It’s been over a decade since Toma’s been home for any length of time, over ten years since her father told her it hurt to look at her because she resembled her dead mother. And now Toma’s flying home because her father’s hurt and her family needs her. As one more reason to head home, Toma’s girlfriend has been cheating on her and she found out in the most stereotypical way — walking in on the pair of them in her bed. With all of these emotions in a tangle in her stomach, with her life falling apart, Toma just can’t fight the tears anymore. And it’s stupid, it’s so stupid. She’s a bull fighter, a stunt woman; she was one of the riders in Wonder Woman, in Vikings, in Outlander, and now she’s trying not to sob, hiding in the bathroom.
Eva, rodeo queen, activist, barrel racer, farmer, daughter, sister, cousin — and a dozen other titles, each as much a part of her as the others — can’t help but feel for the woman hogging the lavatory. But, she really has to go. But once that’s dealt with, Eva reaches out to take Toma’s hand and offers her compassion and the seat next to her. They can talk, or not. But Toma doesn’t have to be alone.
It’s a moment of weakness and a moment of trust when Toma takes Eva’s hand and lets herself let go.
When I read the blurb for this story — horses, rodeos, a Native American main character falling in love with a woman of Mexican decent — I was sold. Unfortunately, other than having it mentioned twice, once in a newspaper clipping, Toma’s Shoshone-Palute blood and heritage don’t ever feel like a part of her character. What is a part of her character is her grief over her mother’s death. When Toma was five, her mother had a stroke and sent her daughter out to get help. Toma, being a child, got distracted and, unfortunately, help didn’t get to her mother in time. No one holds it against her, not in the least, but Toma still feels the responsibility of it. Her relationship with her father was always strained and, after an argument, she left home, turning her back on him and her brothers. That, too, is a weight on her shoulders. And watching her work through this, finding some peace with her family and coming to terms with the betrayal of her ex-lover, with her ideas of what she wants her life to be, feels very organic and honest.
Eva, a firecracker of a woman who is and has always been active and prominent in her community, doesn’t feel the need for introspection. She’s always looking forward to the future, her future where she uses her barrel racing winnings to buy a training center where she can teach other girls to follow their dreams, where she can work with horses, be they barrel racers or mustangs, and have a life for herself made with her own hands and her own efforts. Toma sees in Eva someone as dedicated as she is, someone who shares her passions and her interests — horses; giant, extended families; teaching and training; and feeling the rush of excitement from dancing aside as a bull charges at her, or riding a fast horse, or kissing a beautiful woman — and sees with Eva a chance to be happy. More than happy, to be fulfilled.
This is a slow, languid love story between Eva and Toma, who go from friends to lovers. It’s low angst, low drama, low stress, and laid back. It’s an easy, simple romance, with more pleasantries than plot and a benign happy ending with a pastel background of a rodeo and sprawling outdoors. It’s also fairly tepid, and I didn’t really connect with the writing, which felt serviceable, with stilted, slightly formulaic dialogue. The pace is slow and lingering with a decided emphasis on the friendship between the two characters. And, to be honest, I found it uninspiring. Nothing really happened, good or bad, and everyone was more or less decent. There were friendly people, supportive family members, and Eva and Toma got along. Not every story needs fireworks and earthquakes, and sometimes what you want is just a nice, easy love story, but there was a lack of closure in a few areas. As a matter of personal taste, I would have preferred the rodeo to be more than a backdrop, and the ending fell flat and awkward. My two cents on the ending are in the spoiler.
The events happening as they did lacked any urgency or meaning, and it felt more as if the big event at the end was meant to allow both of them to settle for one another.This isn’t a bad book. It just didn’t fully land, for me.