Review: A Cowboy's Sweetheart

Book Cover
title: A Cowboy's Sweetheart
author: Crista McHugh
pages: 164
format: eARC
buy it: Amazon | Goodreads
rating: 3/5

Pampered New York Socialite and dressage rider, Kensington Pope, has been exiled by her jet-setting parents to her aunt’s Rodeo Academy in Wyoming. She wants nothing to do with the rough and tumble students there, especially one particularly handsome cowboy, Javier. But she won’t be there for long. She has a plan in place to break out after her next international competition.

Javier Cruz takes one look at the spoiled city girl and instantly dismisses her. The school of tough knocks has already educated him on what the important things in life are, and he has bigger things on his plate. He’s counting down the days until his eighteenth birthday when he can pull his younger siblings from the foster care program and reunite his family. But as he gets to know Kensi, he sees a kindred spirit and discovers there’s more to her than meets the eye.

Kensi begins to question her desire to flee the ranch as her relationship to Javier deepens and she learns the importance of family. But when he discovers her escape plan, will he be able to trust her again? And when tragedy comes to the ranch, will Kensi be able to step up and take her place in the family?

Short and sweet and highly readable, this book was right up my alley and I couldn't help picking it up. Rich girl/poor boy? Cowboys? Yes, please! I really liked the characters and chemistry between our two leads, the sweet moments between them were downright adorable and their relationship got me very invested. I liked all the side characters as well and I tore through the book in less than 24 hours.

Buuuut (you knew there was a but, there's always a but) when I say short I do mean short. At 164 pages I probably could have ready any story in less than 24 hours. If the book had been strictly focused on Kensie and Javier, it would have been a perfect length, but it had enough subplots and side relationships to carry a full-sized novel. Kensie didn't just have to learn humility and fall for a cute boy, she also had to form relationships with her extended family and find a new coach and prep for an international competition and reject basically everything her parents stood for and discover her own self worth and struggle with confidence issues and and and and. Javier got it even worse, with a tragic backstory and a court custody battle. All of these other things were touched on and...kinda did okay, but still suffered from being so truncated. 

Javier, while I love him, is also some problematic rep. He's...of some unclear ancestry on dad's side, and mom is Mexican-American. Literally everything in the book related to his parents is a tragic downer. He has no relationship to his culture or past that isn't 100% death and crying. I would have liked to see something other than 'my heritage got me bullied and there is literally nothing good about it.'

And, while I am a sucker for rich girl/poor boy, this book went ahead and failed where every other book in this genre has failed for me, too. I love the idea of people connecting across class lines and learning about each other's problems and trauma and bonding over similarities they didn't expect to find but that doesn't mean you have to flatten all trauma into the same 'level' of 'bad.' It got especially egregious in this novel, where Kensie repeatedly used the word 'survive.' She had to 'survive' in her upper crust NYC society, everything was 'fighting to survive.' And she said this to a guy who literally had to kill someone in self defense or be killed. Girl, you were not in a survival situation. It did better than a lot of books I've read with this trope, but when it fucked up, it fucked up with fireworks.

I still really liked the relationship(s) in this book, and I want to read more from this author. But the 'buts' are some pretty big ones, and will turn off a lot of readers.

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