Once Upon a Cowboy (Whisper Creek #3)
by Maggie McGinnis
In this sexy Whisper Creek romance for readers of Kristan Higgins, Susan Mallery, and Molly O’Keefe, a red-hot cowboy uses some Montana magic to give a reclusive beauty her happily ever after.
Yoga instructor Jessalyn Alcott radiates peace, calm, and serenity—on the outside. Inside, she still feels like the broken, desperate girl from the trailer park. She’s got dark secrets she can’t share, which is why she never lets her relationships go beyond the third date. But when she travels to the Whisper Creek dude ranch for a friend’s wedding, Jess is enchanted by a cowboy whose deep blue eyes, dimpled smile, and rock-hard body make it tough to remember why she keeps running scared.
Cole Driscoll has struggled to find his place on a family ranch where he’s always played second fiddle. His future might be uncertain, but he’s sure of one thing: He wants Jess by his side. Easier said than done. When it comes to getting close, she’s full of excuses, and he longs to fix the hurt he sees in her eyes. Now that she’s at Whisper Creek, there’s nothing he wants more than to break down the walls around her heart and heal her pain with the power of love.
JULY 25, THIRTEEN YEARS AGO
She’d always imagined a gun would make a louder sound, especially on a sticky summer night with only the crickets as competition. But it was more of a pop—like a kids’ toy rather than a lethal weapon—as Billy aimed it at the cashier and pulled the trigger.
Wait in the car, he’d said. I’m gonna get Old Man Mack to sell me some beer.
So she’d sat in the passenger seat, eyes glued on the store’s plate glass front window, figuring the worst he was going to do was pull his charming I-forgot-my-ID act.
Her hand went to her mouth as Mack grabbed his own chest, spun, and then fell behind the counter. She felt blindly for the car door handle as she watched Billy scoop bills from the cash drawer, but she couldn’t get out fast enough. She heard a strangled sound that must have come from her as he came flying out of the store carrying a case of Bud and the money.
He wrenched open the driver’s door and tossed the case toward her, then gunned the engine before he had his door fully closed. Gravel spit out behind them as he swung onto the pavement and shot the car toward downtown, and she couldn’t seem to take a whole breath as she watched the rearview mirror.
“That was Mack.” Her voice came out in a whisper. “You just shot . . . Mack.”
“You know him?” Billy looked over at her, then grabbed her knee. Hard. “Mack shoulda let me have the beer, princess.”
He squeezed harder, making her wince. “You didn’t see nothing, you got that?”
“God, Billy. We need to call the police. He needs an ambulance.” She didn’t dare crane her neck to look out the back window, but couldn’t get the sight of Mack crumpling behind the counter out of her head.
Billy let out a short, maniacal laugh that made her cringe. “People need to learn who’s in charge around here, princess. Sometimes you gotta teach hard lessons, you know?”
Oh, she knew, all right. Mack wasn’t the only one Billy was trying to teach lately. She felt for the door handle again, but the speedometer was holding steady at forty. Leave it to Billy to shoot a guy cold, then obey the speed limit all the way back to his apartment. She dug her fingernails into her palm, desperate to be out of this car—desperate to be as far away from Billy as possible.
She’d had her breakup speech memorized for three weeks now, but still hadn’t had the courage to deliver it. And now? She shivered, scared to her very core. If Billy’d shoot Mack over a case of beer, what would he do to her if she tried to cut him loose?
“We can’t just leave him there, Billy. What if he—dies?” Her voice cracked as she pictured Mack handing her a piece of bubble gum every Saturday when Grampy used to bring her in for a root beer and a scratch ticket.
“Who we gonna call, princess? The po-lice?” He drew out the word like it amused him. Billy looked over at her again, and she shrank toward the door. “We need to have a little talk about this?”
“No.” Their last little talk had left her with a bag of frozen peas on her ribs and a headache that didn’t go away for a week. She took a catchy breath. “No little talk.”
“Good.” He nodded, pointing toward the case on her lap. “Crack me one of those brews, wouldja? I think I earned it.”
You know you're in for an emotional read when you're less than 10% in and you already have tears in your eyes and that's exactly what happened to me when I was reading Once Upon a Cowboy. I haven't read the first two books in this series but you better believe after reading this one I will be going back and doing just that.
Jess had a difficult childhood and has been on her own since she was sixteen years old. She thought she had put her nightmares behind her until she receives a phone call from a monster from her past. That phone call and a letter that she received along with it put her on a downward spiral of suppressed emotions at the worst possible time. After all, weddings are supposed to be cheerful, right?! And Jess is on her way to Whisper Creek to be a bridesmaid in her best friends wedding.
Cole has had a thing for Jess since they met two years ago but he senses the fear in her this time around and wants to find out who has hurt her and keep her safe. At the same time, he's been doing a little soul searching of his own and he's not sure that he wants to stay at Whisper Creek so he's reluctant to make a move on Jess while she's there.
Cole was such a sweetheart and I fell in love with him from the get-go. Whisper Creek is in his blood and he loves it but he's never been anywhere else and fears that he's missing something. You definitely can't fault the guy for that. But I'm so glad that he realized that Whisper Creek and Jess were what he needed in his life.
Jess had her secrets, that's for sure, but after getting little snippets of her past you couldn't help but feel for her. And I loved that even with those secrets she didn't act like a yo-yo when it came to Cole. She wanted to be around him, obviously, but she never hinted at more because she knew she couldn't give it to him.
Honestly I really wish we got more couple time with these two which is why I wasn't able to give it five stars. It was a clean romance, and I'm not even saying that the author should have added sexy times, I just wish that we got to see more intimate moments between them. Not to mention the huge time jump that happened towards the end. I mean, couldn't we have seen at least a chapter of them together after they confronted her family?!
Once Upon a Cowboy was a sweet and emotional read and even though it was my first read by Maggie McGinnis it definitely won't be my last.
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Disclosure: I was provided with an ARC of Once Upon a Cowboy through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own.