cowboys challengeRating: 4 stars
Buy Links: 
 Amazon | All Romance
Length: Novel


After his brother was killed in action overseas and his sister-in-law suffered a mental breakdown due to his death, Simon Westfield took responsibility for his niece and nephew without question. But keeping up with a seven-year old and a nine-year old while trying to run a successful ranch is near impossible, especially when said seven- and nine-year old haven’t had a chance to deal with the loss of both of their parents. Simon finally breaks down and calls a friend who mentioned a nanny who has experience working on ranches. It sounded like a wish come true.

Manny Tristan Markham loves kids – loves helping them, taking care of them, and watching them grow. When his friend, May, called to offer him a job on a neighboring ranch, he jumped at the opportunity. Discovering that the sexy cowboy who hired him was put off by Tristan’s gender, instead expecting a female nanny, was no real surprise. But when Simon seemingly gives Tristan the cold shoulder for weeks at a time, Tristan gets fed up.

Discovering the nanny he hired was a man caught Simon off guard, but only slightly less than the attraction he felt for Tristan. So Simon did his best to avoid him. After all, he had the pending adoption of his niece and nephew to think about, and being gay could only make that harder. But when Tristan stands up to him, Simon finds it hard to resist the know-it-all manny. Then they form a tentative agreement, a sort of friends-with-benefits arrangement. And all too soon Simon and Tristan find themselves in a situation where they couldn’t imagine life without one another. But when family tragedy strikes, and the children’s other set of grandparents threaten to take the kids away forever, Simon is faced with losing everything or finding a compromise in order to keep the children he adores and the man he has come to love.

Cowboy’s Challenge is the fourth book in Susan Laine’s Cowboys of Snow Lake series. If you’ll remember, I reviewed book five, Hard & Raw, here a few weeks ago, and I liked it but I didn’t love it, by any means. I can’t say I’m head over heels for this book, but I can say that I liked it a lot. Definitely more than the previous one I read.

The characters in this story and their relationships are what draw me to this book. Of course, Simon and Tristan’s relationship is significant and the primary focus of the story. But there is also the relationship of Simon and Dale and Allie, which is imperfect and fragile, yet somehow unbreakable. And also Tristan’s relationship with Dale and Allie – their immediate bond, the strong sense of caring and need to help the children heal. The relationships are absolutely beautiful.

Cowboy’s Challenge is a story of opposites attract. Simon is a surly, conflicted cowboy who has taken on a responsibility that he doesn’t regret, but he also has no idea how to handle. Tristan is an open, caring, nurturing man, who has the answers Simon needs but doesn’t want. They butt heads more times than not in the first half of the book, but when they find their compromise they make an unstoppable team, even if they still don’t always agree.

I enjoyed the story itself. The plot itself is believable and sad and sweet. There was a point that I actually shed a few tears. My only real issue lies in the writing. For the most part the writing is really good, but the way the author ended several chapters to setup the next chapter was annoying. It’s easier to show you than it is to explain.

They kissed, unhurriedly, lavishing one another with their loving emotions close to the surface. And Simon was certain that, despite recent losses, everything was going to be all right.

But when they returned to the ranch the next day all hell broke loose.

And:

Though he and Simon didn’t get the chance, or take the opportunity, to speak to each other the following day, there was a tenuous truce between them. Nothing was resolved, and everything was sort of in the air so much so that Tristan felt like a juggler instead of a manny. But at least they didn’t argue. He supposed it was because they were both waiting for the other shoe to drop.

And unfortunately they didn’t have to wait long.

Two days later the Bishops returned—with a court-appointed arbiter.

Those are only a couple examples, and maybe it’s more of a personal preference, but it was just annoying to me. It felt like the author was trying to end the chapter with an unnecessary cliffhanger and it just didn’t work for me.

But in the end, this book was quite enjoyable overall. It’s precious with a little sadness, healing, and compromise worked in. The characters and their relationships are this story’s selling point. I recommend Cowboy’s Challenge by Susan Laine.

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