Cowboy Comes Home

Cowboy Comes Home - Rachel Lee This is somewhere between a three and a four, really. There's a lot it does really well with the dark subject matter, but at times the relationships between characters felt a bit forced, lessening the emotional impact.Anna Fleming has settled into the small Wyoming town of Conard City after a misspent youth running from her demons. When the local sheriff asks her to have a word with a young girl who tried to set the local school on fire, the mousy church secretary who relishes anonymity finds herself very visibly involved in a major scandal. As Anna takes custody of young Lorna and guides her through the process of getting Lorna's father convicted of molesting her, Anna comes face to face with her own past as well.Hugh Gallagher, known as "Cowboy" by the locals, is no less a damaged soul than Anna. When the PTSD from his involvement in Desert Storm became too much, he checked out and hid in the woods, living in a tent for years. Now cleaned up and relatively recovered, he dreams of giving back to the community by establishing a ranch for troubled teens. He has the land, but he wants to get Anna to agree to a partnership so they can take in girls and boys. In his approaches to get her cooperation in his plan, he finds they have even more potential in another kind of partnership altogether.The book explores the difficulty of facing your demons and moving on from them. Lorna essentially has to choose between her family and her safety and then learn to live with her choices and memories. While Anna helps Lorna with this process, she also has to learn to live with what's happened to her in the past. Up until now she's consciously avoided thinking or talking about her past, but current events won't let her ignore it any longer. Hugh is a nice contrast in this regard as he's already well down the road of acceptance. He's seen and done horrible things, but he can be open about them now and is determined to move forward rather than look back.As a result of her troubled youth, the romance between her and Hugh is slow and gentle. She's quite understandably frightened of men, and that doesn't disappear quickly. Lee takes the full length of the book to establish enough trust and affection between them to allow for full intimacy. Hugh sees in her the rare woman who can truly appreciate how harsh life can be, and Anna revels in his calm, gentle and giving nature.Though she does an admirable job taking the time to deal with serious issues, things felt a bit forced at times. The characters make a number of decisions and react in ways that didn't always make sense to me. Lorna was awful agreeable for a girl going through what she was and adopted Anna as a mother with amazing speed. Anna's reluctance to tell Hugh about her past dragged on a lot longer than it should have based on the pace they had been moving at. Hugh's decision to put distance between them so as to not jeopardize her potential participation in his ranch scheme - after they'd already had sex - just seemed to drag the conflict out needlessly. Then the ranch itself was a MacGuffin. It was only ever trotted out as a delay tactic, and is never really fleshed out.And that epilogue! If you dislike epilogues in general for their tendency to pile on the absurdly sweet blessings, this one will give you cavities and a stomachache all in one go.For all of the skill Lee treats the subject matter with, and the nice slow-burning romance, the book ultimately suffers from the heavy handed management. I enjoyed the story, but the detachment kept me from feeling truly involved with the characters.