>> Monday, September 08, 2014
For makeup artist Grace Barrett, Hollywood isn't the land of golden opportunity. It's the land of difficult divas, cheating boyfriends and unemployment. So when her great-aunt offers her a free place to stay in Jackson Hole, Grace thinks she'll spend a little time in the sticks to figure out her life, and then move somewhere exciting to live out her dreams. But it turns out that there are a few more thrills in this small town than Grace was expecting….
Cole Rawlins is a rugged Wyoming cowboy born and bred. Yet he can't help but be drawn to the fascinating big-city girl who moves in across from him. He wants to get close enough to Grace to see past her tough facade, but if he does, she might see the real Cole. The one with a Hollywood history gone bad. As they discover a sizzling attraction, it becomes harder for him to keep his demons at bay—and those fires from long ago may burn them both.
They'll need more than scorching-hot passion to make this opposites-attract affair work. But if they can learn to trust one another enough to reveal their secrets, they just might have a chance at forever.
This book has had very lukewarm reviews (full-blown negative reviews, in many cases), so it's taken me a while to get to it. I started this series with book 3, So Tough To Tame. I loved it. It reminded me of what I love so much about Victoria Dahl's contemporaries, so I decided to read this one, bad reviews or not.
When Grace Barrett gets off the bus in Jackson Hole, Wyoming, she's got all she owns in the world in a rucksack and her funds are down to about $40. A successful career as a makeup artist in Hollywood ended in disaster when she let herself be pushed by her boyfriend into trying to get into the A-list world. Working with big stars and producers required a lot more brown-nosing than prickly Grace was easily able to engage in, and she ended up blacklisted. Turns out the boyfriend was mainly interested in her for the access to the Hollywood scene she could provide, and before long, Grace was pretty much on the street, with her boyfriend accusing her of stealing from him.
Grace has a chance to get another job in Vancouver in a few months, but in the meantime, she needs somewhere to stay. Which is how she ends up taking up her great-aunt on her grudging offer of a free flat in the building she owns in Jackson Hole.
Cole Rawlings rents a flat in the same building. He used to live on the ranch where he works and which he's planning on buying from the owner and good friend, but he had an accident. A horse rolled on him, and badly broke some of his bones. Cole is recovering, but he's terrified that his bones won't heal well enough to allow him back on his horse.
Grace's arrival provides the perfect distraction. She's exactly the sort of edgy, dangerous woman that he finds really exciting, even though he tells himself he shouldn't. And before long, they've both given in to this attraction. But life has taught Grace to keep her barriers high, and it's not easy for Cole to get past them.
I think the main reason people didn't like this book is Grace. She is prickly, very, very prickly. She doesn't want to need or want anyone, and with good reason. She has had a hard life, and her relationships with men have mostly been about them wanting to use her. Her response to that has been to use them right back. That makes for a sex life she enjoys, but not much caring. With Cole, she tries to apply her usual MO, but it's harder than usual.
Cole has his own issues, in addition to his worries about his hip and what not making a full recovery might mean for his future. His liking for dangerous women led to a stint in Hollywood which left him with very little self-respect. He's since rebuilt it, but still has a huge aversion to anything to do with the film industry. That felt, at first, a bit OTT. I was afraid it would be this massive barrier between him and Grace: "you once worked in Hollywood, therefore you're forever tainted". Well, Dahl is too good to make her conflict something as dumb as that. Cole's discomfort with the culture of Hollywood is understandable, it's the story of every starlet who thought a party life sounded great and ended up doing stuff that's supposed to be fun and glamorous but actually makes them feel really uncomfortable and dehumanised. He's taken refuge in going back to the ranching life, and then a film crew turns up at his ranch, and it was Grace who (completely innocently) suggested it as a possible location. Having his old life, complete with its old protagonists, show up in his refuge freaks him out. He does lash out at Grace once, but he's a reasonable person. He immediately realises his reaction was wrong.
Their relationship was one I enjoyed. I think what I liked most is that Grace's change doesn't only come about because of Cole's love. Female friendship is shown to be just as important to her character development. She has only ever had one friend, Merry (who's the protagonist of book 2 of the series), but she lives a long way away, and she's know Grace for a very long time. To Grace, it's really important to realise that people actually like her and appreciate her as she is now, with all her prickliness and bagagge. She can have girlfriends, and realising that they like her makes it easier to like herself and to accept that Cole could love her.
One of the people who Grace realises cares for her is Rayleen, the owner of the Stud Farm (and Grace's great aunt). Rayleen was pretty much the only thing that didn't work for me in So Tough To Tame. She rents her flats only to hot cowboys and constantly makes sexual, objectifying comments to them. She is the female equivalent of the dirty old man, and it's all portrayed as hilarious. I wish I'd read this one first, because I probably would have felt much more charitably towards her if I had. She was nowhere near as offensive in this one, and worked very well as a view of what the future might hold for Grace if she continues to push people away. I felt quite moved by Rayleen, actually. She mostly comes across as an awkward person who doesn't quite know how to get close to people, though she desperately wants to. There's a scene where she unexpectedly shows up at a girls' night that actually made me tear up.
MY GRADE: A B+.