Donna Repsher's Reviews > The Cowboy Next Door

The Cowboy Next Door by Trish Milburn
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really liked it

The Cowboy Next Door is the third title in Trish Milburn's Once Upon a Western series and it's the second title in that series I've read, and my favorite thus far. Although it's a one-sitting read, it is filled with warmth, kindness, an emotional understanding and sensitivity to the way people with disfiguring injuries (accept that it also relates to those born less than perfect) deal with the way people react to them, and how they come to learn to accept the hand they've been dealt and carry on with their lives. I give it 4.5 stars.

Claire Moon, the heroine, had one side of her face badly burned and disfigured while she was trying to flee her burning apartment building, a fire that killed two other tenants. Once she was able to leave the hospital and try to pick up the threads of her life, from the looks she got and the way people treated and reacted to her changed appearance, including the boyfriend who left her as soon as he saw her face, realized that her life was forever changed. With her insurance settlement, she left Houston and bought a small, run-down ranch in a small Montana town--a place where she could hide away from the stares and whispers, set up her on-line jewelry making business, and even have her groceries delivered by mail, and where she could avoid all personal human contact and interactions, or so she believed--she didn't count on meeting the Wes McQueen, the handsome and flirtatious cowboy next door.

When Claire finds some of the McQueen cattle grazing on her first ever vegetable garden and tries unsuccessfully to shoo them away with her broom, Wes comes riding to the rescue, and finds it odd that his new neighbor won't even meet him face-to-face. He can see the undamaged side of her face, and what he sees is a beautiful woman. Although she tries to talk him out of making reparations, Wes does what he thinks is right, and is back the next day, not with a check, but with new plants and seeds, and despite Claire's objections, goes ahead and replants her garden. Wes is handsome, and a commitment-phobic serial dater, who isn't used to women resisting his charming, sexy and fun-loving personality, and is intrigued by Claire, who seems quite able to resist his advances.

One thing Claire hadn't counted on when she decided to hide away in Montana was the isolation and loneliness. Her inner struggles with her disfigurement, and her newly formed self-esteem issues are similar to what wounded war veterans have to come to terms with when they return home. Sadly, we are a society constantly obsessed with and bombarded by images of stunning actresses and models, and judging others by those standards. It's part of the reason anorexia and bulimia have become as commonplace as the saying, "you can't be too thin or too rich." This novel clearly, and with warmth and understanding, depicts the feelings of a woman who has never known what it was like to be rejected because of her appearance, and sadly, it's a rude awakening. She truly has lost her trust in others but when Wes keeps returning, unasked, to help her work on her renovations, Claire doesn't understand why he's bothering with her when there's no shortage of other beautiful women he can date, but slowly, although she continues to hide the damaged side of her face from him with her long hair, a casual friendship begins to form.

While expecting to read about Claire's issues, as Wes continues to help her, and when he learns the reasons why she's hiding from the realtor who handled her purchase of the ranch, he researches what happened to her, and tries with great sensitivity to get her to realize that true beauty is so much more than just her physical appearance. His relationship with Claire also leads him to examine his own choices in the other women he's dated, and when his family members point out what they see as his shallow standards and previous dating behavior, they warn him that Claire might become too attached to him, and the damage he could do to her fragile ego if he's as casual and uncommitted with her as he has been with other women all along. So instead of one character trying to come to terms with her injuries, we have two characters who are slowly learning to accept each other and grow emotionally.

Eventually Claire accidentally shows her damaged face to Wes and is shocked that he's still coming around. She soon admits to herself that she's falling for the handsome and kind cowboy, and that his family members all treat her as they would anyone else. But when Wes talks Claire into letting him take her to the Founder's Day celebration, she inadvertently overhears some unflattering remarks while in the ladies room, and realizes that although Wes already has her heart, he's a been love 'em and leave 'em kind of guy, and rather than fall more in love with him, she decides to end their relationship before he dumps her the way her previous boyfriend did. But is that the right move for her? Even she has her doubts, and since I don't do spoilers, I'll leave you to discover for yourself what happens after Claire's preemptive break-up with Wes.

Although rather short in length, the speed at which this novel and the relationship between its two main characters was paced was a little too fast for this reader. It's a romance novel after all, so you already know that there will be an HEA ending, I just wish Ms. Milburn had expanded on the depth and development of their relationship and the time-frame of this book to make this engaging, heartfelt, and well written story seem a bit more realistic and the relationship more believable.

I voluntarily read an advance reader copy of this novel. The opinions expressed are my own.
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Reading Progress

March 21, 2019 – Started Reading
March 22, 2019 – Shelved
March 22, 2019 – Finished Reading

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