cover image The Reluctant Cowboy

The Reluctant Cowboy

Kate Pearce. Zebra, $5.99 trade paper (352p) ISBN 978-1-4201-4000-2

Toxic masculinity oozes from the first book in Pearce’s Morgan Ranch series to such an extent that it’s not clear whether Pearce has set it up as a plot obstacle or is simply swimming in it herself. At the request of his grandmother, Chase Morgan returns to his family cattle ranch in Northern California, a place he resents because it makes him feel uncomfortable emotions, which he sees as weakness. He decides the best way to stop feeling things will be to convince his grandmother to sell the ranch. Unsurprisingly, she resists, as does historian January Mitchell, who is studying the ranch’s history. She wants to make Chase relive his unhappy experiences and work through his feelings rather than running from them. When he offends her, she understandably gets angry, but then she feels bad about it and tries to pacify him. The romantic thread is overwhelmed by Chase’s desire to manage everything and everyone, and the offense he feels when he’s called out on it. And January’s willingness to make excuses for him and forgive him, especially given that she’s recently escaped her manipulative ex-husband, will frustrate readers who think she could do so much better than another overbearing, controlling man. (Dec.)