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Also in this series: Her Lucky Cowboy
Ford Kendrick has often dreamed of the day that Jamie Keller would come home to Montana. After high school, she needed to leave—and he, duty-bound to rescue his family’s ranch, pushed her to go. The Army made Jamie a hero, but Ford still sees the gorgeous, loving woman who lit up his whole world.
Every day since she left, Jamie has longed for Ford. One glimpse confirms it: the sexy, dangerous-looking cowboy left a hole in her heart that nothing else can fill. Yet the battle scars she bears—inside and out—won’t let her trust anyone enough to get close.
Ford wants to bring Jamie back to the life they dreamed of building. But locked somewhere in her memories is a dark truth that threatens her safety. It’s a battle Ford won’t let her fight alone, not when he’s determined to keep her by his side, now and always…
I received a review copy of this book from the publisher.
Jennifer Ryan’s romances sometimes deal with serious issues, and in His Cowboy Heart, she tackles PTSD with sensitivity and realism. Veteran Jamie Keller is home in Montana after almost a decade away. But the beautiful girl who used to light up Ford Kendrick’s heart is scarred, inside and out, from the roadside bomb and shots that almost killed her. Ryan doesn’t flinch from showing just how rough PTSD can be. Jamie alternates between anger, depression, and panic attacks, and her awareness fluctuates between past and present. She’s drinking to try to cope — and that’s on top of the medications her army psychiatrist prescribed. An emotionally abusive mother only exacerbates the situation.
Years ago, rancher Ford Kendrick pushed Jamie away for her own good. But he never stopped loving her. Now she’s back, and he’s determined to help her heal and rekindle that light inside her. It will take all the patience, perseverance, strength of will, and understanding he can muster, but he has no choice, not if he wants Jamie back.
What really struck me about their relationship was less the romantic love, though that is definitely there in both of them, but the depth of Ford’s friendship and compassion. He seems to have an instinctive understanding of what will help Jamie, of when to push and when to back off. Ryan doesn’t minimize what he feels, seeing her suffering.
Nor does she gloss over how difficult it is for Jamie to heal, how important professional counseling is, or the fact that it’s an ongoing and long-term process, not something that happens over a few weeks or months. By letting us inside Jamie’s head, she sheds light on a condition many of us know only from hearing about it in the media.
As there often is in Ryan’s romances, there’s a mystery in this one which threatens the lovers’ future. It adds to the tension in the novel, but the really compelling story for me was Jamie’s recovery. Maybe that’s because I’ve gone through my own struggle with mental illness — not nearly as bad as Jamie’s, but enough to be able to sympathize from the inside, as it were. In my case, it was severe anxiety and panic attacks, not PTSD. Like Jamie, I got better with a lot of work, but it’s an ongoing process. I really appreciate the way Ryan shows not only how hard it is when you’re in the worst of it, but that you can get better if you want to and you’re willing to work at it, and also that you are lovable and worth loving even in the midst of it, even when you feel like you’ll never be well.
I loved the ending, which I suspect may set up the next novel in the series. I’ve only read two of the books in the Montana Men series, and really liked both of them. They work as stand-alones, but as I see more of the recurring characters, I want to read the other books in the series as well.
TL:DR version: A well-written romance combined with a realistic portrayal of PTSD makes for compelling reading.
Reading this book contributed to these challenges:
- COYER Blackout (2016-17)