Review: Cowboy Trouble by Joanne Kennedy

Cover of Cowboy Trouble by Joanne KennedyCowboy Trouble by Joanne Kennedy. ISBN: 978-1-4022-3668-6, 416 pages. $6.99 mass market paperback/ $4.79 Kindle edition. On sale March 2, 2010.

Libby Brown always wanted to have a farm. That was definitely impractical while working as a journalist in Atlanta — not much scope in farming on your balcony. However, when her love life goes up in flames, she decides “chickens will never break your heart” and buys a ranch and heads to Wyoming. She barely arrives before her next door (but miles away) neighbor show up to welcome her to the area. Luke Rawlins makes a fine first impression even though he’s decked out like a cliché movie cowboy. But she welcomes the help and the information and who wouldn’t want to spend time with those eyes and the dimples. There’s a lot to learn about running a ranch with a herd of chickens while holding down a job on the local paper.

She begins to meet the people of Lackaduck, Wyoming. There’s the handsome sheriff who seems very committed to his job and is definitely making an effort to get to know Libby. Luke seems to always be around and the tension between the sheriff and Luke is palpable. When Libby hears that there’s next to no crime in Lackaduck but there is an unsolved murder still on the books, her journalistic juices start to flow.

I’d never read anything by Joanne Kennedy before but she sure got my attention with Cowboy Trouble. The story moves at a snappy pace with the point of view shifting smoothly from Libby to Luke to fill in some background information and keep the reader in the information loop. The unsolved mystery drives the story as Libby uses all her skills to identify the killer or at least to turn up some new evidence in the case.

On the level of a mystery, the story is top notch. Kennedy plays fair with the reader and the clues are all there to be collected so that the reader should be able to figure out what’s going on. Of course, the fact that Libby is a bit slower than the reader just adds to the tension. We can guess what’s going to happen but no matter how much you yell at the page, Libby just does her own thing.

The book is billed as a romance and there’s definitely all the expected tropes of a romance. Kennedy has a light touch and even while ratcheting up the tension on the mystery, she keeps the romance boiling and the humor unexpected but appropriate and a welcome tension reliever. Though I must warn you that even though the sex is very low key and more vague innuendo than exactingly detail (vague is good, and Kennedy is great at this) some of those scenes sizzle so much I thought the book was going to spontaneously combust.

All in all this is one heck of a good book when you just want to put your cares on the back-burner and forget about your problems for a few hours. Libby is strong, independent, witty, and definitely not to be trifled with. Kennedy manages to write Libby as a fully developed character who doesn’t do dumb things just to move the plot along. She does occasionally do some real dumb things, but always with solid reasoning behind the acts — you could imagine if you were Libby you’d do something similar.

Reading Cowboy Trouble by Joanne Kennedy is like stepping into another world and being the proverbial fly on the wall. If you enjoy mystery, romance, or a bit of both — you’ll want to add this to your To Be Read stack (and maybe bump it to the top).

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