Oh, wait, is it Friday already? I guess it is! Well, ok then.
This week, I tackled a modern romance (with the sub-genre of "Cowboy," just to make things even MORE interesting). I read I Love This Bar, which is the first of Carolyn Brown's series about the Honky Tonk bar. This book was so far outside of my usual, I wasn't sure WHAT to expect. As you may have gathered, I prefer the romance novels I read to have some element of supernatural, or be historical, or something of that nature, and this really wasn't that at all. I suppose a novel set in a bar in the middle of nowhere Texas is not dissimilar to a novel set in a village in the middle of nowhere Scotland... Anyway, that being said, I really really enjoyed this novel! I felt a strong emotional connection to the characters, and found their motivations to be largely believable. I actually choked up in a couple of places (which happens more often that I'd like to admit, but not as often as all of that, frankly), I was entirely satisfied with the romance (or romances) which unfolded, and I was almost entirely happy with the conclusion.
Quick plot synopsis: Daisy O'Dell is the owner and bartender at the Honky Tonk bar in Erath County, Texas. She is also a vet tech, and provides basic care to the animals in the area. She is entirely happy with her life. Then, Jarod McElroy walks into the bar. He's an attractive cowboy type from Oklahoma, in Texas to help out his aged uncle on his ranch. They fall madly in lust, but both have very good reasons not to follow through on those feelings - he's not planning on staying in Texas, and she very much is, they've both had rocky relationships in the past, and neither of them are really looking for any sort of relationship, long, short, or otherwise, at the moment. Through the machinations of "Chigger" and her beau (who is an old friend of Jarod's - Jarod used to spend the summers on his uncle's ranch, and so is connected to the community even though he's not currently from there), the couple give into their lust. Through a series of improbable measures, Daisy and Jarod have to pretend to be married, and then the lust deepens into lurve. Meantime, Chigger gets pregnant (which speeds up her long term plan of marrying at leisure) and gets married, and Daisy's cousin shows up, fleeing a bad relationship, and ends up helping in the bar (setting up book 2). Obviously (because romance), at the end of many mis-adventures and such, Daisy and Jarod end up together. Which, lovely. But, critically, one of the key drivers of Daisy's character is that she owns this bar, and she really doesn't want to leave the bar - and at the end of the book, she decides (for valid reasons, perhaps) that she actually loves Jarod MORE than she loves the bar (Jarod offers to buy her a bar in Oklahoma if she likes), and so she moves. Which, ok - Daisy needs to be out of the way so that her cousin Cathy can be the protagonist of the next novel - but Jarod could have been the one to compromise; there was plenty of opportunity; it would have made narrative sense, and have been just as satisfying for me (obviously I cannot speak for all readers) - indeed, I would have been doubly happy.
Ah well; beyond that, I was very happy with the book. The characters were well presented, the setting was pleasant, the sex was mutually satisfying and entirely consensual (but only minimally described - R rated rather than NC17, if you will). If you like cowboys, enjoy both kinds of music (Country AND Western), and Texan accents, you'll probably enjoy this book.