Part Time Cowboy
by Maisey Yates
Book 1 of Copper Ridge
Sadie Miller isn't expecting any welcome-home parades on her return to Copper Ridge. Least of all from part-time rancher, full-time lawman Eli Garrett. The straight-laced, impossibly hot deputy sheriff glares at her like she's the same teenage hoodlum who fled town ten years ago. But running from her demons has brought Sadie full circle, ready to make a commitment at last. Not to a man, but to a B and B. On Garrett land. Okay, so her plan has a tiny flaw…
Eli works too hard to let a blonde ball of trouble mess up his town. But keeping an eye on Sadie makes it tough to keep his hands off her. And if she's so wrong for him, why does being with her feel so right?
Bear with me here, because this rambling is going to get very bipolar. And before we start thinking that I completely despised this book after the next three paragraphs, the truth is, the book somehow managed to win me over.
I considered dropping this book after Eli was introduced. Eli was introduced in the first chapter. And I already didn't like him.
There's broody, and then there's douche-nozzle, and in my honest opinion at that time, Eli landed very clearly in the latter. He wasn't just broody, and even calling him "straight-laced" or "no-nonsense" was probably way too nice (and misleading) a descriptor. Eli was just a jack ass--an arrogant, judgmental jackass... who also plays at double standards.
Meanwhile, Sadie isn't the best heroine in the world either. She had a penchant for being reckless and seemed to have trouble respecting boundaries. However, Eli's reactions to her actions were overly intense and extreme. If he didn't like what she was doing, he could have just said so without resorting to insulting her person, or referring back to her wild child days. But the moment that Sadie set foot back in Copper Ridge, Eli was already bound and determined to judge her by the one incident of her trouble youthful shenanigans, immediately seeing the worst in all of her actions, certain that she was in town to cause trouble and, gasp, gasp, cost him his run for town sheriff!
But here's the kicker... Eli admits that he only wants to be town sheriff to satisfy his need to be a control freak and run things his way. He's not in it for the people; he doesn't even seem to like the people, despite what he claims. He wants everyone to stay off of his property and leave him alone and stop talking to him about community events... Or so it seemed.
My first thoughts after reading about a third of the book was that this book had a lot of potential for a cute, contemporary romance. It had the all-too-familiar and pretty well liked "Bickering Couples" trope--this is something that sometimes draws my attention. You've got a straight-laced cowboy slash small town sheriff, versus a free-spirited, devil-may-care wanderer... (Sawyer and Chloe? Though not an exact replica, I'll give you.) And that cover is super, super cute, and just oozes "Cute Contemporary Romance" to the max!
But the bickering between Sadie and Eli got pretty old, pretty fast, and started turning into a verbal display of juvenile hair-pulling between the two. Their arguments were eye-roll inducing, and a lot of times I felt like the two were arguing like teenagers just for the sake of arguing like teenagers. There was childish taunting, with the occasional extension of an olive branch by one side, only to be shot down when the other party just decides to be insulting about it. And usually it was Eli being insulting in his judgmental, holier-than-thou way.
By this time, still only about a third of the way into the book, I was dead set on being annoyed with both story and characters. I'd thought to drop it and the series, but I kept on with it if only because I wanted to see how this relationship imploded in on itself. Whether or not Eli stopped being so arrogant and judgmental. Whether Sadie stopped being so childish. And also, I did find myself liking Connor and Kate, the other two Garrett siblings, in spite of their brother's character flaws. Connor at least displayed a sense of humor, and Kate is just a nice, normal young woman who knows how to interact with people without being a jerk.
Incredible thing of all things... This book somehow managed to win me over and I'm not even sure when or how it happened. Like I said, I was set on being annoyed with it and was sitting firmly in a 2-Star rating. The next thing I know, I'm plowing through the rest of the book, unable to put it down.
The "Bickering Couple" morphed into a more agreeable "Friends With Benefits." And while their bickering still felt kind of juvenile, the banter was MUCH more akin to fun and flirty rather than childish taunting and pulling of hair. You start learning more about both Sadie and Eli, and it was as if each of their characters made massive personality developments you didn't really see coming. And yet, at the same time, that transition wasn't all that jarring.
You learn that Eli is quite aware of how controlling and judgmental he is, and that he has his reasons. I'm not saying that his reasons give him a right to be insulting to random people, but it's more understandable from his perspective, why he's so uptight. But because he's also a caring and good man, I'm guessing it was just easier to accept that his arrogant front was more of an exterior defense mechanism--a public persona as a part of his campaign running for town sheriff. And what made it so much easier to start liking him was that he starts to curb his judgmental, holier-than-thou attitudes, and lessen his controlling tendencies.
And he admits that he was wrong for insulting Sadie's lifestyle without understanding the history behind her need to wander.
Meanwhile, Sadie also drops her childish taunting; though if I were to nitpick, her development was less prominent than Eli's, probably because I didn't really have much a problem with Sadie in the first place.
In the end, this couple just kind of worked. They clicked and that chemistry just started sparking.
The romantic development was MUCH more credible as the two started getting to know each other.
I would have liked for some of the more serious issues to be addressed a bit more properly. Both Sadie and Eli come from rather broken families, and their histories shape the type of person they started off the book as, as well as continues to influence their actions throughout the story. I'm not sure if they were truly handled all that well, or if we just pulled a "Jill Shalvis" and cloaked the resolution under a "love cures all" machination. The truth is, I got so caught up in those last few chapters and the resolution of the romance that I didn't really notice... aside from the whole Alison episode with her abusive husband and how that incident seemed to resolve itself way too easily for my liking.
But the kicker is that these issues are also left pretty open-ended, as if there were room for more exploration, off-the-page. At least that's what it felt like to me.
So yeah... This book totally screwed around with my review, because I couldn't think of the best way to talk about how annoyed I was by this book... and yet at the same time, how much I ended up enjoying it, without this whole post becoming a messy rambling. In a way, I'm glad I stuck with it. However, the first third of the book probably could have benefited from having a less intensely judgmental and arrogant hero, and better outlined bickering... and maybe not have the couple have sex against a wall while they still dislike each other?
Maybe it's my own lack of reference or experience, but if a guy is nothing but insulting, rude, and judgmental towards me within the first couple meetings, I don't really find that much of a turn on. Insulting my lifestyle doesn't really add points either. Although I DID find it amusing that the two of them decided to start learning to get along after setting up their Friends With Benefits plan... I suppose if they're going to sleep with each other, it would help them to actually try to like each other.
Will I read the next book? Yeah, probably. I'm not going to rush out and get it immediately, but this is definitely a series I'm interested in following, and Maisey Yates' writing is pretty solid.