The Horseman's Bride

The Horseman's Bride - Marilyn Pappano Easy Rafferty has come back to his small hometown in Oklahoma a bit worse for wear. Seriously injured in a car wreck, his successful rodeo career and dream to raise horses on his ranch both go up in smoke when his hip is shattered and he loses all but his thumb and forefinger on his right hand. Add in some gruesome scars on his face and body and he is one bitter, anti-social cowboy. All the same, he feels it's no less than he deserves, having run off with his best friend's fiancé three days before their wedding 14 years ago, then abandoning her in a Montana motel eight years later. Shay Stephens runs the Heartbreak Cafe in town, and she's sick of people asking her if she's seen Easy since the prodigal son returned. After he abandoned her in a seedy motel, leaving her a stack of bills like payment for services rendered, she's loath to reopen old wounds. She's spent the past six years trying to move on and put him out of mind, but he's gone and reopened the wounds just by reappearing. Wanting some closure with her childhood friend she spent eight years living with on the rodeo circuit, she heads out to visit him.From start to finish this book is non-stop angst, drama and emotion. Easy - and that's a nickname for Ezekiel - is consumed with guilt from stealing Shay from their friend Guthrie. Shay is wondering what's wrong with her that she'd still be in love with someone who'd treated her so poorly. Easy is miserably wallowing in self-pity from how his injuries have ruined all of his plans for life. Both want to restart their romance, but aren't sure how to overcome 14 years of mistakes, betrayals and guilt, or if they even deserve to try. High. Drama.All this heavy emotion is handled well for the most part. Nothing goes away magically overnight. They bicker and argue as much as they talk and work together, like you imagine a couple with 14 years of history might need to. Shay begins to understand why he treated her the way he did when they were together and Easy needs to learn to accept Shay's love without feeling guilty. Both work together through his adjustments to his disabilities, with mixed results. Lots of hard work and real effort goes into resolving their problems before they truly reunite.The book was on pace to be a strong 4-4.5 character-focused redemption romance when a late fight blew giant holes in their HEA. First and foremost, ultimatums along the lines of "it's either this or me" are generally childish. The nature of the ultimatum Shay drops on Easy near the end was not only overly rigid and selfish, it was in opposition to what she seemed to have learned from an earlier conflict. To my mind it set their reconciliation way back and showed a couple that would constantly be throwing the other out every time they argued. Couples like that certainly endure, but it's hard to envision too much of the H in their HEA.If you like a highly-emotional redemption story with non-stop drama, this novel certainly has that in spades. It's just a shame the ending diluted my enjoyment as much as it did.