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Wednesday, February 6, 2019

The Cowboy Next Door (Once Upon a Western, #3) by Trish Milburn


A Review by Wendy
 3.5 He Was Capable of More Stars
* * * 1/2  
Spoiler Free

It is unfortunate, but in our daily life, image and how we see ourselves makes up an enormous amount of how we feel. It may have become heightened with all of the social media outlets, etc., but these concepts of beauty and its importance has always been there.

As an example, I had made it to twenty-five without having chicken pox. When my first son came down with it, so did I. It left me with some minor scars on my face. As minor as they were, it caused me to feel as if my face wasn't mine anymore and I think I stopped wearing contacts and started to wear my glasses more and more to cover them. With this experience of very minor physical change, I started reading this tale with a personal connection of my own.

Life for Claire Moon had been free and easy... her spirit was light, she was blessed with pleasant looks and an appreciation for life. Her family loved her and she blossomed into a happy woman talented in jewelry making. Life was an adventure.

An then it became hell...her apartment building was engulfed in flames and as she tried to escape, a piece of the building fell on her, leaving half of her face destroyed.
After going through numerous reconstructive surgeries, she finally felt confident enough to try to reclaim her life. Her venture out to be part of everyday tasks became a nightmare...the whispers, stares and then crying of young children caused her to turn within. It was so traumatic, she took the settlement from the negligent landowners and found her own safe haven, Montana.

Here is Montana, Claire found the most rundown ranch. She saw the bones of it and felt she could make it her own. She was able to get it for a great price and she wasn't afraid of manual labor. The ranch had a home which was basically sound, she just needed to move it into the 21st century with paint, repairs, and love. Claire had already given the land her love through a vegetable garden. She had nursed it and somehow hoped to bring it along to produce all she planted.

Only when she looked out her window, she saw cattle from the next door ranch marching towards the vegetation like a determined vacationer to a Las Vegas Buffet! She scrambled out with her baseball bat and swung it around to get the cattle out of her garden. They looked up as then munched and chewed with mirth in their eyes.

Wes McQueen is hustling to round up the escaped cattle which have made their way into the new neighbor's land. As he moves closer to the area where they are clustered, he sees a woman trying her best to get these animals out of her garden. As Wes gets closer to the house the woman turns and he barely sees part of her face. What he does sees interests him and approaches with a friendly smile. One of his brothers follows up behind him and yells out causing the cattle to respond and leave the yard.

Claire hoped the same thing that caused the cattle to leave would make the cowboy in front of her to disappear too. Instead, he is too close for comfort for Claire. She picked this isolated ranch for a reason. She decided she wouldn't need people up close and personal any more. She had her business which worked perfectly over the web and social media, she got all of her supplies delivered and if she had to get something in person, she went when there timing would make it likely no one was around. Perfect, no people see them stare or try to cover up their reactions to her face.

Now she has this handsome, picture perfect cowboy front and center and wants to talk with her. Claire had developed a way of turning to the side and offering her "good side" to those she had to deal with. Her hair was like a screen hiding her bad side. Oh, he needs to leave and Claire did everything possible to get him to leave as quickly as possible. She responded to his apology for the cattle trampling and eating her vegetable garden. He wanted to pay for the replacement and she quickly told him, no it wasn't necessary. She wasn't exactly cold to him or rude. She just wanted him gone.

Wes realized his smiles and charm meant nothing to this woman and he felt there was something more than her push to have him gone from her land. As he left he wondered if she was out there on her own due to a man who had hurt her in the past. He understood she might have felt uncomfortable with him being there as she was on her own. He didn't understand his immediate feelings of wanting to protect her though...

Wes was known as the Romeo of the family... he loved the women but never led them on, at least that was what he always made sure to relay to them. He wasn't a commitment guy and his reputation was out there for all to tease him...And somehow the teasing got old.

When Wes thought about the slight woman, his new neighbor, he thought writing a check to replace the damaged garden wasn't enough. Instead, he went and bought all of the necessary vegetable sides, low fencing and planting dirt to fix what was ruined. He pulled up to Claire's ranch and started to unload. Claire was stunned and hide inside praying he was dropping off the goods.

As Wes began to work the land, planting and fixing the garden just so, Claire was in turmoil. She didn't want him doing this but she also was so drawn to this man. She felt she had no right to be as she had nothing to offer. Wanting not to be rude, Claire came out at dusk and placed some lemonade for Wes to have. She kept her distance, being careful to have her hair hiding her scars. She thanked him and before she realized it, a friendly conversation was taking place. Could these two be friends...

Time goes by and yes, Wes and Claire do become friends...with Wes slowly getting information from Claire. A budding romance develops with so many hurdles to overcome for the both of them...Assumptions are made about Wes...and He is hurt when they arise.

This story covers so many things society puts on us... our images, the fear of the unknown and assumptions of people and their behaviors. For a sweet Western, it covered all of these issues with real depth.

A gifted copy was provided by Tule Publishing via NetGalley for an honest review.

Trish grew up in Kentucky and got her degree in print journalism from Murray State University. After college, she worked as a newspaper reporter, a marketing assistant and finally a magazine managing editor before quitting to freelance write and copy edit. By taking the leap into freelancer-land, she also had more time to devote to writing fiction and chasing her dream of becoming a published novelist. While working toward her first sale, she placed eight times as a finalist in the prestigious Golden Heart contest sponsored by Romance Writers of America, winning twice. She was also a finalist in Harlequin American Romance’s Great American Novel contest, which led to her first sale to American Romance. She has served her local RWA chapter, Music City Romance Writers, in virtually every position, and as a director on RWA’s national board of directors.
Other than reading (her to-be-read pile is literally four digits), Trish enjoys traveling (by car or train—she’s a terra firma girl!), hiking, nature photography and visiting national parks. Two of her life goals are to visit every unit of the U.S. National Park Service and to hike the Appalachian Trail. While many authors buy themselves a piece of jewelry or gorgeous new shoes to commemorate their first sales, Trish bought herself a TiVo so she doesn’t miss any of her favorite shows while she’s banging away at the computer keyboard to meet her deadlines.
In addition to writing romances for Harlequin American Romance and Harlequin Nocturne, Trish writes young adult novels Bell Bridge Books. She and her wonderfully supportive husband, who is also a Kentucky native, eventually moved a little further south, which Trish likes because she hates being cold. She could totally get used to decorating a palm tree for Christmas if she ever ended up living in Florida.
You can visit Trish on Facebook, on Twitter at @TrishMilburn or at her website,

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