Lady X's Cowboy
by Zoë Archer, historical (2006)
Leisure, $5.99, ISBN 0-8439-5666-6

Firstly, let me give a big thank you, thank you so much, to Roslyn for taking the trouble to send me this book to me after reading my review of Zoë Archer's Love In A Bottle. I owe her a big favor for this, because Lady X's Cowboy is easily one of the best romances I've read in a while.

But Charlotte wasn't laughing. "I'm serious, Olivia. What kind of man is he?"

"He's..." Olivia sat back, thoughtful. She let her eyes wander aimlessly around the room as she called a vision of Will into her mind. Even thinking about him caused warmth to pool in her belly.

"He's honest," she finally said, her gaze turned inward, "and hardworking. Thoughtful. More than you would think. Very intelligent. He's quite strong, and not just physically. Within, this fortitude. It's remarkable. And there's something about him, a wistfulness, a searching. But no self-pity." She shook her head. "He's extraordinary."

Lady X's Cowboy is a cute story of a cowboy from Colorado, Will Coffin, who arrives in London looking for a family. You see, his parents died when he was a little boy, and he was taken in by a miner subsequently. When the only father figure he had recently passed away, Will decides to heed the man's deathbed advice and head over to London to seek his root. He'd been feeling some vague sense of discontent recently, so perhaps he could find a measure of peace as well when he manage to locate any family member in London. All he has as a clue is a scrap of paper, part of a letter written by his late father to a "Mr Hardene".

You can take the cowboy out of the Wild West setting, but he can't hide from that old plot, heh. It doesn't take long before he gets acquainted with Lady Olivia Xavier who needs a hired gun to fend off a greedy villain bent on seizing her brewery business even if he has to resort to hiring thugs to menace her employees. It's 1883, a time when rich middle-class folks are buying their way into the upper strata of society. Lady Olivia's late husband was a brewer and she was a banker's daughter. Both had nary a drop of blue blood in their veins. In Olivia's case, she's having a hard time because despite her title, she does not have the social leverage to successfully fend off her nemesis. George Pryce is old money and he has cultivated an image of impeccable character in public, so she has no one powerful enough who is willing to believe her and fight for her.

Since she has read about all those cowboys in America, she knows right away that she can't let someone like Will get away from her. She offers to use her connections to help him locate any family member he has in London if he will stay with her and become her muscle when it comes to dealing with George's hired thugs and ruffians. Of course they fall in love, but because he's a cowboy while she's a lady, it won't be easy.

The technical aspects of Lady X's Cowboy are fine. The pacing is great, the prose is clean, and while Will's lines can be pretty clichéd as if he's a gallant version of a hillbilly, the end effect is more charming than annoying to me. But it's not just competency on Ms Archer's part that makes this one a fabulous read. It's how the author spins this adorable fantasy of a larger-than-life star-crossed love and how she has me believing and relishing every second of the story. The romantic scenes resonate with sexual tension as well as the kind of comfortable affection typical among two people who enjoy being in each other's company.

Will is a very charming fellow. He reminds me somewhat of Mick Tremore from Judith Ivory's The Proposition in that he is a jovial, reliable, and gallant self-made man who exudes both confidence and easy-going charm with ease. Olivia is a wonderful heroine - smart, confident in herself and her abilities, and passionate without exhibiting any braindead tendencies or weird Daddy issues. What I really love about her relationship with Will is that they are both equals here. It is too easy and somewhat inaccurate to say that Olivia is the brain while Will is the brawn. In fact, they both actually cooperate very well here. Ms Archer allows Olivia to think and make decisions for herself even after she's fallen for Will, which is great if you ask me because too many romance stories have the heroine losing her personality completely and becoming dependent on the hero once he's promised to take care of everything. It is Olivia who ultimately sets in motion a trap to stop her enemy once and for all, and I really like that.

This review is woefully inadequate in explaining how I really felt while reading this story. It's like... I don't know, enjoying a box of expensive imported chocolates only to bite into that one piece and realize that I have somehow bought a box with that lucky piece that entitles me to a million dollar prize. I keep smiling and laughing and even sighing a while here and there as I keep turning the pages, and by the last page, I feel as if I have struck gold or something. I love this book. I love it.

Rating: 95

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