Cowboy Come Home could have been another typical secret baby story. Instead, it is a touching story of how heartache and lies affect the lives of two people and their daughter.
Jake Rollins has returned to his hometown of Happy, Texas, after sixteen years. Anna Connor wishes he had never returned. The last time she had heard from Jake was when he called her and informed her that he had married someone else while out on the rodeo tour. Since Anna and Jake were engaged, she was shocked. So shocked, in fact, that she didn't tell him she was pregnant with his child.
Jake's best friend, Carl Connor, loved Anna and offered to marry her to save her and the child from scandal. Despite early speculation from the neighbors, Leigh was raised by Anna and Carl as their child. Now fifteen, Leigh is a budding barrel racer and Anna, who operates a riding school, has been widowed for five years. Anna fears that Jake’s presence in town will expose her secret and hurt their daughter.
Jake has retired from the rodeo circuit with five saddle bronco World Championships to his name. He met Leigh when handing out trophies at a Houston rodeo. After talking with her, he suspects that she could be his daughter, so he decides to come home and try and get the truth out of Anna. He wants to get to know his daughter. What he isn't prepared for is that Anna is even more beautiful than he remembered and that there is still a spark between the two of them. Anna is also still furious with him over his betrayal.
To force Anna to spend some time with him, Jake cons her into helping him organize a charity rodeo to raise funds to build a library for the town. He befriends Leigh and turns on the charm to Anna, hoping she will tell him the truth.
What is particularly impressive in Cowboy Come Home is the authentic feel of the characters' emotional responses. Anna's anger and hurt at the way Jake left her are very strong. She gets to confront him and let him know how badly she was injured. She also feels guilty about not telling him about Leigh. She realizes that her lie has deprived Jake of his daughter and Jake's father of a granddaughter.
Jake takes responsibility for the tremendous pain he has caused. The return of attraction and love between Anna and Jake is beautifully handled and does not seem rushed.
What elevated Cowboy Come Home into the five heart category for me was how Jake and Anna handle Leigh's very negative reaction to the truth. The scene where Leigh comes to terms with the news had my tears falling. I also went back and read it two more times and knew that I had a keeper. I will read the book again just for the ending.
--B. Kathy Leitle