Readers, beware! There is no Bride in this book! There is no Bride-to-be in this book, either, until four pages from the end! Okay, there is a cattleman. (Well, we’ve been complaining about titles with “cowboy” in them. Glad somebody listened.) But honestly. Is it really necessary to slap “Bride” into a title when it has nothing whatsoever to do with the story?
Now, about that story. Nikki Petersen lost her heart - and her virginity - to Cully Bowdrie at age twenty, only to be dumped flat after their one night together when Cully unexpectedly married another woman. Nikki, heartbroken, left the small town of Colson, Montana for Seattle, leaving behind her four-year-old sister in the care of their Aunt Cora.
Now it's four years later, and Nikki needs Cully’s help. Little Angelica has aplastic anemia and needs a bone marrow transplant to save her life. It turns out that Angelica and Cully have the same father, the result of an affair between Charlie Bowdrie and Nikki’s late mother. Cully may be a donor match. But can Nikki trust him when Angelica finds out the truth, that she has a big brother?
Cully is now a widower, his wife and her infant son having died in a car wreck. He’s bitter about the marriage he forced himself into, and wants to win Nikki back, but she’ll have none of it. All she knows is that he left a note on her pillow promising to call her and never returned. Cully, of course, won’t explain what happened.
And therein lies the two-heart rating. This is another of those “Why should I explain? You never listen to anything I say” stories in which the big, masculine hero basically broods for two hundred pages. And unbelievable plot devices? Try this one on for size. Cully’s older brother, Quinn, (see The Cattleman's Courtship) had been carrying on a relationship of sexual convenience with a local divorcee, then had met the woman of his dreams. Divorcee claimed she was pregnant, an obvious ploy to get her hands on some of the Bowdrie bucks. Cully, to hush her up and make sure Quinn got to marry the right woman, married the divorcee himself, even though there was every possibility the woman was telling the truth and Quinn was the father, and even though Cully had just relieved Nikki of her virginity the night before. No matter, Noble Cully will save the day. Does this make any sense? Quinn was pretty fast with his zipper, how about letting him own up to his responsibilities? What about Nikki? Cully's reasoning - that their childhood was lousy and Quinn should have a shot at happiness - just didn't wash.
Cully can’t keep his chronology straight, either. He compliments Nikki on what a wonderful mother she’s been to little Angelica. Huh? She’s been living in Seattle for the last four years. Aunt Cora’s been doing all the mother work. And to top off an already annoying plotline, Cully is one of those guys who is constantly grabbing Nikki by the arm/elbow/hand and steering her around, even when she tells him to get his hands off her. Big, handsome cowboy? Try Sulking Neanderthal.
Nikki was a pretty decent heroine - smart, funny, caring - and frankly, she deserved a better hero. The author does a fine job of detailing Nikki’s initial emotions; she really, really wants to kick this cowboy out the door, but Angelica needs him. As she gets reacquainted with Cully, Nikki falls for him all over again. Sigh. Where’s a handsome, single doctor when you really need one?
I read the companion book to this, Cattleman’s Courtship, and it was lots of fun. Too bad the same can’t be said for The Cattleman’s Bride-to-Be. Lois Faye Dyer usually delivers a solid read, and I bet she’s not responsible for the silly title, but this one left me cold.