Rainbow Valley is a haven for animals. As the story goes, the infamous “Rainbow Bridge”, the place where deceased owners and pets are reunited, is in the town. Most of the townspeople have some connection to pets—they either own a pet oriented business or have a resident pet patrolling (or just observing, in the case of kitties) their property.
Shannon, a headstrong, tenacious woman, runs the local animal shelter, rescuing animals ranging from cats to horses. Shannon is the child of upstanding Rainbow Valley citizens, and they expect her to marry well. Her well-meaning (but snooty) mother has even picked out the perfect man for her, a dentist who has just the right amount of upward mobility and success.
Shannon, however, is enamored with her first love, the town bad boy, named Luke. Luke grew up with an abusive drunk who was shunned by the good citizens of Rainbow Valley. By extension, Luke inherited some of his father’s bad reputation. Luke’s teenage infractions did nothing to change the minds of the townspeople. When he was a teenager, Luke began to volunteer at the shelter with Shannon. They fall in love, but Luke is convinced that Shannon cannot overcome his reputation and deserves better. He decides to leave the close-minded world of Rainbow Valley and become a bull rider. He’s so good that he is poised to win the World Championship. When his father dies, he takes one last trip to his old homestead to put old ghosts to rest. The dilapidated, rotting house delivers another blow to Luke—he falls through the porch and injures his leg, sidelining him in Rainbow Valley for six weeks. Since he is strapped for cash, he needs a job as soon as possible. Enter Shannon, who offers him a job at the animal shelter where he worked as a teenager and fell in love with Shannon so long ago.
Working so closely with Shannon reopens old wounds for Luke and he struggles to make sense of his past. Shannon, for her part, has difficulty reconciling her feelings for Luke with the expectations of her family. The way the couple resolves their feelings results in healing and new beginnings.
While reading Cowboy Take Me Away, I struggled to believe that anyone would be so small minded as to assign a negative feeling toward a child just because he was the child of the town drunk. Not having been back to the small town where I was born for several years, I had to consult my mother to see if this was true. Do people still do this? She assured me that they do—in some places, a child is still judged by the sins of his parents. Makes me glad that I moved! Luke seems to very much weighed down by his memories. Not only is he harshly judged for his parentage, but he also has to overcome the resentment he has toward the townspeople for doing nothing to help him. He is a compelling character who seeks to make his own way in the world and to take charge of his adult life.
Shannon was also a likable character, committed to the welfare of the animals she saves. I didn't much like that she continued to date the dentist who she really did not care about, but I can understand her struggling under the weight of parental expectations.
This is primarily a character driven book and other than the changes in Shannon and Luke, there is not much action until the last 50 pages of the book, when a wildfire threatens the town of Rainbow Valley.
Cowboy Take Me Away was a fast read that did not cover much new ground. I lost some interest in the middle of the book because it seemed as though Luke’s angst over his inferiority complex was a bit overdone. I kept waiting for something else to happen. However, the characters were sweet and the small town setting is right up my alley. For those who like their romances light on action scenes and heavy on small town character, this might be a good book to spend some time reading.
*I received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. Regina