Cowboy Protection is a terrific story that suffers from being a tale that’s only 1/2 to 2/3’s finished. You get to the ending and feel that there’s multiple chapters missing. So many storylines left dangling or completely neglected. So frustrating that it takes away from the great elements that went before.
First to the things I really loved about this romance.
The rodeo universe and bull riders. B.A. Tortuga and Jodi Payne capture this world in all its gritty, rawness. From the moment we meet the bullfighting team led by “Mackey” Keyes, we’re right in the heart of the game. The dust of the area, the roar of the crowds, the snorting, stomping rage of the bulls and the clanging of the gates swinging wide open as the bulls bust out! It’s vividly alive, scary and terrifyingly memorable.
Just as the men fighting to keep the bull riders safe and the bulls distracted until they can be lead away. These men, this team, from the young rowdy twin brothers to the older scarred veterans, are believable and so realistic that it’s hard to pull our attention away from them to focus on the other second main character.
Maverick “Mackey” Keyes, an older, heavily scarred bullfighter who lives for his team and the sport but now suffers from the consequences of his near constant concussions and other injuries. He’s a charismatic figure and a realistic character. However there’s aspects to his personality and character that deserve greater exploration than the authors deed to him. More on that later.
Sidney Scott, the new TV producer, doesn’t have the layers that the bullfighters have to his character but he’s still plenty interesting. A believable backstory, and a strong personality helps keep Sidney from fading when next to the magnetic bullfighters, their energy, that swoops off the page, even when they are puking their guts out in a bathroom.
Everything about the rodeo world jumps with a vitality and passion that pulls the reader in and makes us commit to the characters and story.
Which is why the less than stellar aspects of the story are so bothersome. Some spoilers below.
1. Bullfighter Injuries. Specifically Traumatic brain injury(craniocerebral trauma) . McKay suffered from a number of concussions. He’s just had another serious injury to the head. Yet this is barely a point of discussion. For a man with a need to protect his team and it’s members going forward, not taking proper care of his body seems counterproductive to that goal and endangering their contracts. Instead it’s puke your guts out, hide your symptoms and continue. Even in the relationship, this aspect is never addressed as a part of their future it is in other books with athletes who play sports (hockey, football) associated with this trauma.
I found this a missed opportunity, a relationship mistake, and unrealistic element for someone who wants a long term relationship but isn’t willing to discuss the issues he’s having with his future partner.
2. Brad. The member of the board who’s made out by the authors to be an important part of the storyline. He’s a malevolent figure, determined to ruin McKay and his bullfighters by any means. This element is built up throughout the novel, as Brad appears to keep approaching people to get dirt or ask them to slander the team to break the event contract. What happens to this dramatic story development? Nothing. Like a deflated balloon or false advertising, it vanishes without a conclusion. What a letdown.
3. Finally, under major narrative flaws, there’s Jack. One of the older bullfighters and McKay’s best friends with benefits before meeting Sidney. Spoiler alert. At the end, Jack, a interesting personality, appears without notice, frazzled and emotionally disturbed, at McKay’s ranch at Christmas time. He’s been in a car crash where there’s been a death and he needs a place to rest up.
Now as a team leader , does McKay gets any details? See if the fact that one of a fairly famous team of bullfighters was involved in a crash that caused a fatality would have caused any other ramifications? Endanger his friend or that ever present contract? Does any of the number of expected responses? No. It’s a matter of no questions and then let Jack walk away when he needed to be alone.
Then that’s it for Jack and that storyline.
There’s other less developed or dropped parts of this story but those are the main ones. And they are so obvious that they take away from the outstanding sections and elements of Cowboy Protection.
It leaves a reader, at least this one, wondering where the rest of the story is and why the authors didn’t follow up on the dropped threads. Especially when I know they are very capable of doing exactly that.
So if you are a fan of Tortuga and Payne, I’m sure this is already on your radar. If not, then consider if you are interested in reading this. I believe there’s better options out there from both authors.
Maverick “Mackey” Keyes keeps the rodeo cowboys safe on his watch and he knows how to make his bullfighting team walk the line. He might be starting to feel his years, but he’s a pro, and he’s not afraid of anything that might happen on the arena floor.
Sidney Scott knows how to go with the flow, so when his dream job passes him by, he grabs the chance to work the bull riding circuit as a TV producer. He’s going to do the job right, traveling with the show, even if he hears some rumbling from the riders.
Mackey and Sid butt heads more than once, but when it really counts, they manage to get on the same page. When Mackey is injured, Sid steps up to help, and things take a far more personal turn. They might have been able to ignore the growing attraction between them at work, but a long road trip over the Christmas holiday and time away from the other cowboys lets them find something together that neither of them expect, but both of them need.
Cowboy Protection is an opposites attract, rodeo romance featuring a bullfighter and a corporate suit, with a side of holiday magic.
Unless it’s noted, all books reviewed have been purchased by the reviewer