brother this, but she didn't.) and it fit him perfectly. I even liked the last name Taylor. It reminded me of Andy Taylor and the handsome, charming gentleman type with a killer smile. I also really loved the name Braveheart for Dylan's beloved horse. That's such a COOL name!
I've said it before and I'll say it again: Nobody can write a kiss, or near kiss, or any type of physical chemistry like Denise Hunter. Not that the characters are only interested in the physical. Not at all. It's clear that it goes much deeper, but the attraction does makes it so much more realistic. I think a lot of Christian authors shy away from a lot of passion because they don't want to be too "sexy". That's fine, and I'm glad to have clean love stories to read. But of course you're going to be attracted to the person you fall in love with! I appreciate Denise's way of creating a chemistry so strong it's like a force that can't be reckoned with...while still completely respecting a Godly boundary for relationships. My heart does flips when I read her books, because ya know what? Sometimes cowboys are just hot. :D
I didn't love: N/A. Really, there wasn't a thing I disliked. Oh wait!! I dislike that the Big Sky series is over. I knew it was ending, but I must have been in denial, because I was so disappointed when I read it again in the acknowledgements at the end.
Cover Story: This is definitely my favorite cover from the Big Sky series, too. I remember when it was released on Facebook and I instantly fell in love with it. I absolutely adore the autumn colors and the blue of the sky. I love the landscape. Dylan looks perfectly flirty and Annie is stunning. I really love her hair...and her face...and I totally want her outfit.
More than Words: This isn't a quote, but I wanted to mention that I learned a lot while reading this book. If I'm being honest, even though I read Christian fiction almost exclusively, I often ignore the lessons once I've closed the book. I might think, 'Oh that's nice' and not really give it another thought. Unless it's truly extraordinary, I certainly don't consider how I might apply it to my life. Not so this time.
Because I related so closely to Annie, the lessons she learned stung me a little bit. I'm a control freak. Not just with my sister, but I have actually seen that very thing happening lately. We're too different to live life the same way, but that's okay, because God made us different for a reason.
It really stung when I realized (with Annie) that I am judgmental. Nobody wants to admit that. I am, though, and it's been worse lately. I think I'm so mature and sensible that I'm better than other people. I think they are reckless. Turns out I'm actually jealous of their ability to let go and just have fun. Ouch. Not the most fun revelation, but something I needed to hear. I'll be praying about how to change that, for sure. My prayer will be like the one Annie prayed that hit home maybe a little too much:
'I've been wholly unlovely, God. Forgive me. Help me to see people as they really are and not as I've believed them to be. Help me to see myself for who I really am, not for what I believed myself to be.'
I've always known that I am too cautious. "Cautious" being a nice word for "fearful". I have a long way to go with that one, but this book helped me see a little more clearly how it's possible to get past my tendency to build walls. Life means taking risks. (Ah, that's scary!) Someday, falling in love will mean taking a risk. (And I do want that!). Trust means letting go. (Deep breath). Something else I hadn't thought of before I read it:
'The scariest thing about a leap of faith was the first step.'
Dylan Taylor - When I first saw the cover, I thought of Joshua Jackson:
I think he's cute, and does look like the guy on the cover. However, after reading about Dylan, I picture someone even more attractive. Almost impossibly so. But for this post, I'm torn between Chris Pine:
And Paul Walker (with darker hair):
I think the playful expressions on both of their faces are very "Dylan", but for either you'd substitute intense blue eyes for melt-y chocolate brown ones. *sigh*
Annie Wilkerson - I was actually confused about Annie. She is described as having black hair, but the cover picture looks like a dark auburn to me. Because I had loved the cover so much, and specifically her hair, I pictured her with wavy auburn hair. I picture her exactly like the cover, but similar to Sarah Drew:
This is one of those books that is going to make the next one hard to get into...