First Rodeo by Judith Hennessey

First Rodeo

From the "The Spur Series" series, volume 1
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On a trip to Wyoming, a divorced mother finds romance with a younger cowboy in this debut novel.

Divorced mom Kate Marino, 36, works at her dad’s St. Louis car dealership. She is astounded when her father, fed lies by jealous older brother James, accuses her of sleeping with clients and even doing drugs. The incident finally spurs Kate to take time off with her son, Sam, soon to enter kindergarten, and travel out West. Her father, the family member seemingly most traumatized by the years-earlier death of another brother (older than James) on the family’s Missouri farm, journeys with them part of the way. Then Kate and Sam arrive at Prickly Pear Ranch in Wyoming, and her life transforms. Ranch hand Jake McComb, 13 years her junior, is drawn to her, and they begin an intense love affair. Once her trip is over, Kate continues to commute between St. Louis and Wyoming to be with Jake, although their relationship has its ups and downs. The myriad challenges they encounter include Jake’s demanding new job at another ranch in a desolate town, where an attractive woman more age-appropriate for the cowboy lurks. Still, Kate buys wedding rings and then rents and makes moves to buy her own Wyoming cabin so that the couple can be together and she can pursue the painting and photography that she abandoned at her father’s insistence she join his business. Will Kate and Jake eventually find happiness together? Hennessey has crafted a narrative that effectively builds on the tropes of chick-lit and cowboy romance to take some deeper turns. While some of the main characters’ actions may disappoint romance fans, the author deftly presents the couple’s struggles with flaws and damage from their pasts throughout the tale (“Kate had seen a therapist, with appointments as frequent as her every-other-week manicures, but they seemed to be of little help”). This makes the plot’s last-act complications part of an established context. Additionally, Kate’s attempts to come to peace with her art and her new life out West ultimately come off as heartwarming as well as profound.  

An engaging, nuanced female awakening journey in the West.

Pub Date: Sept. 20th, 2016
ISBN: 978-1-943006-03-8
Page count: 288pp
Publisher: Spark Press
Program: Kirkus Indie
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by Sybil Raney