Title: Cowboy Boots for Christmas: (Cowboy Not Included)
Series: Burnt Boot, Texas #1
Author: Carolyn Brown
Format: Paperback, 352 pages
Published: October 7th 2014 by Sourcebooks Casablanca (first published January 1st 2014)
Links: Goodreads | Amazon | Kindle | B&N | ARe
Callie Brewster didn’t figure she’d ever see Finn O’Donnell again when they parted company in Afghanistan. But when her little brother witnesses a killing, everything changes. The government says they’ll put him in witness protection, but Callie doesn’t trust anyone to protect her brother—except for Finn O’Donnell.
All Finn wants for Christmas is some peace and quiet on his newly purchased ranch. But he owes Callie Brewster his life, and he always repays a debt. Now there’s a woman in the house who joined the army to get away from ranching, a boy who is scared of his shadow, and a feud going on amongst the other ranchers. Yet in the midst of all the chaos, Finn is happier and more at peace than he’s ever been before…
"Is he asleep?" Finn whispered.
"Out like a light. He thinks he's too big to crawl into bed with me so when he as the nightmares, we sleep on the sofa the rest of the night."
"So you are the nightmare whisperer," he chuckled.
"Like the horse whisperer. Only you banish nightmares with your presence. Damn, Callie! I wish I'd have known that two years ago. I would have looked you up and slept on the sofa with you," he said.
COWBOY BOOTS FOR CHRISTMAS (Cowboy Not Included) by Carolyn Brown was an enjoyable holiday contemporary romance set in small town Burnt Boot, Texas. The town came complete with its own crazed Brennans - Gallaghers feud. :-). It was the first book I've ever read by Carolyn and it won't be the last.
Both primary characters were well-defined and genuine. They're both ex-military. The story opens as retired army sniper, Finn, greets his best friend, partner and spotter from his army days, Callie, when she unexpectedly shows up at his Salt Draw ranch seeking safe refuge for herself and her nephew, Martin. Martin is in trouble because he witnessed a murder. Even though Finn's thrilled to see her, he's leery about Callie's proposed arrangement.
He cocked his head to one side. "Callie, this is a ranch. If I remember right, you joined the Army because you hated every damn thing there was about ranchin'. Are you sure you want to live here?"
"Guess I've found out there's worse things in the world than the cows, hay haulin', and calvin' season," she said. I'm not askin' for a handout here, Finn. I'm willing to work. I'll work outside. I'll work inside cleaning and cooking or both if you'll give me and Martin room and board."
Thanks to flashbacks, we learn that both Finn and Callie are suffering from PSTD from their grueling service in Afghanistan. Those scenes were insightful as to their service and suffering and quite emotional. As to their romance, it starts with little sparks and erupts into a full-fledged raging fire. The chemistry between the two was sweet and hot dusted with humor and Christmas spirit.
I loved all the secondary characters including:
• Verdie, the spunky former owner of the ranch who has found out that retirement living is not for her
• Martin, Callie's nephew
• the displaced orphans
• the local law enforcement officer who always showed up with donuts
• Shotgun, Finn's well-trained dog
• the assorted stray pets, including Joe, the parrot. Joe was a cacophony of sounds. One minute he was making noises like gunfire from his perch, the next he was shouting "Call the coroner" or "Bury the bastard in the backyard" or " Joe wants apple pie." Despite both Callie's and Verdie's insistence that they were going to fry him and serve him for dinner, he persevered.
• the two feuding families. Life was certainly not dull in Burnt Boot!
Following please find a few more of my favorite quotes:
"Why is this place named Burnt Boot?" Martin asked.
"Back in the days of the cattle drives old Hiram Cleary got tired of lookin' at the back end of cattle all day. He sat down right out there and pulled off his boot, threw it in the fire so he couldn't go no further, and built a store to sell stuff to the people comin' up the trail. He was an ancestor to my husband," Gladys answered.
"Darlin', never doubt that my fears are every bit as big as yours, with commitment topping the list in big bold letters. Don't run away, Callie. I need you to stay," he whispered softly.
"I want to stay," she said just before he kissed her again.
She stared at his nude body in awe. "My God, you look like a Greek god in the moonlight," she whispered.
'Darlin', Greek gods do not have black hair. They're all blonds," he said.
"Darlin,' I'm telling this story and you are a Greek god in it.'
"Oh. My. Sweet. Lord," she gasped.
"If every time gets more intense, we'll burn out the relationship, he said hoarsely.
"But what a way to go." She nestled down into the crook of his arm when he shifted his weight to one side....
They slept that deep sleep reserved for babies and consenting adults who have worn their bodies out with hot sex.
One of my favorite scenes was at a party hosted by one of the feuding families. I thought Callie's reply to Quaid when he tried to make a move on her was perfect!:
“Are you and Finn more than boss and hired hand?"
"You might say that."
"My ranch is bigger than his," Quaid teased.
"It's not the size of the ranch, darlin;. It's the heart that runs it," she answered.”
Carolyn's writing was top-notch. It seamlessly harnessed so many emotions: romance, sadness, sexiness, fear, confusion and love. Filled with the joy, love and togetherness of Christmas, I highly recommend COWBOY BOOTS FOR CHRISTMAS (Cowboy Not Included) to anyone who enjoys a good holiday romance. If you also love your cowboys and your military, it's a must-read!