Hired by the Cowboy, by Donna Alward, is a Harlequin in the Romance line. In other words, it’s the core product: “A feel good love story.” This was Alward’s first Harlequin, and is currently available as a free ebook.
The slightly exotic setting is Alberta, Canada, and our hero is not so much a cowboy as a ranch owner, with a realistic problem. He cannot sell his cattle due to a ban on beef exports, and the family farm may be lost. Unfortunately, he also has an “it only happens in romance novels” solution: Marry, and get access to a trust fund. So he needs a bride, and isn’t that fussy. He’s been so busy ranching he hasn’t been distracted by women.
Meanwhile, Alex is pregnant, abandoned, and stuck in a dead end job. When she faints on the street, the gallant stranger who comes to her rescue soon realizes he’s found just the woman who could answer his financial prayers. I was disappointed by Alex. She has the wit and resources to do some online research before agreeing to a sham marriage with a stranger, but not only is she a hopeless cook, she wants to be a good one to please her man.
The shaky premise is enough to bring our couple together and isolate them from everyone else, and from there nature takes its course. As Ian Fleming noted, “nothing propinks like propinquity.” A wise and worldly grandmother helps, and our couple discover some shared wounds in their past that help bring them together.
I don’t have a problem with a chance meeting leading to romance, but when there’s a business agreement in between, the dance of desire is blunted. This may be deliberate and consistent with the very low level of sexuality in the Romance line. I’m also uncomfortable with the notion of the man rescuing the woman. Alward writes very well, and I like the real world location references, but I’d like to see something from her with a little more passion and mutual contributions to the relationship.
This is one of several romances I have read where there is an infant in the picture. It’s an opportunity for the men to demonstrate their sensitivity and allows for additional plot complications, and in some cases, erotic situations. On the other hand, there’s a faint tone of unwed mother redemption that is troubling. Also troubling is the complete lack of participation of the biological fathers. They are out of the picture, with no visitation and provide no support. That certainly happens, but the combination of suggesting unwed mothers are damaged goods and allowing fathers to walk away is disturbingly sexist. Where are the romances with strong female characters? (I’ve read a couple and reviews are coming soon).
Harlequin’s posted a flowchart to help out readers of this re-invigorated genre. It’s not a great flow chart, for many reasons, but worthy of a giggle or two: http://www.harlequin.com/store.html?cid=3450
I prefer my romances a little more romantic and and little less acrobatic. Not that I have anything against erotic fiction, but of the stories in that genre that I have read, the ones I liked the most are the ones with interesting relationships. Speaking of interesting relationships, my review of Hired By the Cowboy is almost ready.
Erotic poetry beats erotic fiction every time – literally, because it has rhythm. Paul Fussell’s Poetic Meter and Poetic Form notes that “the pleasures of meter are essentially physical and as intimately connected with the rhythmic quality of our total experience as the similarly alternating and recurring phenomena of breathing, walking, or love-making.” It’s also shorter – handy for notes of affection or for reading aloud as foreplay. And while some is deeply symbolic and touching, such as e. e. cummings “I Carry Your Heart,” some is more, shall we say, direct, such as Robert Herrick’s “Upon Julia’s Breasts:”
Display thy breasts, my Julia – there let me
Behold that circummortal purity,
Between whose glories there my lips I’ll lay,
Ravish’d in that fair via lactea.
I’ll take a few sweet lines over fifty shades any day.