Cowgirls Don't Cry: Rough Riders Series, Book 10

Cowgirls Don't Cry - Lorelei James I hardly know how to rate and review this. The prologue is downright repugnant, the middle is just sorta so-so but then the last few chapters are great.The book opens with Brandt McKay watching his nearly naked sister-in-law Jessie McKay from afar as an intoxicated guy invites people into his camping trailer to join them for some raunchy group sex. Having been in love with his brother's widow for years, despite her turning him down a year ago when he declared himself, he follows them to the camper, stopping to scare off aspiring participants along the way. Inside, he watches Jessie blow this guy, then lies with her as the guy goes down on her - watching the guy pass out drunk midway through.Not sure what that was about, but that's our prologue. WTF?The actual story starts four months later, at Keely and Jack's wedding reception. That's where Jessie slugs Brandt in the stomach for not listening to her when she told him she didn't want to talk. Unfortunately for her, he has an important issue to talk to her about. He's recently become the temporary guardian of his brother's child - fathered when he was sleeping around on Jessie - while the mother is in prison on a DUI charge. Due to his father being a mean drunk with control issues, he can't enlist his parents' help, so Jessie's the only person he can think of to ask for help, inappropriate as that may be. He can't bear to turn his nephew over to the state foster care system.Jessie is, of course, wary of helping to raise her dead husband's love child, even temporarily. On the one hand, she doesn't want to get involved with the by product of her husband's infidelities, and on the other, she doesn't want to fall in love with a child that can't be her own. Ultimately, she can't say no and place the child at the mercy of either the state or her nasty father-in-law, so she agrees to live with Brandt and the child for the next few months.This book was a bit more uneven than I'm used to from Ms. James. That prologue never should have seen the light of day. Her editor should have said, "I know you're trying to show Jessie moving on after her husband's death by owning her sexuality, but do it in a way that 1. doesn't make me want to vomit in my own mouth and 2. doesn't make Jessie look like a half-wit. I'm lighting this on fire for your own protection." I thought it added nothing to the story but squick.The baby premise is...interesting. I'm still not sure it was a contrivance, as it did wrap up surprisingly well, but neither did it feel natural. It was a rather heavy-handed way of bringing these two reluctant lovers together via having them play house. I guess it was a clever way of showing Jessie learning to love someone for who they are rather than what they represent, with Brandt being more than just her brother-in-law and another McKay and the toddler Landon being more than a product of her husband's infidelity. Still, the romance felt forced at times. In most of their other interactions, Jessie comes off as a self-reliant, take charge sort of woman and Brandt was the hard-working, quiet, self-controlled pleaser and provider. Yet, James seemed to want to force them to fit her bossy man/submissive woman formula when it came to the romance and sex. I thought it seemed a bit backwards considering their personality types.Due to the baby plot and the questionable romance dynamic, the middle bogged down a bit for me. Then, all of a sudden, the book picks up the pace in the last few chapters. The romance reaches a more natural-feeling dynamic, the baby plot resolves in a way I honestly didn't expect, Brandt's family drama explodes and his hitherto one-dimensional father is fleshed out. It adds drama and twists and turns, setting the stage for future books without shamelessly sequel baiting. So, it's a hard book to rate with all these ups and downs. I'd say it starts a 2, spends the bulk of the book as a 3 then ends on a 4 or 4.5. I wouldn't suggest it to anyone unfamiliar with the series, but for readers already invested in the Rough Riders world, it's a worthwhile addition.