|This is a continuation of the Cody family series. While I don’t think the reader has to have read the previous stories to enjoy this one, and being one of those readers, my sense is that someone following the series will enjoy this immensely. I enjoyed it, but was just lost enough about all the nuances of the backstory; it was difficult to fully buy into anyone’s angst.
Jesse is the oldest son of J.W. Cody and Anne Cody, or at least he thought he was until recently when J.W. announced that Mark Hansen is the oldest of J.W.’s sons. Abigail Hansen and a man who is now deceased raised Mark in the same town as the Codys. Thirty years ago, J.W. strayed with Abigail and he has never acknowledged his son as his. Mark was raised as a Hansen and was a rival for much of Jesse’s life. Neither Mark nor Jesse are pleased by the news; Mark because he resents J.W. and Jesse because he fears what J.W. will do.
Mark’s sister is Janie Hansen, who was a few years behind Jesse in school and was best friends with Elly Cody, Jesse’s younger sister. Janie has always had a crush on Jesse and in fact, still does. To complicate matters, Janie is taking care of her mother, who is suffering from Alzheimers. Abby may not remember J.W., but Jesse’s mom sure remembers Abby. Tensions are high when all the players are in the room, to put it mildly.
The story opens as Janie and Abby are getting ready to fly with Jesse to the National Rodeo finals in Las Vegas. J.W. has invited the entire Hansen clan to stay as his guests while Mark and Jesse compete in the bull riding final. Janie is uncomfortable with this, but finds she has no real choice. She is fearful her mother will be disoriented and she is afraid of flying. Jesse is a gentleman and helps Abby settle in. He also finds he is attracted to Janie and is equally surprised by that fact. He barely noticed her as his sister’s friend. But now he finds that she is pretty, easy to talk to, and someone who understands his issues.
They begin to see each other, but beyond a heavy dose of lust, they are afraid that their timing is off. After all, Jesse hates Mark and Mark and Janie are very close. Jesse’s mom hates Abby and Janie and her mother come as a pair. Add to the family scenario the fact that Janie is studying to be a vet and may be leaving soon and Jesse is fearful that J.W. will bequeath some of his inheritance to Mark. None of this makes for a promising peaceful future. But Janie is gifted with horses and Jesse has one that needs care. He hires Janie and they see each other all the time. Their relationship is on and off again all through the story until a very exciting climax.
The vast number of family members who all have had their own books made appearances and since I am a new reader to the series, I struggled with who was who and who was married to whom. Beyond that, Janie was a little wimpy at times, always lamenting her situation. But then she would turn around and be the strong one of the family. Jesse, meanwhile, sulked a lot. While I liked him when he was with Janie and I could understand his plight, I disliked his petulant attitude.
Overall I enjoyed this tale. But my recommendation is that you pick up the other stories in the series in order to fully appreciate Jesse: Merry Christmas Cowboy.