This is a fun, sometimes funny, sometimes sad story that I really enjoyed. Ms. Helm has a lovely way of developing such multi-faceted characters that it’s hard not to get wrapped up in the story. In Rebel Cowboy, Mel Shaw is a hard-working cowgirl trying to save her family’s ranch any way she can. So she accepts a huge fee from a guy from the city who’s coming to take over his grandfather’s ranch if she will help him run it. The city slicker turns out to be a suspended NHL player, Dan Sharpe, who’s been accused of throwing a game. Hockey is the only thing he’s known since his parents divorced when he was a kid. He’s lost without his game and feeling very unjustifiably accused of cheating, so he decides to escape to the old Montana ranch that belonged to his grandparents and take some time to get himself back in shape and see if another hockey team will sign him.
Mel is wearing herself out trying to get her family ranch out of deep debt, keep her father from sinking into a depressive state about his wife leaving them years ago, and keep her brother focused on doing the chores at their ranch so she can work Dan’s ranch while she tries teaching him what she can about ranching. Mel is pretty prickly about spending any time with Dan that’s not strictly about the job and at first she doesn’t come across as a very likeable person. Dan is so sexy and funny, she can’t believe he’d be serious enough to actually learn the ranching business and stay in Montana. But when you read further and find out her background, it’s easy to see that she’s been suffering for a long time, feeling the sting of her mother’s rejection and hating the fact that she looks enough like her mom that she thinks it triggers bad memories for her father every time he sees her face.
Dan is used to being the good time guy out on the ice and with his fans. The rigors of ranching, including what to do about a mysterious llama that’s living on his property, are a real mystery for him to deal with, although he’s enjoying the open spaces and clean air. He’s not really sure whose llama it is or what to feed it, but it’s a cute distraction in this totally cute story. He can sense the sadness in Mel and is determined to try to make things better for her. And when Mel finally gives Dan a chance and gets to know what’s behind his handsome face and sports persona, she finds someone who’s been hurting as badly as she has.
This is an enjoyable story, although Dan is much more likeable than Mel most of the time, with a sweet and subtle sense of humor. And nothing wrong with a sweet but sexy hockey player turned cowboy!
This was an ARC I received from NetGalley and it releases January 5, 2015.