by Cat Johnson
Series: Midnight Cowboys #1
Published by Zebra on April 28, 2015
Sub-Genre/Theme: Contemporary, Cowboys
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One bucking bronco…
Oklahoma ranch hand Tyler Jenkins is too young, too sexy, and too damn wild to be tied down by any single woman—for more than a few steamy hours…
One hard-working widow…
Widowed rancher Janie Smithwick is too busy paying off her debts to play rodeo with a reckless young cowboy like Tyler—no matter how hot he gets her…
One midnight ride they’ll never forget…
As a rule, Janie should be dating a man her own age, like her handsome neighbor Rohn—not the twenty-four-year old ranch hand he employs. But once Tyler gets Janie alone—held tight in his arms, pressed against his hard muscled body, burning with desire—the widow realizes that some rules, like broncos, are meant to be broken…
I LOVED this book. I’m new to Cat Johnson’s books, but now I want to go back and read her various other series because I loved this so much.
This is the first book in the Midnight Cowboys series, which is a spin-off of the Oklahoma Nights series, which I haven’t read yet. But it’s not necessary to read that before reading this book. I didn’t feel lost or confused about the different characters.
Janie is a 36-year-old widow. She lost her husband, Tom, to cancer a year ago. Although she still lives on the ranch that they owned together, it’s hard for her to maintain the upkeep of the land since Tom died. And although she has a good friend, Rene, who lives close by, Janie is extremely lonely.
Tyler is a 24-year-old ranch hand who works for Janie’s neighbor, Rohn. Tyler also rides rodeo and occasionally works at his friend’s shop. One evening, a pretty comical misunderstanding at a bar results in Tyler hiding in the bed of Janie’s truck. After her initial surprise and confusion, they meet officially.
This could be the beginning of a beautiful friendship, and hopefully, so much more.
Eventually, Tyler offers to help Janie with her ranch work, but he refuses to accept any pay. Janie can’t allow herself to take advantage of Tyler’s kindness, so she agrees to make him dinner every night in exchange for his work.
Janie and Tyler get to know each other as each day passes. I was actually surprised to realize that they’ve only known each other for about a week or so before their relationship moves beyond friendship. The writing feels very deep, in the sense that I didn’t feel like this was a case of insta-love or insta-lust. Even though they’re both physically attracted to each other right away, they spend a little time getting to know each other first since Janie is clearly hesitant after her husband’s death.
Tyler made her do crazy things. She knew that, but she couldn’t seem to stop herself.
When Janie and Tyler get together, it seems right, but Janie just can’t see past their age difference. I thought this part of the book was really interesting. She’s constantly worried what people in town will think if they see the two of them together because she feels so much older than the girls who are Tyler’s age–the girls he’s typically dated. But Tyler, smitten as he is, assures Janie over and over that he’s only interested in her.
But it’s easy to understand Janie’s hesitation. Her husband was 10 years older than her, and when she and Tyler meet, she’s 12 years older than him. For Janie, that age difference is a chasm they just can’t cross. Even though Tyler reassures her constantly, she still feels doubt and self-consciousness over how other people will perceive them. So, the physical relationship progresses, but Janie is still unwilling to take their relationship public, despite Tyler’s persistent requests to take her out.
Speaking of which, Tyler is nothing if not determined and pretty darn endearing. At first, I wasn’t sure if I’d like his character since he comes across as super charming and cocky in the beginning. Also, it’s clear that he’s been a bit of a player in the past. But the more that Janie gets to know him, the more she sees that he’s quite a hardworking, decent guy and she truly wants to be with him–if not for that age thing.
And Janie is obsessed with the age thing. On one hand, I understood her fear that Tyler would get bored with her and want to trade her in for a younger woman one day. I think that’s a legitimate fear, at least in the beginning. But the more she sees Tyler, the more he proves himself to her and earns her trust. Frankly, I just got to the point where I wanted Janie to give up and take that leap already. But I know it was hard for her, mostly because she’s still grieving the loss of her husband.
Maybe she had been living only half a life, inhabiting a world of dull gray until he’d brought back the vivid color to it. But with the vibrancy of really living, all the feelings, both good and bad, also returned.
There are a couple of moments toward the end of the book where I was a little scared that Janie and Tyler wouldn’t end up together. And Tyler does some incredibly sweet things for Janie that actually had me tearing up a bit! I did not expect all that sweetness and emotion, so those were a nice surprise. Ultimately, Janie has to figure out how to let go and start living again, especially when she understands that this is what Tom would have wanted for her. So, it feels very satisfying when she finally gets that through her heart as well as her head.
I’m looking forward to the next book in this series as well as going through Cat Johnson’s backlist and reading her other books in the meantime. I felt a little giddy when I finished reading this, just because I enjoyed the writing so much. It’s a strong start to a new series and I’m really interested to see where it goes from here.
Rating: 5 stars