Micah Lennox committed the worst sin imaginable: he survived an accident that killed one of his best friends and maimed the other. Micah bears the brunt of the town’s fury, especially that of his lover, Daniel. It’s Daniel’s brother, Chris, who lies in the hospital with a missing leg and deeper scars that might never heal. Daniel drives Micah away and makes him swear to never return to the town of Whisper Ridge, Wyoming. It’s a promise that Micah intends to keep.
Nine years later, though, with his heavily pregnant sister in tow, Micah is forced back to Whisper Ridge and the ranch they once called home. Rachel is in trouble and Whisper Ridge is the only place Micah can think to hide her. Neither of them receives a particularly warm welcome and when Rachel’s health worsens, Micah is forced to deal with the town doctor, Daniel Sheridan. Daniel has returned home, with a horrible trauma behind him, and seeing Micah brings back a host of memories he hoped to forget. Micah and Daniel must find a way to deal with the past and accept one another for the men they have become. If they can, they might be able to rediscover the love they once shared.
I loved Winter Cowboy! At least as much as I can love a book that’s so emotionally hard to read. There is angst aplenty in this story and I advise you to have your tissues handy. Right from the start it’s easy to be sympathetic to Micah. The town wants him to be some sort of cruel demon, but it’s obvious the tragedy that killed his friend Isaac and crippled Chris was an accident and nothing more. The act of stupid, drunk boys who should have known better. Micah goes to prison for his part and even that seems a harsh penalty.
Micah serves his time and goes on to live a half life, one where he is isolated from his family and continues to pay for his sins. I appreciated the realistic way the author handled Micah’s reunion with Daniel and Micah’s unwillingness to remain the town scapegoat. Winter Cowboy does an excellent job of tackling the nature of forgiveness and what it really means to confront the past. There are lots of hard scenes, but they each peel back another layer for Daniel and Micah’s history and indeed that of the rest of the town. There’s nothing easy about this book, but it always feels worthwhile.
The only thing that didn’t work for me was the romance between Daniel and Micah. Most of the book was given over to Daniel finding a way to forgive Micah and to deal with his own grief. So when the romance happens, it feels rushed and somewhat out of place. Given how much baggage these two had to wade through, jumping into a relationship seemed awkward.
On the whole Winter Cowboy is an excellent read that tackles the reality of grief, forgiveness, and moving on. There’s a ton of angst, but it all has a place and the characters work on nearly every level. And while the romantic aspect read as out of step with the overall pacing of the story, the rest of Winter Cowboy works. Consider it highly recommended.