Synopsis from Goodreads: HIS HEART IS AS WILD AS THE HORSES HE TRAINED...
Nate Shawcross is perfectly content to spend his days training wild horses. So when a beautiful greenhorn unexpectedly shows up for a seminar from the famous "Horse Whisperer" of Wyoming, all Nate wants to do is send her packing...
THE LAST THING SHE EXPECTS IS A LESSON IN ROMANCE...
Graduate student Charlie Banks came to the ranch to learn about horse communication, but when she meets the ruggedly handsome cowboy, she starts to fantasize about another connection entirely...
Nate needs to stay focused if he's going to save his ranch from foreclosure, but he can't help being distracted by the brainy and breathtakingly sexy Charlie. Could it be that after all this time Nate has finally found the one woman who can tame his wild heart?
Stats for my copy: Hardback, published by Sourcebooks Casablanca, 2010.
How acquired: Bought.
First line: The cowboy boot was the most pathetic piece of footwear Charlie had ever seen.
My thoughts: I wasn't sure I would like Charlie at first. She's a Jersey girl who refers to cowboys as “stupid cowboys”. She's a vegetarian animal rights activist, who doesn't believe in riding horses - “It's morally wrong, forcing animals to serve us.” She's a grad student, and has been sent to this ranch in the wilds of Wyoming to attend a clinic for the purpose of “assessing the parallels between the training techniques of Western livestock managers and the nonverbal cues with which humans communicate their wants and needs.” Or as Charlie sums it up, “harassing innocent animals with a bunch of cowboys”. I love animals, and I'm all for animal rights, but I don't support PETA and their over the top, at times bullying methods of grabbing headlines. And Charlie sounded like a card carrying member. She's even participated in PETA protests.
Nate doesn't quite know what to make of her either. Especially when she tells him she's here to attend one of his clinics. Because he has no idea what she's talking about. Seems his ex-girlfriend flew the coop recently, cleaning out his bank account, but not before printing up a bunch of brochures and collecting four deposits for his non-existent clinic services. But Charlie's car has broken down, and she has no way to leave. Plus her boss would expect her to bring that deposit back with her, which neither she nor Nate have. So the shy, quiet cowboy is forced to come up with a lesson plan and carry on with the promises made in the brochure.
Once Nate introduces Charlie to a couple of horses, and she sees his training techniques in action, she chills out with the abuse accusations and becomes quite enamored with one stallion in particular, and of course, despite her disdain for cowboys, with Nate himself. And I did like her quite well after all. The other three students trickle in one by one, and each individual was quite a character in their own right, though not necessarily who or what they seemed to be upon first meeting them.
When the ex-girlfriend puts in an appearance, things get tense and skewered. Nate is the strong sensitive type. He gets tongue tied very easily and struggles to form a coherent sentence, though the smoldering looks he aims Charlie's way speak loud and clear. With the horses he's much more confident of himself, hence his reputation as a “horse whisperer”. I got a little frustrated with him when the ex came back and began taking over his life again, and he let her bully him without standing up to her. But he's a good guy, coming to realize what a crappy relationship they've had, and seeing through Charlie what a real relationship could be like.
My only real beef were some inconsistencies that pulled me out of the story. In one scene, Nate is having trouble sleeping, tossing and turning as he tries to get comfortable on the sofa. “All he could think about was that morning he'd woken up on this same sofa with Charlie in his arms, tucked against him.” Yet on the next page: “He swung his feet to the floor and levered himself out of bed...He shuffled quietly across the bedroom...” When did he get from the sofa to the bedroom? And then later, he and Charlie are riding together on a horse, him sitting in front of her: “Nate leaned back against her, his broad back warm against her chest.” But a few paragraphs later, while they are still riding: “He kissed the back of her neck.” How the hell did he kiss the back of her neck from in front of her?
There's a bit of humor, some nice descriptions of the Wyoming countryside, a locked attic hiding secrets, some twists and turns in the storyline, and a lot of heart as Nate and Charlie dance around each other, fighting, then being friends, getting closer, then blowing up at each other. Not quite as good as COWBOY TROUBLE, the only other Kennedy book I've read so far, but very enjoyable.