Cowboy love, with a generous sprinkling of sugar
by Jennie Lay
Dump your unresponsive husband in suburban Ohio. Move to Jackson Hole, Wyo., and buy an adorable - and affordable - rustic cabin on a sprawling ranch. Make enough money working part-time to not only afford the aforementioned Jackson Hole cabin, but to also have spare time to revel in the glorious Western landscape. And, the first man you meet is Bo, the cowboy of your dreams - a sexy rancher-turned-artist who is deeply in touch with his feelings and never considers selling out to the rich guy who wants a hobby ranch.
Suzannah's idyllic fictional life in Tina Welling's Crybaby Ranch perpetuates rural Western town dreaming. It's a modern cowboy love story set against a stupendous Western backdrop, with a little bravery, just enough luxury, and a dose of small-town drama thrown in. The main character's belated process of self-discovery is groovy, but not new-agey beyond belief. And the entangled love triangles are juicy enough to make this a page-turner.
Welling's characters smack of real rural Rocky Mountain life. She dishes up comedy with a cantankerous old-time rancher and quirky aunts who are especially sharp about newcomers with city-slicker ways. At an afternoon barbecue, aunts Violet and Maizie slyly watch Dickie, a filthy-rich visitor, maneuver among local cowboys and Bo, their nephew: " 'Attracted to Bo?' Violet asks herself in a search for words. 'These matters are complex. More like...' Maizie finishes, 'If Dickie could, he'd be Bo. That is if he could still be wealthy and own things.' "
Suzannah's winter skiing forays to watch the moon rise and her summer hikes to investigate bear scat give depth to the at-times sappy romance. Bo, her lover, faces the dilemma of possessing both a free spirit and the heavy burden of a generations-old ranch that he's not sure what to do with.
It's easy to empathize with how Suzannah falls in love with her magnificent surroundings, and with how Bo struggles to manage his. Welling keeps you rooting for the makeup kiss until the very end.
234 pages, softcover: $17.95
Ghost Road Press, 2006.© High Country News