From USA Today bestselling author Caitlin Crews comes A True Cowboy Christmas, the first in a sensational series debut about a cowboy, a farm girl, and the greatest gift of all. . .
Gray Everett has a heart of gold but that doesn’t mean he believes in the magic of Christmas. He’s got plenty else to worry about this holiday season, what with keeping his cattle ranch in the family and out of the hands of hungry real-estate investors looking to make a down-and-dirty deal. That, plus being a parent to his young and motherless daughter, equals a man who will not rest until he achieves his mission. Now, all Gray needs is the help of his lifelong neighbor. . .who happens to have grown into a lovely, spirited woman.
For Abby Douglas, the chance to join forces with Gray is nothing less than a Christmas miracle. Much as the down-to-earth farmer’s daughter has tried to deny it, Abby’s been in love with stern, smoking-hot Gray her whole life. So when Gray proposes a marriage of convenience as a way to combine landand work together toward a common causeAbby can’t refuse. But how can she convince Gray that sometimes life offers a man a second chance for a reason. . .and that their growing trust and mutual passion may be leading to true and lasting love?
About the Author
USA Today bestselling, RITA-nominated, and critically-acclaimed author Caitlin Crews has written more than eighty-five books, including Harlequin Presents, Harlequin Dare, and Cold River cowboys. She’s won fans with the romance, women’s fiction, chick lit, and work-for-hire young adult novels she’s written as Megan Crane (including the futuristic, dystopian Viking romance Edge series). These days her focus is on contemporary romance in all its forms, from small town heat to international glamor, cowboys to bikers to military men and beyond. She’s taught creative writing classes in places like UCLA Extension’s prestigious Writers’ Program, gives assorted workshops on the writing process, and attempts to make use of the MA and PhD in English Literature she received from the University of York in York, England. She currently lives in the Pacific Northwest with a husband who draws comics and animation storyboards, and their menagerie of ridiculous animals.
Read an Excerpt
Everetts had been going to their eternal rest in the same remote plot of land with its breathtaking view of the same range of gorgeously unforgiving Colorado mountains for at least three generations. And counting.
Gray Everett had always understood that sooner or later, he'd follow suit.
Today was one of those bright and blue November days that seduced a man into pretending he couldn't feel winter kicking there in the snap of the air against his face, sweeping down from the snowy heights to tug at his bones and make him feel every one of his thirty-eight years. It was the kind of sky that made Gray imagine he might be immortal. Colorado sunshine was nothing if not deceptive, even in an autumn that had already dusted the jagged peaks around the remote Longhorn Valley with a couple of teaser snowfalls, just to get the blood pumping and the snow tires ready.
And today it was Gray's famously ornery father who was carrying on the inevitable Everett tradition. He was being interred into Everett land in the simple pine box he'd requested in the will he'd drawn up years ago, and had thereafter theatrically amended with a red pen at the dinner table any time he felt irritable or slighted.
And Amos Everett had pretty much felt nothing but irritable and slighted, every day of his miserable life.
Gray was the one who'd had to keep the ranch running, no matter Amos's many feuds and grievances. He was the only one of his brothers who'd bothered to stick around and take care of what was theirs, so he'd long since stopped paying attention to his father's dark mutterings and periodic pronouncements of who was in and who was out. He'd had actual fences to mend, calves to brand, colts to halterbreak, bulls to move from one pasture to another. Amos's dark obsessions had been a distraction, nothing more.
The pine box was about the only thing the old man hadn't changed in all these years of will amendments.
And there were worse things than an eternity spent in this pretty family plot, miles away from anything, draped in wind and quiet, snowstorms and summer breezes. Shaded by cottonwood trees overlooking the icy blue river that tumbled down from the higher elevations and had given the four hundred acres Gray's ancestors had claimed its name. Cold River Ranch. The seat of the Everett family as long as there had been Everetts in Colorado.
His trouble, Gray thought as his reluctant family and the few neighbors who didn't outright hate Amos gathered around the grave Gray had dug into the chilly, resistant earth the previous morning, was that it turned out he might want more from his life than the Everett family tradition being interred in front of him.
He'd come from this land and like it or not, he'd be returned to this land, sooner or later. Staring at his father's grave brought that home to him with a kind of wallop.
Gray had spent his life deep in the harsh realities of running cattle, committed to handling Amos's nonsense as best he could, and dedicated to the raising of his daughter the way he'd been doing since Becca's mother had taken Gray's truck and crashed it on the mountain on her way to see one of her lovers ten years back.
He stared at his father's casket sunk deep in the ground and figured it wasn't the worst idea in the world to see if he could enjoy his life before he found himself stretched out beneath an adjacent patch of grass. And maybe make Becca's life easier than his had been while he was at it.
Everetts historically lived mean and more than a little feral, out here where the land had a mind of its own, cattle and weather wreaked havoc at will, and the pretty town of Cold River was an iffy mountain pass away. Everetts tended to nurse the bottle or wield their piety like a weapon, spending their days alone and angry until they keeled over in a barn one day. Gray's grandfather had been found one morning slumped over his tractor. Amos, who Gray really should have been taking this opportunity to mourn in the way a good son surely would have, had staggered off to the barn to saddle up his horse on Halloween morning and hadn't come out.
Gray's grandfather Silas had been a tough man, but a good one. When he had died, the whole valley had turned out to pay their respects. To this day Gray couldn't make a trip into town without some old-timer gruffly reminding him he had the look of his grandpa about him. He was fairly certain it was a compliment.
Amos, on the other hand, had been as bitter as he'd been spiteful and had taken it out on anyone who'd happened near. He'd run off a pair of wives, a series of girlfriends, not to mention two of his three grown sons. He'd also gone out of his way to alienate just about every resident of this cold, protected valley a world away from Colorado's fancy, glittering ski slopes and a solid few hours of hair-raising driving from the city lights of Denver.
Gray wasn't given to dramatics, but he could see his future as well as anyone if he didn't change. He didn't have to like it or the way it was mapped out right there in front of him to accept it.
Today's grumpy hermit is tomorrow's bitter, old man, he told himself.
He didn't love thinking about himself that way, and he wasn't thrilled at how much he sounded like Amos inside his own head, so he frowned around the small graveside service instead. His two younger brothers stood to one side of him, looking solid and grounded as if they hadn't gotten the hell out of Cold River at the first opportunity and left Gray to handle everything all these years. Across the way, loyal neighbors like old Martha Douglas and her capable, dependable granddaughter, Abby, stood with the sprawling Kittredge family who had land farther out in the valley. The longtime hands had lowered Amos's casket into the autumn earth and now stood there, taking part in the moment of silence.
Gray didn't know what anyone else was feeling, except for his daughter, whose muffled sniffles seemed to indicate she was actually mourning the bitter, old man in question's passing. But then, Becca was fifteen and had tried her best to dote on her grandpa as if the mean, old geezer was some kind of substitute for the mother she'd lost way too young. The mother Gray maybe should have tried to replace.
Gray couldn't say he or his brothers had tried all that hard with Amos. They'd learned better a long time ago.
When the simple service was finally over, everyone headed back toward the ranch house despite the fact there was supposed to be no gathering, "celebration of life," or any of that nonsense, per Amos's pissy wishes etched out in thick, red pen on that damn sheaf of papers he'd called his will. Becca gave him a hug before jumping in a truck with one of the Kittredges, but Gray decided to hike the mile back from the river with his brothers as if they were close.
They weren't. Even way back when they'd been kids, it had been every man for himself in Amos's version of family.
"Congratulations," Brady said as the three of them settled into the walk at Gray's brisk pace. "Dad's dead, Gray. That means you're free."
Gray adjusted his collar against the biting wind that rushed down from the snow-topped mountains and tended to remind a man exactly how small he was. A feeling Gray had always liked because it put things into perspective. He knew Brady hated it, because Brady had complained about it pretty much constantly throughout his teen years. He eyed his baby brother, all polished and fancy like the city slicker he'd made himself in his years down in Denver. Gray didn't want to imagine what the fool had spent on those boots of his.
"No man with four hundred acres is free. Or maybe you forgot what ranch life is like."
"I didn't forget. That's my point. This ranch is a cross no one asked you to carry. And one you can put down anytime now, in case you wondered."
Gray didn't want to have this conversation. Ever. And certainly not with Brady, who'd never made any secret of the fact he hated not just Cold River Ranch, but the town of Cold River and the entire Longhorn Valley too. Brady, who had never sacrificed a thing, was filled with all kinds of opinions. And yet had done nothing but run away.
Which was fine by Gray. But it wasn't him.
"I'm not selling," he said gruffly, to end the discussion.
Brady glared at him. "Not sure that's up to you, big brother."
On his other side, their middle brother Ty threw back his head and laughed, hard enough that the wind couldn't snatch it away and long enough that Gray and Brady stopped glowering at each other and turned it on him instead.
"Let's really get into it," Ty suggested when he fully had their attention. "Throw a few punches, leave a few bruises, and roll into the house with enough blood to horrify the neighbors and make sure we're the talk of the valley. Isn't that exactly what Dad would have wanted us to do to mark his passing?"
Gray's mouth curved despite himself. "The old man did like to cause a commotion."
Brady shook his head. "He could pick a fight with a tree. And win."
"He was banned from every bar from here to Vail, repeatedly." Gray almost sounded ... nostalgic. "Lately, though, he liked to hole up at home with a bottle of whiskey and list his enemies."
"Did ungrateful sons count as enemies?" Ty asked lazily. He sounded as cool and unbothered as the hotshot bull rider he was, and was exhibiting only the vaguest hint of a limp to remind anyone looking at him that the last bull he'd tried to ride had stomped him good on the way down.
Amos had pretended not to be aware that Ty rode bulls on television, because he'd always refused to acknowledge anyone who'd wronged him by leaving, from the ex-wives he'd bullied to the sons he'd chased away. But when others mentioned the famous Ty Everett, he'd certainly always seemed to know everything there was to know about his superstar middle child's career.
"We were disappointments, not enemies," Gray assured his brothers.
Brady scoffed. "How are you a disappointment? You're just like him. You might as well be a Cold River wet dream."
Ty snorted. "I definitely don't want to hear about your wet dreams, baby brother."
Gray didn't want to hear from either of them. He tuned out their bickering as they hit the crest of the hill, because there was his life's work laid out before him. In every direction, as far as he could see, there was nothing but Everett land. Sweet Angus beef, Colorado mountains, and the sweat and tears and stubborn dreams of all the family who'd come before him.
He took a deep breath, then let it go, his gaze fixed on the ranch house where he'd lived most of his life. He remembered his brothers grousing about it way back when. They'd each called the place claustrophobic, in their own ways, and each of them had made tracks out of the mountains as soon as they'd turned eighteen. Ty to the rodeo, Brady to school.
Only Gray had stayed. Only Gray had endured.
Because what Gray saw when he looked around wasn't the ball and chain Brady imagined or the chokehold Ty had never wanted.
He saw his home.
The place he'd raised his daughter. The place he planned to stay until it was Becca walking down this hill from the family plot, leaving him behind.
"This is the loneliest place I've ever seen," Brady muttered from behind him.
"Lonely is as lonely does," Ty replied, all drawl and the sound of his famous smile. "Which in my case is usually a whole lot of whiskey until I fancy myself a pool hustler."
Gray didn't turn around.
"I'm not selling," he said again, more seriously this time. "It's not happening."
He could feel his youngest brother's impatience. And he was sure he could feel the two of them exchanging glances back there, behind his back.
"Then tell me your plan," Brady said, using the rational, corporate voice he probably got a lot of mileage from down in the city. It made Gray want to swing on him. Which he didn't do, of course, because he was a grown man who was supposed to have a cool head on his shoulders.
"Same plan as always," he said instead. "Run cattle. Sell beef. Nothing changes here, Brady. Isn't that the reason you never come home?"
"What kind of life is that?" Brady demanded.
Gray cut his gaze to the side to find Ty there, a lot less belligerent than usual. A lot less swagger and a lot less of his typical showy crap too, now that he considered it. Maybe that last bull had actually stomped some sense into him.
"It's my life," Gray told Brady quietly.
"You could live an entirely different life if you wanted to."
"I don't want to."
"You could sell this land and never have to work another day in your life."
Gray shook his head. "What kind of man doesn't want to work?" "There are developers from here to Grand Junction and back who would kill for this kind of view."
"And I'd kill them all with my own hands before I'd let them turn our family legacy into a sea of tacky condos. Forget it, Brady. Dad didn't want to sell and neither do I."
"He left the ranch to all three of us."
"He did." Gray would turn the supreme unjustness of that over in his own head, in his own time, likely while continuing to be the only one of the three who actually put any work into the land that now belonged to all of them. That had been a kick in the gut. But Gray wasn't accustomed to showing the ways he hurt. "But it requires a unanimous vote to sell."
Brady looked frustrated for a moment, but then he blinked and his expression turned canny again. Like the slick finance guy he'd turned himself into. "What about Becca?"
"What about Becca?" Gray growled. "You have a sudden interest in my kid's well-being? I'm real happy to hear it, but you better break it to her gently. You're nothing but a face in a photograph to her."
That wasn't entirely fair, but Gray was okay with that. He was a lot less okay with that edgy, uncomfortable feeling in his own chest, making him restless and far meaner than he wanted to admit.
Maybe you're not as different from Amos as you like to think, that spiteful voice in his head chimed.
And maybe he needed to pay more attention to his daughter's well-being himself, and figure out ways he could make her life on the ranch better, though he didn't plan to admit that to Brady.
"You might have bought the legend of the Everetts hook, line, and sinker, but that doesn't mean she has," Brady replied, uncowed. "What if she wants to go to school and learn a few things, instead of spending her life neck-deep in cattle and dust and endless drudgery?"
"Whatever my daughter decides to do," Gray said, very distinctly, not touching the "drudgery" remark because if he did, he really would give his kid brother a bloody nose like he was thirteen again, "it has nothing to do with you."
"Just like the ranch has nothing to do with you, Brady. That was what you wanted. That was what you got. Don't think you can come back here because the old man is gone and start acting like you care what happens to the land, or Becca, or me."
Gray started down the hill toward the house, his stride longer than before, not just annoyed that he'd taken the bait in the first place — but that he'd imagined he could actually have a conversation with his brothers without wanting to smack them upside the head.
Apparently he wasn't going to grow up any time soon. Even if his brothers were adult strangers now instead of the snot-nosed brats Gray had always had to corral while their parents were busy fighting.
"Brady's just trying to point out that there are options," Ty said, reasonably enough, matching Gray's pace a touch too easily for a man who'd sustained injuries bad enough that he'd had to drop out of the bull-riding circuit in the spring.
But Gray didn't feel reasonable. About any of this. He was a thirty-eight-year-old man who'd poured his heart and soul and entire adult life into this land. He'd lost his wife to it. Oh, sure, he knew Cristina had cheated on him, just like he knew that some people weren't suited to marriage in the first place — especially not with a rancher who could never take those extended vacations she'd longed for or ever leave the land long enough to buy her the pretty things she'd been so sure would make her happy.
But he also knew that if he hadn't been more married to his land than he'd ever been to his woman, he might have prevented her from taking his truck that night and skidding over the side of the pass on her way into town.
If he had to live with that, he'd rather do it out here where there was nothing but the wind and the evergreens bristling on the sides of the mountains, his cattle in the distance, and his land beneath his feet.
He didn't expect Brady, who'd never stuck with anything or thought much beyond himself, to understand that.(Continues…)
Excerpted from "A True Cowboy Christmas"
Copyright © 2018 Caitlin Crews.
Excerpted by permission of St. Martin's Press.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
5 STARS!! I loved this book! I honestly had a hard time putting it down and finished it in nearly one day. The detailed development was superb and what I long for in a story, but don't always find. After turning the last page, I intimately knew and understood these characters, their motives, and their actions. A True Cowboy Christmas is a modern marriage-of-convenience story written with depth, poignancy, and authenticity. The story doesn't solely focus on the romance between Gray and Abby, but also strongly relies on the peripheral relationships that undeniably have shaped who they've become and their outlook on life. Realistically tender and achingly romantic, A True Cowboy Christmas is a book that defines well-written romantic literature and why I enjoy reading. I can't help but look forward to the next book in this series. (This is my voluntary and unbiased review of an advanced copy via Netgalley/Publisher.)
Tropes/themes: virgin heroine, unrequited love, marriage of convenience, single dad. A True Cowboy Christmas is one of my favorite reads of this year. Caitlin Crews wrote a beautiful story about love and family with two amazing leads set in the cold Colorado mountains. The story starts out with Gray Everett at his father’s funeral who was a mean old drunk. Gray fears he will turn out to be like his father, but as soon as he sees Abigail he knows he needs to change his life and she’s the one who will help him do so. He proposes a marriage of convenience to her and she accepts. I appreciated that the author didn’t jump straight into the marriage, but rather gave Abigail time to adjust to the idea that her fantasy of marrying her crush will come true. She gives Abigail and Gray time to get to know one another before the marriage and those small intimate moments were so sweet. There are some complex issues concerning family. The author did a good job of dealing with it in a real way and not overdramatic, but sensible. Neither Abigail or Gray had great parents that treated them right. I really felt for them and am glad they found happiness with each other.
First in a series (Cold River Ranch), this story centers on Gray Everett and Abby Douglas who grew up on neighboring properties in rural Colorado. Gray has spent long years laboring on the ranch living under the dark, bitter cloud of his father who made everyone’s life a living hell. Now that the evil old man has died, Gray wants to keep the ranch his ancestors founded going for himself, his motherless daughter, and the once proud heritage that has foundered. His two brothers may have other ideas, one of whom sees dollar signs only when looking at the ranch. Knowing he needs help, Gray decides his dependable, sturdy, and practical neighbor, Abby, would be the perfect wife, no emotion required. Abby Douglas has loved Gray her whole life. She has quietly stood in the background living with her grandparents after her selfish, narcissist mother took off only returning home occasionally to torment Abby with her vitriol. Abby is at first shocked by Gray’s modern day proposal of a marriage of convenience, but decides she has enough love for both of them. Abby and Gray have equally been damaged by parents whose only happiness comes from making their offspring miserable. Abby internalized all the hateful messages from her mother while Gray is afraid he will become his father. This emotional turmoil sets the backdrop for two people who together have the opportunity to realize life offers second chances which are all the more glorious for those who overcome adversity. Gray rejects Christmas with all the trimmings because it is only associated with pain and bad memories. Abby loves everything about Christmas and what it represents so when Gray essentially bans Christmas from their home, she hopes to find a way to the heart of a man who does not think he has one. This well written story kept me turning the pages not wanting to put it down. Gray and Abby are both compelling characters. Despite all that has been done to these two people by those who are supposed to love them most, they have not given in to the darkness. I look forward to the next in the series which I assume will focus on one of Grey’s brothers who have lately been come back to the ranch for differing reasons.
4.5stars Lovely unique Christmas story. After his father dies Gray decides that he will not become him and that he will make a change by marrying his neighbor. Abby is secretly in love with Gray for years and is shocked when he proposed. He doesn't do it very romanticly and his reasons are a bit unorthodox. But she eventually agrees. The story is full of family drama on both sides, Gray with his brothers and daughter, Abby with her mother. Their characters collide about Christmas decoration and celebrating Christmas and change everything. A funny, romantic story with great writing, great side characters, I hope that both Abby's best friend end with their story and as great as this is. I really enjoyed reading it! I volunteered to review an ARC of this book for Netgelly
Gray came to Abby, his neighbor, with a proposition of marriage. It would be a marriage of convenience from him. It would be a marriage of love for her. Can she win his heart? Can she heal him? This is the absolute best Christmas story I have ever read. There is no fluff. None. This is not cut from the cookie-cutter cloth of most Christmas stories. This story does not even mention Christmas until halfway through. On top of being a great holiday story, it is also a great romance. You must put this on your holiday reading list.
WOW! That’s what I’m starting out with. So much emotion throughout the ENTIRE book. I was feeling all sorts of extreme emotions! This fantastic story is book one in the Cold River Ranch series and it features Gray and Abby. He just wanted a smooth sailing, practical marriage/life without love he wasn’t capable of giving. She agreed cause she’d been in love with the gruff cowboy practically her entire life. As Abby quickly learns, he was totally serious when he described the type of marriage he wanted from the girl next door. Sometimes the feelings were so unbelievably rough that tears leaked so slowly out of my eyes and just kept going. I wasn’t just reading a story. I was in her head feeling the things she was feeling. I’m still so stuck in that emotional state that I’m finding it hard to pick up the next book. AMAZING writing! I look forward to reading more from this very talented author.
If you dig through the emotional wasteland and the horrendous memories shared by these characters, you will find a hidden gem about discovering that special Christmas spirit wrapped in love and family and the promise of a wonderful future! A TRUE COWBOY CHRISTMAS by Caitlin Crews has some pretty brittle edges that must be worn down, but sometimes the most unlikely of relationships become exactly the healing medicine someone needs. What better time for a miracle-of-the-heart than Christmas? Abby has dreamed of being with Gray since she was a child, but it was just that, a dream. The plain young woman never imagined the quiet and brooding rancher would ask for her hand in marriage, strictly a common sense arrangement, at least for Gray. Can he remain impassive about their marriage when seeing the sweet strength of Abby, whose past is every bit as dark as his? I admit it, I spent a good deal of this book not sure if I really liked Gray, but knowing I just adored Abby! I really hoped she knew what she was doing... Not your “regular” Holiday romance, this one still rings true in the season of miracles as one cowboy Scrooge doesn’t stand a chance against the power of love! I received a complimentary ARC edition from St. Martin's Paperbacks!
I adored Caitlin Crews’s latest A True Cowboy Christmas book from the first page. Crews drew me into the story with her easy prose and kept me quickly turning pages. Abby and Gray were both well-rounded characters that brought out the best in each other. The conflict is more about Gray letting go of his past than with Abby, but it works. I fell in love with the ranch and the small town Crews created. I voluntarily reviewed an ARC of this novel.
This unconventional Christmas novel deserves so much more than a 5-star rating because it’s an emotionally charged coming-of-age story that brings two unlikely people together and teaches them both that who they are is much more important than who they came from. Gray is a modern day rancher pushing 40 with a deep love and commitment to the land that has been in his family for generations. He’s just buried his father, a man who made his life a living nightmare, leaving his absent brothers co-owners of the ranch they never set foot on, and no matter what the old man’s will says he’s not going to lose his legacy. Abby is a lonely young woman who was raised by her grandparents on a neighboring farm after her mother dropped her on their doorstep and took off for parts unknown. She loves her grandmother, her neighbors and her town but she’s given up on marriage and motherhood because if nothing else, she’s pragmatic about her lack of prospects. When Gray shows up on her doorstep proposing marriage Abby is shell shocked but she can’t walk away from her one chance to be a wife and mother, especially since she’s had a crush on Gray since she was a child. But there’s no way Abby is prepared for the bitterness that Gray feels in his heart as he privately fears he’s exactly like his father. Gray is too miserable to see the telltale signs of abandonment his teenage daughter suffers from, but Abby knows them all too well because she hears her spiteful mother’s words in her head every minute of every day. What touched me the most about this book was the hopelessness that malicious words can leave on our hearts and just how devastating our own inner dialogue can be when it drowns out the joy to be found in life. I cried buckets of tears over these characters as Gray and Abby finally come to realize how profoundly love can heal even the most shattered hearts. I read a complimentary copy of this book from St. Martin’s Press through NetGalley and all opinions expressed in my voluntary review are completely my own.
Gray has a lot on his mind now that his father is no longer in the picture. They have just finished with the last of the funeral proceeding and instead of mourning, Gray’s mind is on trying to keep his family’s homestead. With his brother’s back, Gray explains to them that the ranch has been and always will be his home. Being a single father, his sibling can’t understand why Gray would choose this lifestyle for himself or his teen daughter. Frustrated, Gray decides that perhaps it is time for him to find another wife. It’s funny when Gray tackles this issue. Gray is not looking for love or an emotional bond with his new wife, he is looking for a partner to share the load. A woman who is used to the harsh conditions, someone who can handle farm life and someone who won’t ask much from him. He finds that someone just down the road, a girl he has known all his life but failed to actually “see her.” He immediately goes to her house and inquires about marriage. Abby, of course is shocked at what Gray is asking of her and she has lots of questions. Gray doesn’t know it yet, but Abby has been crushing on Gray for years so inside her heart is pounding. I’m cracking up as I read their conversation and finally it is decided, that she needs some time to think his question over. Abby lives with grandma and this woman is a sweetheart. Grandma tells it like it is and gives Abby some great advice throughout the novel. Abby decides to marry Gray and their ceremony will be small. Gray’s daughter is delighted that her father is getting married again and she welcomes Abby into the ranch without reservations. Both of these adults come into this marriage with issues. Their parents have played an important role in their lives and how significant that is, impacts their marriage. I liked how Abby stuck to her true self and how they both did some soul-searching within themselves to help change the situation. This novel stuck with me as I read it, I had a hard time putting it down once I started as I needed to know how things progressed. I liked how the characters got emotional and this novel got steamy at times as they got comfortable. 4.5 stars I received a copy of this novel from NetGalley and St. Martin’s Press in exchange for an honest review.
When I got the invitation to review A True Cowboy Christmas, I laughed. Seeing that my invite was back in July, I wasn’t even thinking of Christmas yet. Christmas wasn’t even on my radar. But, when I read the blurb on Goodreads, I knew that I had to read this book. Why? It was a western for one. They have become one of my favorite romance genre’s to read. The other reason was that it was a Christmas romance. Those are always good books to read. So I figured, mixing those two books would be fantastic. And I was right. A True Cowboy Christmas is about Abby and Gray’s romance. Abby had been in love with Gray her entire life. She never thought that he would notice her. She also never imagined that she would be married to him. Gray has known Abby his entire life. But, at his father’s funeral, Gray notices her. Deciding that he can now remarry, Gray approaches Abby and she agrees. What they both weren’t expecting was a red-hot passion to spring up between them. They also didn’t expect Abby’s venomous mother and the ghost of Gray’s father to get in the way of the marriage. Can they overcome everything? Or will Abby leave Gray like every other woman in his life? Having the main characters be engaged within the first two chapters of the book put me off a bit. I couldn’t understand why Gray decided that he needed to be married and it had to be to Abby. He barely knew her. Barely noticed her. I will admit that I eyerolled hardcore during those scenes. I also, prematurely, called for this book to be a fluff piece. A book where there is little to no drama and the main characters get along famously after they get married. Yeah, shouldn’t have done that. I was surprised at the layers that the characters had. I wasn’t expecting Abby to have such a screwed up childhood or a mother that hated her. I also thought that her grandmother, who raised her, would step in and stop the verbal abuse. She didn’t. I also wasn’t expecting Gray to have as many layers as he did. His childhood was worse than Abby’s. I didn’t understand until he started telling Abby why Christmas wasn’t celebrated in the house. My heart broke for him. Even the secondary characters had layers. It was insane!! I loathed Lilly. She was a despicable human being. I didn’t want to believe that she could be as nasty as she was to her own daughter. I was even more shocked when Abby’s grandmother stood up for Lilly. I wanted to scream “Why are you letting her talk to Abby that way? WHY” No wonder Abby had self-esteem issues. I will say that I cheered when Gray put Lilly in her place at Thanksgiving. And I fist pumped when Abby finally did. And yes, I get too vested in these books…lol. I liked Abby but I also felt bad for her. Her self-esteem was at a zero. She was pining away for a man who didn’t even notice her. If I were in her shoes, I would have acted the same way when Gray put everything on the table. I also understood why she wanted nothing to do with Lilly. I mean, the way that woman treated her awful and she didn’t want anything to do with her. I did think her love of Christmas was infectious. She started getting me in the Christmas mood while reading the book. I had a harder time connecting to Gray. He was too even-keeled for my taste. It took me a while to realize that he was as damaged as Abby was. Maybe even more. Then I started feeling bad for him when he started opening up to Abby about his childhood and why he didn’t celebrate Christmas. What I didn’t get was why he thought hi
I think Abby is one of my favorite heroines. Her mom is a horrible person but thanks to her grandparents she managed to turn out to be amazingly genuine and has a huge heart. She's been in love with Gray for practically her entire life but when he asks her to marry him, she doesn't jump at the chance. Part of it is that she doesn't believe that Gray is thinking clearly and doesn't actually want to marry her (she has a little bit of a self-confidence issue thanks to her horrid mom). She's also afraid of what the rest of the town will say about their nuptials but she does eventually agree, throwing herself into the relationship with dignity & courage. Gray's home-life wasn't all that good. He had an combatant alcoholic for a father and all feminine fixtures in the house would only put up with so much before leaving. And unfortunately that included his own wife. With the death of his father, Gray doesn't want to take the chance he'll end up like him and decides that a marriage based on logic is better than one based on emotion. To him, Abby is the perfect candidate - sensible, steady, and will provide a little softness to his hard life & for his daughter . . . but what is he going to do when those pesky emotions enter into things? He's not the best with feelings under normal conditions and definitely not when he's not expecting them. A man with some pretty thick walls and a woman who questions her own appeal find themselves at the mercy of love's power and the goodness of a caring heart in this beauty of a Christmas story. A wonderful journey of healing and self-discovery, A True Cowboy Christmas will give you those all over warm & gooeys that you crave at this time of year. **Review given honestly and freely after receipt of a reader copy. This opinion is completely my own and was not influenced in any way.**
Abby has always loved Gray from afar. His marriage proposal seems too good to be true. He wants a ranch wife and a mother figure for his daughter, but Abby wants and needs love. Crazy family members, a fight over land and inheritance, and the need for a traditional Christmas threaten to come between this couple meant-to-be. Can they find middle ground, and love, to become a real family and have a real marriage, plus give Gray's daughter the Christmas and stability she longs for? This is a story with raw hurt and need and love. It's so worth reading. **received an ARC from NetGalley**
I'm not sure who I felt more sorry for, Gray or Abby. They both pull at your heart for different reasons from baggage from their past. Abby has an unrequited crush on Gray, and it’s been going on for decades, literally. So much so, it’s interfered with her own love life, or lack there of. Gray has his own issues with is father and deceased wife. They get together for various reasons, but love isn’t one of them. The story takes a few twists and turns, and is in no shortage of drama, coming from all directions. With the help of family and friends, they muddle their way through to see each other in a new light. Some parts will make you laugh, other parts will make you cry. My review is in exchange for receiving an ARC.
A True Cowboy Christmas by Caitlin Crews Cold River Ranch #1 Story telling is an art and this author is a talented wordsmith. Her characters have depth with backstories that illuminate. The plotting is tight and flows easily. I smiled and cared and wanted Abby or her grandmother to be my friend. I was able to understand why Gray and his brothers were as they were even though I wished I could have smacked some sense into Gray a time or two and I also understood the insecurities of Abby and her understanding of Gray’s daughter, Becca. I hated the people I was meant to hate and wished them the karma they so justly deserved. I smiled and cared and enjoyed this story even when it was painful. And, I can’t wait to read book two in the series no matter who is going to star in it. This book includes: marriage of convenience, unrequited love (till it is), dysfunctional families, small town romance, drama, friendship, awakenings and a whole lot more. I have enjoyed other books by this author but this is my first contemporary romance by her and I have to say that I enjoyed it immensely. Thank you to NetGalley and St. Martin’s Press for the ARC – This is my honest review. 4 Stars
With a perfect combination of deep, raw emotion, realistic sounding rugged cowboy life, family drama, and tragedy, a touch of humor, joie de vivre, small town living... this tale of a marriage of convenience went directly to my heart and kept me up late to the night. An absolutely unputdownable tale that I loved so much so that it went to my Top Ten all-time favorite romance stories I have read. A True Cowboy Christmas is so much more than a cowboy romance or a Christmas romance, it is a story of two people making the tough decisions in life, doing their best to survive while healing from the deep emotional wounds their parents and past left in them. What would you do when something you have dreamed about all your life suddenly comes to be your reality, but it is nothing like you thought it would be? Abby Douglas has loved Gray Everett all her life from the afar. He has been her ultimate dream, the goal in life, while unreachable all the same. Abby grew up with her grandparents since her mother's inability to care for her. Each time her mother swept through town, she focused her energy and effort to break Abby's spirits, to take her down a notch. The emotional abuse has left Abby to believe she is unattractive, unlovable, undesirable. Yet she has a big giving heart, kindness, and sincerity. She is a hard-working, resilient, sweetheart of a person. She was so easy to like and relate to, cheer for her to succeed. I wanted to protect her from all the possible hurt, gossip, and especially from her mother's attitude. Gray's life has not been easy. As the oldest son of the alcoholic, abusive rancher, he has taken his share of physical and emotional abuse. His mother left the family, his late wife cheated on him, yet he manages to be a loving, caring father to his teenage daughter. He is not interested in romantic love, he has no need, desire, or time and energy to deal with emotions, he has been there, and done with it. But he does want a companion, a sensible wife, who can share the life's burdens and joys, who he can trust, rely on. I loved absolutely every word of the story, the dialog is witty, drizzled with humor to lighten up the often heavy and difficult conversations that had to be had. The tangible chemistry between Gray and Abby, the way they stumble and fall while trying to find their tune with each other, it is adorable, touching, filled with a wide spectrum of feelings, engaging my emotions as well. This story is like a red velvet cupcake with a double dose of cream cheese icing; it is lovely, delicious and delectable, while smoothly flowing with tender, fragile emotions and the rough life of the rural country. It filled my heart and my mind as I smiled, chuckled, and teared up. I hurt for them, I felt their pain, disappointments in life, their passion, slowly building trust, and the wish for something more, that tiny silver lining of hope that bubbles up from the deepest corners of their hearts and souls until it fills up their minds. A fantastic, amazing, must-read story that I know I will be re-reading countless times... And it is just the book one in the series - can't wait for more! ~ Five Spoons!!
4 Stars Review by Elizabeth Late Night Reviewer Up All Night w/ Books Blog A True Cowboy Christmas by Caitlin Crews is outstanding. Once you get into the book it really takes hold and does not let go.This book is full of so many emotions that will have you laughing at one moment and crying in another. Gray and Abby have known each other all their lives. Abby has also been in love with Gray since Elementary school. When Gray decides he needs to re-marry, the first person that comes to his mind is Abby. Abby has sat by for years watching Gray as he married his wife, had a child, and suffered at the hands of an emotionally abusive father. Gray decides that he needs to give his daughter a step-mother but he does not want dates, romance, or love. He has been burned too badly in the past and refuses to get hurt again. So Abby, he thinks, is perfect for the role. Both Gray and Abby have had a tough life, making my heart break. When Abby throws caution to the wind and decides to marry Gray, things get interesting. They have great chemistry and I don't know how they thought no feelings would be involved. A True Cowboy Christmas, is about two people trying to overcome their demons and family issues while trying to find happiness in each other.
This new series has started off with a heart tugging and heartwarming holiday story full of strong, compelling characters that easily draw readers into their story. Gray Everett decides he’s a needs a wife and Abby Douglas would be the perfect, most practical choice. Abby Douglas has been in love with Gray her whole life, so his proposal is nothing less than a Christmas miracle so she can’t really refuse. The romance throughout this story is full of lots of emotional turmoil that tugs at heartstrings and keeps this couple’s relationship on rocky ground but the sizzling chemistry and Abby’s determination to convince Gray that their growing trust and mutual passion may be leading to true and lasting love. The plot is steady paced and flows smoothly throughout and keeps the suspense building throughout the story as readers wonder whether this couple ever achieve their happily ever after or will stubbornness and a irritable legacy keep them apart. The author brings her story to life with wonderful characters full of depth that makes it easy for readers to connect to the characters as they make life changing decisions during the holiday season which of course adds that hopeful and special ambiance to the story that only the holidays can add. The Everett brothers capture readers’ attention and ensures that readers will want to visit the Cold River Ranch again and again.
A wonderful read with emotionally scarred characters that somehow find their happy ever after through a marriage of convenience. I really loved the beginning of this book, and even though I felt sad for both Gray and Abby at their circumstances, their exchanges did have me laughing. Gray has determined he needs to find a “practical woman” to give his daughter the kind of family she deserves and maybe even help him fill his house with more children, and his practicality has him turning his sites to his neighbor Abby. He thinks he’s come up with a sure thing of a plan, he’ll just ask Abby to marry him – she’s practical, she’ll get it, no problem… The truth is that both Gray and Abby carry some deep emotional wounds that have shaped their lives and brought them to this moment – a moment that has the potential to begin the healing process for not just the two of them, but for Gray’s daughter Becca as well. As the story unfolds and more of the past is brought to light as well as the fact that Abby has been in love with Gray since she was younger, it’s clear that both Abby and Gray need to come to terms with their issues before they can find true happiness with each other. Between Abby’s mother and Gray’s father, it wasn’t hard to understand the why’s, and it was heartbreaking at times to see the damage that was caused by the abuse that was doled out by these two characters. And even when things were going good, the undercurrent of those issues was always present. I loved that Abby wasn’t a pushover; she really seemed to balance her compassion and willingness to help with enough backbone to not get pushed around. She was not afraid to call Gray out when she didn’t agree with him, but she also didn’t hold a grudge and let that rule her day. She truly was exactly what Gray was looking for in a wife when it came to all the practical things and, even better, their chemistry helped them form a bond that set the foundation for something more than practical. There was quite a bit of angst as Gray deals with his issues, especially once Abby opens her heart to Gray and lets him know how she feels. Normally I’m not a big fan of all the angst but knowing how deep these scars were and how Gray not only needed to reconcile his past with his father but also his relationship with his brothers, I didn’t mind all the conflict. And having Abby be there for Becca as all this unfolded was wonderful. This is my first book by Caitlin Crews and I really enjoyed the emotional story she crafted. It was easy to get lost in Gray and Abby’s story and feel exactly what they were going through. I look forward to reading more from her and can’t wait to see what stories unfold for Gray’s brothers. I received an advance reader copy from the publisher via NetGalley which I voluntarily reviewed.
This one was hard to stick with. It was slow and the characters had some hang ups that I thought dragged it down some. She was quick to believe everything was wrong with her and that everyone thought the worst of her, yet they never actually did. I liked the concept, the passion was good, but the plot was slow. The culmination of the conflict at the end was great; it had strong emotional tension and angst, but his role reversal from I can’t love you to I love you seemed a bit extreme. I’m glad he had an epiphany about what he actually wanted from his life, but I think he was so stubborn about it for much too long. Overall I had a hard time wanting to keep with the story but I am glad that Abby got her happily ever after and her Christmas.
A True Cowboy Christmas by Caitlin Crews is a fabulous western romance. Ms. Crews has delivered a well-written book. The characters in this book are outstanding. Kudos to Ms. Crews for this fabulous cast of characters. Gray has worked his father's ranch for years while his brothers went off into different professions. Abby is Gray's closest neighbor and has been in love with him since childhood. Gray and Abby's story is loaded with drama, humor, sizzle and conflict. I enjoyed this book from cover to cover and look forward to reading more from Caitlin Crews in the future. A True Cowboy Christmas is book 1 of the Cold River Ranch Series but can be read as a standalone. This is a complete book, not a cliff-hanger. I voluntarily read and reviewed an advanced copy of this book that I received from NetGalley. All thoughts and opinions are my own.
Caitlin Crews is a new to me author but I have read books she has written under her other pen name, Megan Crane, and really enjoyed them so when I had the opportunity to read an early copy of this book I jumped on it...and I am glad I did. This story had my emotions all over the place, and honestly the tears were flowing quite a bit. Gray was a tortured soul, raising his daughter the best he could especially after the way he was raised...boy I give him props because he did a good job even if Becca has a couple of issues, but hey she's a teenager and what teenager doesn't. Abby is sweet and caring, and everything her good for nothing mother isn't....can you feel the love there? There is a reason Abby was in love with Gray for most of her life and I think it's because their souls belonged together, soulmates if you will, they are what each needs to heal from the abuse they suffered from their parents growing up. A True Cowboy Christmas takes us on a ride of self discovery as well as acceptance and forgiveness. I really enjoyed this read and I look forward to the next book in the series. I would recommend this book to anyone that enjoys a good cowboy romance, or if you like the tropes fake-marriage/Marriage of Convenience, Girl Next Door, or Ugly Duckling, I'd give this book a try you won't be disappointed. Happy Reading!!!
Well written romance taking reader on a high/low emotional roller coaster ride! When raised with pain and degradation can there be hope? Gray was raised in a house where love had been stomped out. He and his two brothers competed for their bitter/spiteful father's approval, which never came. Abbey was raised by loving grandparents and a selfish/viscous mom. Liked both Gray & his brothers, Abbey, her grandma and Abbey's friends. (Along with other characters.) Took more than needed time for Gray & Abbey to separate from their emotional doubts. Voluntarily read ARC for honest review.
This book starts off really interesting. Gray just buried his father and he decides it's time to find a Mom for his teenage daughter. He picks Abby who is responsible and has know her most of his life. When he ask her she is completely caught off guard. What Gray doesn't know is Abby has had a crush on him since she was a teenager herself. She is put off by the callous and unemotional proposal. After thinking on it some, she decides to marry him and make the best of it. This is not a love story much. It also doesn't have much to do with Christmas and I really wanted that. What this story does have is a man tortured by his past with his Dad and Abby tries to ignore her Mom who was never around anyway. There is a lot of angst and Gray is cold to her except in the bedroom.. It just wasn't the love story I wanted. In the end Gray finds his love for Abby but I found it hard to get there.
I know it's early to be reading Christmas romances, and I wasn't trying to get in the spirit or anything, but this book was beautiful. Gray is the perfect cowboy. I love when authors get a character just right and he's everything I expected. Gray is a brooding alpha male who is set in his ways. His father has just died and left the ranch to his 3 sons. Gray is the only one interested in working the land. It's what he has always done. He has a daughter and would like a wife to help with life. He isn't looking for love. He wants a partnership. Someone practical and only one woman fits the bell. Abby lives next door to Gray. She's secretly been in love with him for as long as she can remember. She's younger than him and has already seen him marry someone else. His marriage wasn't perfect and Abby watched it spiral out of control. It's now years later. Out of the blue Gray turns up on her doorstep and ask her to marry him. Abby never imaged this moment in her wildest dreams. He wants a wife and she can't say no.... not that she's saying yes. If the man of your dreams asks you to marry him for whatever reason, could you really say no? The dream and the reality are about to come head to head. Caitlin Crews is very good at descriptive writing and the emotion in this book is beautiful. Both characters have difficult families. Abby lacks confidence and Gray lacks compassion. These two don't need love in their life but find a great match with each other. They don't know each other too well but have lived next door for years. It's essentially an arranged marriage. It's old-fashioned, but it worked in the past so why can't it work now. A true cowboy Christmas is great. It's the start of a new series and I want more! It's the first book I've read by this author and I would definitely read more. This book is sweet and entertaining. If you like headstrong brooding cowboys then you'll fall in love with this. This book is set at Christmas. Abby is kind and loves the Christmas spirit of giving and sharing but Gray doesn't even want a tree. Abby is all about adjusting to fit into Grays life but that doesn't mean she's going to change for him. She can make the cookies for the people who appreciate them. Marriage is about compromise and acceptance. Abby isn't alpha strong but she will make Gray think. So leave your trinkets in the cupboard and your trees in the forest. December isn't the month for festive songs and twinkling lights. Not yet anyway. Aimed at the 18+ audience. This book has sexual content. 5 out of 5. *I received an ARC in exchange for an honest review.