Friday, March 20, 2015

Cowboy Boots for Christmas (Cowboy Not Included) - Carolyn Brown (Sourcebooks Casablanca - Oct 2014)

Series: Burnt Boot, Texas (Book 1)

'Tis the season for...

All he wants for Christmas is peace and quiet...
After two tours in Afghanistan, retired Army sniper Finn O'Donnell believes his new ranch outside the sleepy little town of Burnt Boot, Texas, is the perfect place for an undisturbed holiday season. But before he can settle in, an old friend shows up looking for protection and a place where nobody knows her name.

But that's going to take a miracle...
Callie Brewster must relocate to protect her young nephew, Martin, and the only person she trusts is her old Army friend, Finn. Burnt Boot seems like the perfect place to be anonymous, but it turns out a small town with big drama is no place to hide...

This was a really fun book. Finn O'Donnell is cousin to the O'Donnells of the Spikes and Spurs series. He has left the army after serving as a sniper and is looking for a place where he can have some peace and quiet. He found a nice little ranch in Burnt Boot and has moved in with his dog Shotgun. Ever since he got out, he's been pestered by various government agencies who want him to come work for them, but he's not interested. One day he sees another pair of government vehicles coming his way and is ready to send them away too - until his old friend Callie Brewster gets out of one of them.

Callie had been Finn's sniper partner in the army. She hasn't seen him in two years, but when her young nephew witnesses a murder, they need someplace safe to go. Finn is the only one she trusts to have her back and a small town like Burnt Boot should be a good place to hide. She doesn't expect to get caught up in the middle of a feud.

I loved both Finn and Callie. Finn has been having a rough time since he got home. He's had frequent nightmares and being around too many people makes him jumpy. He bought a ranch from an older woman who wanted to retire, and hasn't even had a chance to finish unpacking when Callie and Martin arrive. Callie had been his partner for a long time, and they had been really good friends. What Callie hadn't known was that Finn had also been attracted to her, but getting involved romantically would have been a very bad idea. Now that Callie is out also, and will be living on the ranch with him, he starts thinking that maybe this is the time to pursue that attraction. The only thing that might hold him back is a problem thinking long term. Finn had fallen for a local woman while overseas, only to find out that she had been a spy who was using him. He hasn't yet gotten over his feelings of grief and betrayal. 

Callie had also had a huge crush on Finn, but like him, knew a relationship would be a bad idea. She also has some issues of her own to deal with when it comes to relationships. She had grown up with a mother who never stayed long in one place, constantly moving from man to man looking for love. Callie's sister had been the same way before her death. Callie is afraid that she has inherited the same inability to settle down and is wary of getting involved with anyone because of it.

The romance between Finn and Callie developed slowly. They were already good friends, which was an excellent basis for it, because they already knew each other very well. Finn got the ball rolling because he was at heart a very affectionate person anyway. I loved seeing how all his little touches and hugs and so on really started to get to Callie. The heat built up between them, and burst out into some kisses that were bonemelting for both of them. Callie couldn't resist Finn at all, and her trust of him made it easier for her to give in to her feelings. One of the benefits of their shared pasts is that both of them knew what the other was going through. I loved Finn's caring when Callie would have one of her nightmares. As the time went on, the attraction built until they gave into it, though their issues were still keeping them from commitment. I loved seeing what finally pushed them over the edge and how they were finally able to have it all.

I loved the boy Martin, and seeing how life on the ranch changed him. His enthusiasm for all things cowboy and ranching was fun to see. I also liked that he wasn't a perfect kid, but had his moments of reality too. He was also a good hearted kid, and his attempts to help his friends were sweet and inventive.

One of the really fun things about the story was the feud going on between two of the families in Burnt Boot. One young woman from each family set their sights on Finn. He, of course, wasn't interested because he was into Callie, but those women didn't pay any attention to that. In fact, they tried to run Callie off. There were some great scenes between them and Callie that were laugh out loud funny, from her shooting at them to stop their catfight to biting another one to get her point across. I loved seeing Callie stand up to both of them. The rest of the feud between the families has started to heat up again, and there are some pretty ridiculous things that they do. I expect there will be more as the series goes on.

I loved seeing Finn's ranch come alive after he moved in. He started out with just him and his dog until Callie and Martin arrived. Then their soft hearts rescued a kitten that became part of the family. Just before a snowstorm hit, Finn found a little chihuahua dog and a foul mouthed parrot in his barn, and took those into the house. I also loved how he invited the previous owner of the ranch to come for a visit and she quickly became a part of the family. She was quite a character, blunt and fun loving. She was also determined to see Callie and Finn together permanently.

The people of Burnt Boot are all pretty wild characters. There is a trio of older ladies who both keep things calm and stir things up. The feuding families just seem to keep building on each other's idiocy and it will be interesting to see what else they get up to in later books. I enjoyed the reactions of local law enforcement to Callie and Finn's handling of the two feuding women.

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