Sugarwater Ranch (Salt Creek Cowboys)
Author: Stephanie Berget
Page count: 235
Genres: Contemporary Western
TBR Reviewer: Victoria
Rating: 4 - A Recommended Read.
Heat: 2 - Flirty.
Sugarwater Ranch is more than just a western, though there’s plenty of cowboys and rodeos for those who are truly into that sort of thing. Catherine is a bar-tender (with nursing training that she interrupted to come home and take care of her uncle and his bar) who had a pretty rough first few years with a drunkard father. Sean is a rodeo rider who loves to drink (to the point where he is a drunk, no matter what he says to the contrary) and no real thoughts to the future other than winning a rodeo championship. These two lonely souls crash into one another when Sean nearly freezes to death in her parking lot after being kicked out of the bar for drinking too much. And from that rocky start, a romance begins. Because of how her parents died, Catherine of course wants nothing to do with an alcoholic.
First let me say unconditionally, I liked this book. There was a lot of emotional connection with Catherine, though not so much with Sean. Sean felt kind of blurry to me throughout, but that could very well be intentional by the author simply because Sean himself was sort of blurry (thanks to the alcohol). He’s completely unwilling initially to acknowledge he has a drinking problem, and come to think of it, I don’t think he ever fully acknowledges that he was an alcoholic, though by the end his drinking was almost non-existent. To Catherine’s credit, she draws a line in the sand when she says she won’t date a drunk, but never says “If you stop drinking, I’ll date you”. So Sean never really stops drinking “for her”, but rather because he realizes the problems with it.
I didn’t particularly care for the villain (because yes, there’s a villain) of the piece. He never did anything (up until the end when his villainy is revealed at the point of a gun) that overly seemed trustworthy. One personal grump for me was the issue of Sean’s car wreck.
I lived in Oregon for a while, though it was in the west, rather than eastern Oregon where the book takes place, and the author did a fantastic job of imbuing the book with the feel of the cold and the wide-open spaces of the state.
This book is a four star rating for many reasons, but I have to say it’s definitely Sean, and how he slowly worked through his alcohol issues, that captured my heart. There was no dramatic “intervention” or anything melodramatic like that, simply a man with a problem who overcame that problem. I love an honest (i.e., real) man, and Sean played out as incredibly real for me.