Keep Me, Cowboy by Nicole Helm

Keep Me, Cowboy by Nicole HelmKeep Me, Cowboy by Nicole Helm
Published by Tule Publishing on October 2nd 2015
Pages: 130
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The Copper Mountain Rodeo has returned to Marietta and cowboy reputations aren’t the only thing at stake…
Rodeo cowboy Cole McArthur has spent the last ten years running from Marietta, Montana, from his father’s expectations, and from the only woman he’s ever loved. But now his past is at his front door, begging for his help.
Jess Clark doesn’t want to face the only man who’s ever claimed enough of her heart to break it, but her foster family needs their prodigal son home, and she owes them too much to not make that happen. Seeing Cole for the first time in a decade unlocks the kind of desire she’s only ever felt for him, and never acted on with anyone.
Back in Marietta facing family betrayal and family secrets, heat explodes between them, and feelings buried long ago rise to the surface. But can Jess convince this wandering cowboy that his home is with her?

The Marietta novellas tend to be a special, self-contained brand of mini stories centred around its inhabitants finding their happy-ever-after. Astounded as I was to realise that “Keep Me, Cowboy” was only 80-ish pages long, Nicole Helm has managed a short story of love lost and found (and hopefully kept) in Cole and Jess, where that decade apart hasn’t lessened the friction of their previous parting. Cole had run from his family’s expectations while Jess had stayed for the acceptance and the sense of belonging it gave her, but both soon realise that these issues never really go away even years later. I felt for Jess strongly; I was indignant too, at Cole’s apparent abandonment and sympathetic to her needing a place to belong; cheering, finally, when the decision was made to prioritise her happiness and needs.

Carried by Nicole Helm’s buoyant and persuasive prose, the story manages to steer clear of a HEA falling too quickly into place after Cole’s week-long stay, yet renders enough of an emotional connection that I didn’t feel short-changed by its length.