• Deborah MB

Hearts and Horses in 'A Cowboy State of Mind'

Jennie Marts brings us a new volume for her “Cowboys of Credence” series. In A Cowboy State of Mind Zane Taylor, the sexy yet scarred son of the town drunk is back in town. And despite his best efforts, he cannot help but being drawn to Bryn Callahan, the big-hearted and beautiful diner waitress. United by their love of animals and an impulse horse rescue, they will eventually have to rescue their own selves from the shadows of their pasts and into love.

This is an unapologetic feel-good romance, an excellent example of a craft clearly well practiced. Marts follows her formula and uses all the possible tropes in the genre to good effect. We have the hunky aloof cowboy with a heart of gold and a tortuous past; the curvaceous sexy woman with a drive to mother and care for others; the handsome and stable second lead; the revolting ex; even the delightful child and idyllic family farm make an appearance. The smart twist on this book, however, is that each of the leads finds salvation by themselves, rather than being saved by the other. Bryn may need Zane’s help with the rescues, but she does learn to fend for herself, overcoming her own need to put others ahead. Similarly, Zane benefits from Bryn’s acceptance of his wound (physical and otherwise), but he has to face his past on his own.

Who would enjoy this

A Cowboy State of Mind is decidedly the kind of book aimed at die-hard romantics, even better if they are American, Christian and Mid-Western.

If you are looking for a lot of fluff, some humour, wholesome values, some sexy times, and easy entertainment, this is a good choice. I particularly recommend it for anyone with a love of animals, as they play quite a role here.

Who should give this a pass

Well, no, don’t even start reading this if you are looking for a piece of great literature. It is also not a realistic portrayal of life, or animal rescues, let alone of relationships for that matter. Moreover, this is not a true reflection of how trauma, both personal and from military action, affects or is overcome.

Additionally, if you are a reader of romance but don’t want to read about sex outside of wedlock, give this a pass. The sexiness is implied from the word go, and the sex scenes themselves are detailed enough to be uncomfortable for some.

Conclusions and suggestions

As I mentioned above, I commend this book for what it is: an excellent example of modern romance. Jennie Marts clearly knows what is the goal when she writes her romance, i.e. to warm hearts. Despite the slight ‘teaching’ slips here and there, the psychological and spiritual aspects in A Cowboy State of Mind are not a guide to life. The style is light and the romance quick enough to get the readers enchanted by the fire in it without falling into the dreariness of the daily grind, with a pinch of relatable scenes to add to the illusion. There is enough humour to get the reader to giggle, as well, as well as enough power in the female characters to make them worthy of cheering on without turning them into unnatural superwomen.

That said, I found the inclusion of certain moments to be rather forced, particularly when done as part of the conversation. I refer to the instances where Marts tries to use psychology or explain values. Similarly, the inclusion of religion seems rather an afterthought, a token appearance instead of an element of value in its own right.

In short, that would be my two main points to recommend working on, in future:

- Don’t pontificate. Particularly, not in long diatribes in dialogues. Nobody likes a preacher. Separate the information into more, smaller scenes.

- If an element is important enough to be present in the story (let alone, a turning point as religion is here), ensure it is at least hinted at before it crops up.

- On the other hand, don’t draw out the hints of traumatic memories. Each appearance should be accompanied by an additional bit of information. Otherwise, they lose all effectivity and the trauma seems more of a childish obsession than an actual meaningful event.

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