I still had a little twinkle in my heart when I started reading this one. Maybe the first collection was just a fluke! Maybe cowboy season could be a positive experience after all! Maybe I don’t need to start rolling my eyes at the mention of every hunky cowboy forever! Maybe I could read three in a row that didn’t make me steaming mad! Maybe…!
Or maybe not. Let go of this fantasy now, I am warning you.
So here we have The Last Cowboy (actually, it IS the last of our cowboy season… I DID THAT ON PURPOSE!), who’s name is Slade (whaaaaaateverrrrrr) and who is BOTH a typical cowboy with horses and ranch and a super duper awesomesauce champion endurance rider. SO MANLY. I don’t mean to be snide (…much), endurance riding is pretty cool. So maybe Slade isn’t such a terrible hero…oh WAIT. I forgot to mention that Slade hates women and Easterners and Easterner women especially because of his ex-wife, who he married after knowing/screwing her for a week and, gosh, who would have thought THAT would end badly? Obviously Slade bears no responsibility for that disaster because WOMEN ARE AWFUL, right????? I hope he gets gored by a bull. Ugh. Our heroine is an ER doc named Jordana who has a mustang mare that she wants Slade to help train so that she and her perdy little mare can become champions. Her mare is actually very small – pony sized! Here, let Lindsay McKenna explain to you in great detail why mustangs are so small – but very talented, blah blah blah. Slade doesn’t like working with women OR with mares (………….), but he gives Jordana a good once-over with his lusty eyeballs and decides he’ll work with her. And he also charges her double his usual fee! Haha! What a scamp! Fuck this guy, for real. And not in the fun way. This book is a hard read because there’s soooooo much horsey information shoved in there. Which you might assume I would like! I’m into horses! Horse-crazed, that’s me! But it’s so boring, and so clinical-sounding, and frankly some of it is just wrong. There’s nothing I like more (less) than being lectured about horses by someone who has no idea what she’s talking about. It’s almost like those parts were written by me, circa age 13, when I was certain I knew everything and assumed Black Beauty was a good source for factual information. Love that book! But seriously, people don’t ride their horses in hackamore bridles because their bond is so strong that they don’t need a bit. That’s some My Little Pony shit right there. I could go on and on, but I won’t. Just trust me, it’s awful. As is the dialogue! Oh man!! Like when Jordana asks one of the ranch hands how long he’s worked there and the guy launches into the history of Slade and his family. It was so clunky and strange – and it gets RETOLD to us by another character two chapters later. Lindsay McKenna has invested some serious thinking-time into her characters and she is going to tell us EVERY SINGLE BIT OF IT. So unnecessary! I don’t care! I DON’T CARE. At another point, someone’s abusive relationship is being discussed, and Jordana is like, “as an ER doctor, I am familiar with abusive spouses…” like some kind of campaign speech! She is probably a robot. But anyway. Slade takes on the mare, and Jordana, for training and then they have ANOTHER completely weird and unnecessary conversation about gossip. “Did you hear about so-and-so who tried to kill so-and-so?” “Yes! I also heard that so-and-so is demanding vengeance for the such-and-such that happened whenever!” “Yes, you are correct. And also, so-and-so is planning to rob the bank after such-and-such time passes.” WHERE DO YOU PEOPLE LIVE?! If those were all a bunch of random meaningless side characters that don’t matter, I’m annoyed and I don’t care. If they’re all a bunch of characters from other books that Lindsay McKenna has written, I’m still annoyed and don’t care, but also I have to wonder what kind of shit she is writing about. And why everyone seems to know everyone’s business. And why everyone seems to take such glee in this knowing. Suddenly I’m pretty happy to be an Easterner woman, you know?
Blah blah blah, stuff happens, blah blah, horse training 101, blah blah blah, Jordana runs into the BAD GUY at the tack shop, blah blah. Then! In the MIDDLE OF A CONVERSATION that Slade and Jordana are having, Slade’s estranged twin brother shows up. He literally says, “Slade! I’m back!” and just waltzes into the novel and into our hearts (just kidding NEVER INTO MY HEART). See, the twin (Griff…) moved East and got rich on Wall St, but then everything crashed and now he’s back to help run the ranch. And Slade is like, you can’t help! You don’t know anything about ranching! I don’t have time to teach you! And Griff is like, oh…well…okay…I guess I’ll just go into the house and unpack my bags. And Jordana is like, gosh! Poor Slade! He really needs someone to hold him and rock him until he feels better! YES THE HEROINE WANTS TO ROCK THE HERO IN HER ARMS LIKE A BABY. Yes, the hero is an overgrown baby and she totally knows it. And then…Slade gets gored by a bull! YES IT REALLY HAPPENS I AM NOT EVEN JOKING. And it, like, severs his artery so Jordana has to take him to the hospital and perform life-saving surgery and also reflect on what a hard, tough, COWBOY he is. Barf, lady, for real. So then Slade is all sad because his leg is busted so he can’t ride his MUSTANG STALLION (SO FUCKING PATRIOTIC) in the big race, so he’ll probably lose his ranch, so his life is basically over. Boo hoo hoo, etc. Then Jordana is like, but Slade! I can ride! Let me ride your stallion and win the race for you! And Slade is like, lol ur a girl. True fact, people: only super duper manly men can ride stallions. If ladies try to get on a stallion, they will literally die instantly because of vagina-having. This really happens! It happens all the time! RIP, thousands of lady-riders, every day, all over the world.
I’d like to pause here for a lesson – actually, TWO lessons – in Romance Math.
Lesson 1: Mo’ Money Mo’ Problems
So Slade has this ranch and he has a mortgage payment and he is in serious danger of losing his home/business. But here is the thing: he inherited the ranch from his parents, so it’s been around awhile. Maybe it’s, like, a 100 year mortgage. I don’t know! I’m a lady and he’s a man, so I just have to trust him! Also: Slade has a bull that he breeds, cows that he presumably raises and sells. This apparently provides him with no income? I can only assume that because he talks about having cows and breeding cows and having baby cows, but doesn’t seem to know what the next step is. Which makes me wonder, why are you sinking money into a piece of your business that makes no money for you? Sell some cows, fool! Also also: Slade has an endurance horse training business. He charges $1000 per month to each student and his 10-stall barn is full. One is his own horse, and he charges Jordana double, so he’s making…hmm… 9 x $1000 + $1000 = $10,000 PER MONTH gross off that. Now of course some of that has to go into buying feed and assorted bills and supplies, etc. So let’s say fully half of that money is spent on upkeep of the property/horses. That’s still $5000 left over to, like, buy food and gas! AND PAY YOUR MORTGAGE. Also also also: Slade has a MUSTANG STALLION that he breeds to other people’s mares for a fee! A FEE! Do you see where I’m going with this? Finally: Slade is an endurance rider. He wins races. HE WINS MONEY. So, like, I’m pretty confused about why this guy is having such terrible money problems, you know? I’m beginning to suspect that Slade just sucks at being a cowboy. But I’m just a girl! So take all these thoughts with a gallon of salt.
Lesson 2: Honey, It’s Not As Big As You Think
OK, Slade’s MUSTANG STALLION is 15 hands high. For the non-horsey folks among us, a “hand” is four inches, and you only measure to the shoulder. So the top of the horse’s (I can’t bring myself to type his stupid name, ugh) shoulder is roughly 60 inches / 5 feet off the ground. Jordana is 5-foot-6. That’s roughly my height, and I’ve ridden 15 hand horses and they’re not that big. Maybe hearing “the horse’s shoulder is 5 feet high” SOUNDS big…but it’s not. It’s bigger than, like, a Shetland pony, but it’s not that big. So over and over and over, this dumb horse is described as HUGE and MASSIVE and BROAD and INTIMIDATING, and over and over I rolled my eyes out of my head. My favorite description was how the horse’s IMMENSE SIZE made Jordana look like a jockey sitting on him or how she had to use ALL HER STRENGTH to get into the saddle. Which is wrong. It’s just wrong! IT’S ALL SO WRONG.
Anyway, back to the story (do we have to?): Jordana, it turns out, is actually a good rider and she uses her dressage skills to, like, not get killed (WHAAAAAAT HOW CAN THIS BE) so Slade agrees to let her ride his (diminutive) stallion in the big race. And meanwhile there’s other stuff, like Slade’s brother being kind of incompetent but eager to learn and Slade being a huuuuuge asshole to the poor guy, and the bad guy rival making the bank president raise Slade’s interest rate so that his mortgage payment goes up, and Slade and Jordana are getting hotter and hotter for each other but they agree not to have sexytimes until after the race. They have to focus on winning because Slade needs EXACTLY $10,000 to keep afloat and, hey, that’s what the first place winner gets! I don’t know where that magical ranch saving number comes from, but…ssssshhhh. Best not to dig too deep into these things.
And then Jordana wins the race and they screw each other’s brains out and they get engaged. And I sprouted wings out of my butt and flew over the rainbow with my winged unicorn friends, never to return! Haha! Happy endings all around.
I was going to give this one 2 stars because I acknowledge that I was in a seriously bad mood while reading it, but then I realized that it was badly written and also badly researched and also there was no sex till the last five pages and also I hate the hero. In short, the bad mood was caused by this book. So I think it definitely earned its one star! Congratulations, Last Cowboy, for ending on a low note.
GOOD NEWS EVERYONE!!!!! COWBOY SEASON IS O-V-E-R!!!!