A TRUE COWBOY CHRISTMAS
By Caitlin Crews
Published October 30th 2018 by St. Martin's Press
From USA Today bestselling author Caitlin Crews comes A True Cowboy Christmas, the first in a sensational series debut about a cowboy, a farm girl, and the greatest gift of all. . .
Gray Everett has a heart of gold but that doesn’t mean he believes in the magic of Christmas. He’s got plenty else to worry about this holiday season, what with keeping his cattle ranch in the family and out of the hands of hungry real-estate investors looking to make a down-and-dirty deal. That, plus being a parent to his young and motherless daughter, equals a man who will not rest until he achieves his mission. Now, all Gray needs is the help of his lifelong neighbor. . .who happens to have grown into a lovely, spirited woman.
For Abby Douglas, the chance to join forces with Gray is nothing less than a Christmas miracle. Much as the down-to-earth farmer’s daughter has tried to deny it, Abby’s been in love with stern, smoking-hot Gray her whole life. So when Gray proposes a marriage of convenience as a way to combine land—and work together toward a common cause—Abby can’t refuse. But how can she convince Gray that sometimes life offers a man a second chance for a reason. . .and that their growing trust and mutual passion may be leading to true and lasting love?
“Why would you try to tell me that chemistry doesn’t matter? Of course it does.”
“I’m not saying it doesn’t matter. But sheer stubborn- ness matters more.” He heard the intensity in his voice, but did nothing to temper it. “If people want to stay married, they do. If they want that marriage to be a good one, they work on it and make it that way. It’s not rocket science. It doesn’t require your online profiles. You don’t need to get matched on your smart phone. You make a commit- ment to someone, then you keep it. It’s as simple and as hard as that.”
He watched in fascination as her hands curled into fists at her sides.
“I appreciate that you have experience being married, and that gives you a platform to make sweeping state- ments,” she said, her voice low, as if she was fighting back her own intensity. “That’s great. But you’re missing that I’m not interested in the state of marriage in a general sense. I’m telling you I am not going to marry someone I have no chemistry with. That has nothing to do with me being stubborn, not stubborn, or insufficiently committed. It’s actually all about the fact that I’m not staggering around in a grief-induced daze, proposing marriage to people I’ve never looked at twice before in my whole life.” That should have annoyed him, because he wasn’t dazed. Amos had been a mean, unhealthy old man. His death hadn’t been a real surprise. Gray wasn’t sure he was grieving him so much as the father Amos had never been, and he knew he wasn’t crazy with it. But he couldn’t seem to lose his grin, especially when he moved closer to her.
Because when he did, she lost that scowl. Her eyes went wide, that cute flush brightened up her face again, and she had to tip her head back to look at him. Not as much as some of the other girls he’d dated had, as she’d pointed out. Gray liked that too. He didn’t have to hunker over her.
She was . . . right there.
He had an urge and went with it. He reached over and curled his fingers around her ponytail, then pulled them gently along the length of it.
And figured the chemistry question was answered by the way her breath went shuddery.
But he didn’t end it there.
“If I’m following all this,” he said, his drawl low. Thick. “You don’t actually have any objections. You think we maybe ought to date first. You’re worried we don’t have chemistry. But at the end of the day, you’re not opposed to the idea.”
“It’s crazy. And I’m worried that you’re crazy, in a clin- ical sense.”
“If you agree to marry me, I’ll take you on a date or two. If that’s what you want.” His hand was still tangled in her hair, and he was close enough now that he could catch her scent. Gray breathed deep. She smelled like rosemary. And something that reminded him of the pies she and her grandmother had brought over the day after the funeral, warm and good. Right. “But we can settle the other question right here.”
“What do you mean . . . ?”
Gray didn’t wait. He didn’t answer her question, half stammered out with her hazel eyes so wide they looked like summer gold.
He used his free hand to cup her cheek, flushed and smooth beneath his palm. Then he bent—only a little, which struck him as unexpectedly hot—to take her mouth with his.
He felt her tremble. And there was something about the way she melted into him as their lips touched, then brushed, as if she was being pulled by some kind of magnetic force he was half certain he could feel himself.
Gray had only meant to kiss her to make a point. The way a gentleman might, not that he’d ever met too many gentlemen out here where the mountains and the land were the only things that mattered.
But Abby’s lips were soft and velvety beneath his. And she made a tiny sound in the back of her throat that he could feel like a flickering flame.
Before he knew it, Gray was angling his head to one side and licking his way into her mouth.
As if he couldn’t help himself.
And everything got hot. Bright. Impossible.
This was Abby Douglas. Abby Douglas. There was something deliciously wrong about it being Abby that made it hotter, wilder.
It rolled in him and made a joke of him imagining he was in control of any of this. Of her.
Of this sudden storm of sensation that would have taken him off his feet, if that didn’t mean he would have had to let go of her.
When the door slapped open, both of his hands were sunk deep into her hair, and Abby was up on her toes, pressed against him, her arms wrapped around his back.
It turned out Gray wasn’t going to have to worry about easing his way into some or other form of eventual chem- istry with the woman he already knew would make him a good rancher’s wife. He was going to have to worry about
what the hell to do with all this chemistry—so much it was like a lightning storm and he kept getting hit—with a woman he’d never paid the slightest attention to until his father’s funeral.
The fact that the front door had opened penetrated the heat and fog that was swirling around him.
With a perfect combination of deep, raw emotion, realistic sounding rugged cowboy life, family drama, and tragedy, a touch of humor, joie de vivre, small town living... this tale of a marriage of convenience went directly to my heart and kept me up late to the night. An absolutely unputdownable tale that I loved so much so that it went to my Top Ten all-time favorite romance stories I have read.
A True Cowboy Christmas is so much more than a cowboy romance or a Christmas romance, it is a story of two people making the tough decisions in life, doing their best to survive while healing from the deep emotional wounds their parents and past left in them.
What would you do when something you have dreamed about all your life suddenly comes to be your reality, but it is nothing like you thought it would be? Abby Douglas has loved Gray Everett all her life from the afar. He has been her ultimate dream, the goal in life, while unreachable all the same.
Abby grew up with her grandparents since her mother's inability to care for her. Each time her mother swept through town, she focused her energy and effort to break Abby's spirits, to take her down a notch. The emotional abuse has left Abby to believe she is unattractive, unlovable, undesirable. Yet she has a big giving heart, kindness, and sincerity. She is a hard-working, resilient, sweetheart of a person. She was so easy to like and relate to, cheer for her to succeed. I wanted to protect her from all the possible hurt, gossip, and especially from her mother's attitude.
Gray's life has not been easy. As the oldest son of the alcoholic, abusive rancher, he has taken his share of physical and emotional abuse. His mother left the family, his late wife cheated on him, yet he manages to be a loving, caring father to his teenage daughter. He is not interested in romantic love, he has no need, desire, or time and energy to deal with emotions, he has been there, and done with it. But he does want a companion, a sensible wife, who can share the life's burdens and joys, who he can trust, rely on.
I loved absolutely every word of the story, the dialog is witty, drizzled with humor to lighten up the often heavy and difficult conversations that had to be had. The tangible chemistry between Gray and Abby, the way they stumble and fall while trying to find their tune with each other, it is adorable, touching, filled with a wide spectrum of feelings, engaging my emotions as well.
This story is like a red velvet cupcake with a double dose of cream cheese icing; it is lovely, delicious and delectable, while smoothly flowing with tender, fragile emotions and the rough life of the rural country. It filled my heart and my mind as I smiled, chuckled, and teared up. I hurt for them, I felt their pain, disappointments in life, their passion, slowly building trust, and the wish for something more, that tiny silver lining of hope that bubbles up from the deepest corners of their hearts and souls until it fills up their minds.
A fantastic, amazing, must-read story that I know I will be re-reading countless times... And it is just the book one in the series - can't wait for more!
~ Five Spoons!!