"Helm delves into the depths of her characters' emotions, revealing their foibles and making them incredibly human. With plenty of sexual tension and scintillating love scenes, this romance is a true page-turner."—Publishers Weekly
She'll do anything to save her family, but she never expected it would include the hockey-star-turned-cowboy with the power to upend her world—and her heart.
For hotshot NHL star Dan Sharpe, hockey isn't just his job—it's his everything. But when claims of cheating get him bounced from the ice, he finds himself feeling lost. Everyone thinks he's crazy for taking on his grandfather's ramshackle Montana ranch, but hey, he's Dan Sharpe: how hard can it be?
As it turns out? Plenty hard.
Mel Shaw has been fighting tooth and nail to keep her family from falling apart. The last thing she needs is a distraction, but taking a job as some city slicker's consultant may be her only chance to save the land she loves.
Big Sky Cowboys:
Rebel Cowboy (Book 1)
Outlaw Cowboy (Book 2)
True-Blue Cowboy (Book 3)
About the Author
Read an Excerpt
By Nicole Helm
Sourcebooks, Inc.Copyright © 2016 Nicole Helm
All rights reserved.
Mel Shaw reined in her horse at the crest of the familiar path that wound its way around the Shaw ranch.
She'd ridden this trail her entire life. On her eighteenth birthday, she'd ridden it with her father. On this very spot he'd told her, someday, what lay below would be hers. It had all been very Lion King, and in that moment, an amazing gift. This awe-inspiring tract of land in the shadow of barely snow-peaked mountains would someday be entrusted to her.
Someday had turned out to mean five years, almost to the day, when a freak accident had put her in charge ... of a barely surviving ranch, a delinquent brother determined to burn every Shaw bridge, an injured and withdrawn father, thousands of dollars in medical bills, and livestock that needed to be cared for and tended daily.
These days it felt more like a noose than a gift. But it was a noose she loved.
Mel took a deep breath, squaring her shoulders and squinting into the blue sky. All this was for nothing. She wasn't giving up leadership here for very long — three months at most. And Caleb ... Caleb could handle this.
Maybe if she repeated that to herself enough, she'd actually believe it. Her younger brother had gotten his act together in the past few years. When they thought Dad would die, he'd changed. She could trust him to take the reins now.
Regardless, she didn't have a choice. The Shaw ranch stretched before her, like her heart laid out on display along the edge of Blue Valley, Montana. Every barn, work building, even the old house, was looking weary in the early summer morning light. Spring had not been kind.
The years had not been kind.
But she would turn them around. Some idiot hockey player wanting to drop twenty grand on a consultant was just the financial stopgap she needed to get things really going again. They could start to rebuild some of those partnerships that debt, and Caleb, had compromised, to rebuild the cattle herd that had diminished to next to nothing. They could be Shaw again.
The clopping sound of another horse on the trail behind her interrupted the quiet. She didn't bother turning around — it could only be one person.
"It'll be okay."
"I know." She'd gotten a lot better at lying to Caleb since Dad's accident. Everything will be okay. I'm not even tired. Who needs a foreman?
"I won't disappoint you."
"I know that too." She offered him a smile as he brought his horse to a stop next to hers. He looked impossibly young to her, even though she was only two years older. Before the accident, Dad had always joked she'd been born older, like George Bailey in It's a Wonderful Life. Apparently destined to be on the hook for a failing business.
Only she didn't have hero Harry to rescue her. She had a brother who'd alienated everyone in town, finishing the job Mom had started before she abandoned them twenty-some years ago.
Mel swore she could feel the noose tightening, making it harder to breathe. Harder to lie. She tried to shake it off — all the memories, all the doubts, all the responsibilities piling up against her.
She was taking the reins, taking this summer job away from the ranch. She was going to save them. She was, and Caleb was going to help. He'd found a constructive way to deal with whatever demons had plagued him. Demons she'd never understood — demons he'd never let her understand.
She had to believe in him. Trust him. Unclench a little.
"Will you get me his autograph?"
"Sure." She paused for effect, then gave Caleb her best big-sister glare. "On my paycheck."
Caleb laughed. "Had to ask." He cleared his throat, staring hard at the ranch below. "I know I've said it before —"
"Then don't say it again. The situation is what it is. I'm done with apologies. All that matters is we're doing what's best for Shaw." That's all that would ever matter.
"What about what's best for you?"
She clicked her tongue, turning the horse around so she could head back to the main house. "Shaw is me, Caleb." The thing she could count on no matter what. Each peak in the distance, each slightly leaning building, every blade of grass that came back year after year. It was her center, her core. It was her; she was it. Always.
Everyone around her might let her down, but this place couldn't.
* * *
Dan Sharpe rolled off the most uncomfortable mattress he could remember ever spending a night on. The twinge in his back as he stood reminded him of the indisputable fact that he was getting old.
Thirty-five meant he was no longer the young phenom on his team.
The sad fact of the matter was, his teammates looked at him like he was as old as his famous father.
That's not the only way they look at you.
What did it matter? Technically they were no longer his teammates. His contract was up, and after screwing the pooch in two Stanley Cups, rumors were starting to swirl that his complete cave under playoff pressure wasn't so much psychological as it was criminal. His agent thought there'd even be an investigation.
Dan scrubbed his hands over his face and walked over bowed floorboards to a tiny en suite bathroom that had seen better days. Probably twenty years ago, before Grandma and Grandpa had moved south and rented the old Paulle place out.
Apparently rented it out to people who didn't care much for comfort or things of this century.
Which was fine. Part of this self-exile was about pushing himself out of his comfort zone and doing some hard work that had nothing to do with hockey. Far away from any rumors that he was some game-throwing asshole. Let the NHL investigate. In fact, he hoped they did, because he'd be proven innocent. Sure, he was still an asshole, but he was not a cheater.
The pounding coming from the front of the house was muffled enough that Dan thought about ignoring it, but then he remembered his consultant was supposed to be showing up today.
He had no idea what time it was. Crap. He grabbed a T-shirt out of his suitcase and pulled it on as he walked through the old hallway he just barely remembered from his childhood, through the kitchen decorated in blue ducks, of all things, and to the front door.
Buck, the guy who'd been doing maintenance for his grandparents the past few years, stood on the porch next to a young woman. They were both smiling ... until they looked at him.
Then those smiles died. While he was pretty sure it had nothing to do with hockey, he'd been on the end of that change enough times to fall back into old habits. Because if people weren't going to be happy to see you, why not make them really unhappy?
"Howdy, partners," he said.
The woman's cool expression went to pure ice, jaw setting, dark eyes not even bothering to meet his. "Mr. Sharpe, I assume."
"And you are?"
She stuck out her hand, grudgingly it seemed. Like she didn't want to touch him. Or even be here. Not the normal reaction from women who sought him out. "Mel Shaw."
He tried to keep the shock from showing on his face, but he couldn't manage it. When Buck had suggested Mel for the job, he'd never mentioned she was a woman. A young woman. A young, attractive woman, even under all the cowgirl garb she had going on.
She was tall, her hair a rich brunette. She had a pert nose dusted with freckles, and a lush mouth that didn't match the sharp angles of the rest of her. Her hand wasn't soft as it shook his, but she had long, delicate fingers.
Not at all the picture of Mel Shaw he'd had in his head when Buck said he'd arrange for a summer consultant.
Mel glared at Buck as she dropped his hand. "You didn't tell him?"
"Sorry, too fun."
"You're a jerk, Buck."
"Anyway, I'll leave you two to get acquainted." The man tipped his hat, and if Dan wasn't mistaken, laughed himself all the way back to his truck.
Dan's Harley looked out of place sandwiched between two old, huge pickup trucks. He looked back to the woman on his porch to find that nothing about her irritated expression had changed.
"I don't care that you're a woman." He didn't. Really. She was wearing a cowboy hat, cowboy boots, jeans streaked with dirt and dust, and a plaid button-up shirt. In every respect, she appeared to be the real deal. It didn't matter that she also had breasts.
Which she then crossed her arms over, because apparently he'd been staring. Crap.
"And I don't care that you're some hotshot hockey player, so I guess we're even."
"Well, calling me a hot anything kind of says otherwise."
She looked to the sky and took a deep breath. "Mr. Sharpe, I think we're getting off on the wrong foot."
"You're right. Come on in."
She furrowed her brow at him. "You're not even dressed."
Dan looked down at his T-shirt and ratty gym shorts. "Well, I'm not naked."
Her cheeks went a little pink, and he couldn't stop himself from grinning. Of course, the grin that usually caused women to bat their lashes or slip him their number just caused Cowgirl to roll her eyes.
"I bet you expect women to drop their clothes when you smirk like that."
He wasn't sure why her disdain struck him as funny, but it did. Maybe because it had nothing to do with the rumors, nothing to do with him booting the puck more times than a reasonable person could think was an accident.
"Well, Mel, can't say I'd mind that."
The pink in her cheeks went darker, but she fixed him with a glare. "Watch it, buddy. I may need the money, but you try to sexually harass me and your balls will be in some serious danger."
He held up his hands in mock surrender. "Let me point out that you were the one who brought up taking off your clothes, not me. Still, I apologize. I'm not really known for saying the right thing at the right time." No, Dan Sharpe had a habit of always doing the wrong thing at the wrong time. Funny, none of his teammates had cared until last year. Probably because until then, hockey was the only thing he'd never screwed up.
Guess there was a first time for everything.
Which was why he was here. Hiding out. Couldn't say the wrong thing to the press if they weren't around. Couldn't mess it up more, make everyone's life harder if he was far, far away.
That was the hope anyway. His hope, his agent's hope, and though Dad hadn't been anything but encouraging, Dan had a feeling he was really hoping his son didn't screw up his chances at a front office promotion.
Besides, Grandpa had once said this place had meaning. Dan might be needing some of that meaning in his life if hockey evaporated.
Damn, but he needed to get his shit together. He turned back into the kitchen, leaving the door open for Mel. "Coffee?"
"Please tell me you didn't just roll out of bed." She stepped inside, eyes immediately assessing the kitchen as she took off her hat and placed it on the counter. She looked even younger without the hat, with freckles, a fresh face, and her dark hair pulled back into a serviceable braid.
But his eyes kept falling to her mouth. It made him think of a different kind of servicing.
Which was super douchey, even for him.
"I'm still working on the time change," he offered by way of sad excuse. Bottom line, he had no idea what time it was. The clocks in this place were all wrong. His phone had died last night, and he hadn't felt much like charging it — not when all the calls seemed to be more bad news.
"Yeah, that one-hour difference must be a real bitch."
He snorted in surprise. Mel Shaw was an interesting development. He'd been expecting some crusty old stodger to yell orders at him while he slaved over menial tasks. Truthfully, there had been some appeal in that.
There was some appeal in Mel doing the same, though. Anything to keep his mind occupied was A-OK in his book. Since he couldn't skate to clear his thoughts like he usually did, this was the only other thing he could think to do.
"All right. First, you need to get dressed. Into clothes you can actually do some serious work in. You're also going to need a different vehicle. I'm assuming money's no object for you, and you'll need something with hauling capabilities. Besides, that bike will get eaten up driving around out here."
She said it with such obvious disdain, like he hadn't worked hard for his money. Sure, he wasn't saving the world one blown Stanley Cup game at a time, but he was sacrificing his body and possibly a healthy old age for the fans' enjoyment. He wasn't exactly sitting on his ass having gold coins thrown at him.
"You're giving a lot of orders to a guy who's your boss."
She kept her arms crossed over her chest. "You're not my boss. Consultant means my job is telling you what to do."
"I'm paying you."
"You're paying me to teach you how to run this place. That means I'm in charge and you listen to what I say. Basically, you're paying me to be your boss. Keep that in mind. Now, go get dressed so we can actually get some work done around here." She gestured to the back of the house. "I'll make the coffee."
He didn't move or say anything at first — just watched her. She certainly looked like Ms. Tough Guy, but she also didn't meet his gaze, and she looked uncomfortable, maybe even restless. Like this job was the last thing she wanted to be doing with her time.
So, he gave a little nod. "Can't say no to that. I like mine with cream."
She snorted, turning to the coffeepot. "Of course you do," she muttered.
He had to chuckle. Three months of going toe-to-toe with some cowgirl with an attitude problem sounded a hell of a lot better than flashbulbs, veiled and not-so-veiled accusations.
And who knew? It could even be fun.CHAPTER 2
Mel stared at the coffeepot, watching dark liquid trickle into the glass carafe. She didn't like the jittery feeling in her gut. Nerves. But not quite like the nerves she got when she had to go talk to the bank or miss a payment on something. These were different nerves.
Crap-he's-hot nerves. She'd googled the guy. She'd seen some pictures of magazine shoots he'd done, but she figured Photoshop had gone a long way toward making him look like some kind of hot celebrity.
Unless he had Photoshop done on his actual face, he just looked like that. And that smile? That was a smile. Smiling was rare in her world lately. So rare it seemed almost like a mirage.
When Dan reappeared, he was wearing jeans. The dark-wash kind that looked like they'd never seen a day of work. A little too tight around the thigh to make riding a horse comfortable.
A little too tight around muscular, yummy thigh to make her comfortable.
"Maybe we should start over," he said, sounding sincere for the first time since he'd opened his door. No condescending drawl of partner, and no lame sexual innuendo.
"Yeah. We should." She turned back to the coffeepot. She was definitely not thinking about sexual anything right now. She most certainly wasn't blushing.
Liar, liar, pants on so much fire.
She hated him for this. The good-looking thing, the weird-sexy-charm thing. Things she didn't know what to do with. Hockey players were supposed to be all toothless lunkheads, right? Instead, he looked like fiction. Black hair long enough to run fingers through, green eyes the color of mountain sage, sharp nose and cheekbones, strong jaw, all his teeth.
Plus, an incredible body. Yes, he was obviously a professional athlete with that body. The T-shirt he was wearing was practically a screaming invitation to ogle his shoulders. Broad and muscly and ...
No. She was not this girl. Even before, when she'd had the time and inclination for that sort of thing, tongue-tied and blushy had never been her MO.
Everything with her one and only romantic entanglement had been easy and sweet and not ... confusing. She did not do confusing.
So, yes, they needed to start over.
She took a deep breath, trying to push the nerves away. "The first thing we should do is take a ride around. Get the lay of the land. Then I can help you draw up an overall ranch plan, a daily schedule." She handed him his coffee — black, because he hadn't had any cream in his old, whirring, rusty refrigerator.
She'd been surprised to find the house in about the same shape as that refrigerator. Old, poorly running, heavy with disuse. Every part of the place she'd seen was kind of a dump, really. She'd expected a famous hockey player who could drop a bunch of money on a consultant would also drop a lot of money on fixing up a place before he stayed in it.
"You'll also want to go grocery shopping, if you have any hope of eating today. Have you spent any time getting acquainted with Blue Valley?"
"Is there much to get acquainted with?"
She shook her head. While she hadn't expected the disrepair, she wasn't surprised to find Dan Sharpe was kind of useless. She pulled the little notebook and pen that she used for taking notes around the ranch out of her front pocket.
Excerpted from Rebel Cowboy by Nicole Helm. Copyright © 2016 Nicole Helm. Excerpted by permission of Sourcebooks, Inc..
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
Rebel Cowboy (Big Sky Cowboys #1) by Nicole Helm Nicole Helm’s Rebel Cowboy is a genuine story with real-life issues. In order to get money to keep her ranch afloat, Mel Shaw takes on a job helping NHL Star Dan Sharpe getting his Montana ranch up and running. This contemporary western/sports romance is suitable for adult audiences. Rebel Cowboy was a realistic and heartfelt novel. At times, I felt it dragged a bit, but I found it an enjoyable read. The characters are likeable. Mel is doing everything she can to keep her family's ranch running. She is dedicated and hard working. Dan is considering his life after hockey and decides to restore his grandparents' Montana ranch. He is smart. I like that he is not flashy. I like the llama. I also appreciated that he does what he feels is right for him and not what others expect him to do. The two characters have an appealing chemistry. The story has some interesting twists. Complimentary copy provided by NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
It took a bit to fully develop the characters, but it was well worth the wait. Dan, the NHL star licking his wounds in Montana and Mel, the gal that is so rigid, she could break concrete is an endearing story of strife, heartbreak and rebuilding. Mel is broken and Dan is finding another life, but can they heal each other? Mel's circumstances are tragic in the scheme of things, and Dan works hard to break through. A few laughs along the way with Mel and Dan keeps the story light. I really enjoyed the story of them finding themselves and each other. A HEA that left me smiling. I appreciate the gift of this book by NetGalley and Sourcebooks and only asked that I leave an honest review. 4 Stars!
Mel Shaw has been the backbone of her family for so long and is at the end of her rope. With a ranch that needs a lot of work and money, an undependable brother and a father that has checked out, Mel is fighting an uphill battle to keep their ranch afloat and the fee being offered for consulting with a newbie rancher might just be what she needs to do so. The only thing Dan Sharpe has always been able to commit to is hockey and after two game losses and whispers of cheating, Dan retreats to his grandparents' ranch in Montana to regroup. Completely out of his element, he hires Mel Shaw as a ranch consultant to help him get the ranch back to life but Mel does not think that a wealthy professional athlete like Dan has it in him to stick it out and their differences of opinion form the core of their abrasive interactions. I love the cover and the premise of REBEL COWBOY but it started out really slow and took a while for me to get into the story. The constant sniping between Dan and Mel didn't really help, but the story picked up steam at some point and became very engaging. Mel was very rigid and no-nonsense and while I didn't like it, it fit her circumstances. She's given up her life for the ranch and her family and locked down her emotions so tight that it would take very little to break her. Dan on the other hand, runs when things get too hard but when he's committed to a course, he's unshakable. His grandparents' ranch is important to him and he's determined to make it a success not just for his grandparents but also for himself, especially as he realizes that he loves being in Montana, he enjoys the challenge the ranch provides him and he's ready to walk away from his hockey career. How can two people who want very different things find common ground? The characters snuck up on me and grabbed my heart. Mel was really softhearted but repeated emotional hits had formed a hard shell around her heart and made her distrusting; Dan's patience was just what she needed to open up and take a chance on love again. Dan really was sweet and saw Mel very clearly. I love that he was determined to stick it out when it came to Mel and the ranch. His change from the clueless and entitled athlete to committed rancher was heartwarming and sometimes funny. REBEL COWBOY was sometimes sad and very emotional but enjoyable; with a very sweet hero, a prickly heroine, and some very funny moments. Can anyone say Llama ranch? I think this is a great start to the series and I'm looking forward to the next book. Disclaimer: I received this book for free from the Publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.
Dan at 35, is a professional hockey player who knows his time as a professional is about over. When he is accused of throwing games, he decides to take a break from it all and return to his grandparents ranch in Montana. He doesn't know a lot about ranching and decides to hire Mel Shaw to teach him how to ranch successfully. Dan can't believe that Mel is a girl, and their relationship gets off to a very rocky start. Mel, on the other hand, is desperate for the job so she can dig her family's ranch out of debt. Both Dan and Mel have trouble with their families and this complicates both their personal and working relationship. They slowly become friends and then more, but will this mean a happy ending for Mel? or will Dan break her heart to return to hockey? This was a good book with a little too much drama. I liked the main characters, but wish the story was less complicated. Overall I enjoyed reading it. I was given a free copy for an honest review by netgalley.com
Although this novel did get off to a bit of a slow start for me, by the end I was quite enjoying it. Once Helm got into the story proper it was quite the enjoyable read. She took the standard boy meets girl & they fall in love & gave it a little bit of a twist. The plot was intriguing and held my attention. Helm’s descriptions definitely brought me to the ranch, making me able to visualise it alongside the characters. I found the main characters to be somewhat unapproachable for the first while until I really got to know them. Although their actions and reactions are understandable based on their pasts and their current paths in life, having two such characters lead up a story made it hard for me to connect with someone for the first while of the tale. Once I got to know them I quite enjoyed seeing their relationship blossom. The dialogue between the main characters was definitely fun, however. Not only was it real (& sassy) but it also gave me a peek into who these two really are beneath it all. But that ends with the vocal dialogue. The perpetual inner dialogue from our heroine started to sound whiny to me after a while and made it hard for me to like her. This was a sweet tale of love found in the most unlikeliest of places. It was an intriguing introduction into this series. Please note that I received a complimentary copy of this work in exchange for an honest review.
Starting over and trying something new proved to be hard work for Dan. Hockey is all he has focused on most of his life. NOW WHAT? Mel is just the distraction Dan needs. Not afraid of a little hard work Mel needs money to finance her family ranch, Dan needs help getting his running. Who knew that a fresh outlook and a little sacrifice would prove the answer to both their problems. Rebel Cowboy could be anybody's life story. The moral is to never give up trying. Well thought out story.
Mel Shaw needed to get money fast. When offered a position as a ranch consultant to a big NHL player, she thought her prayers were answered…until she laid eyes on the sex on a stick city slicker who doesn’t know the first thing about running a ranch. Hiding from bad press and a career destroying performance in a championship NHL game, Dan returns to his grandparent’s ranch. He wants to find a place where he belongs since hockey has been his life since his parent’s divorce when he was a teen. He never expected a sexy as sin cowgirl giving him the wakeup call of his life. Fun, exciting, sexy and sweet are just a few words that come to mind to describe Rebel Cowboy. It is a sports star meets ranch hand story with lots of sexual chemistry and a spirited llama or few. If you are looking for an easy, entertaining contemporary romance Rebel Cowboy would be the a great choice. 3.5 Stars I received this ARC copy of Rebel Cowboy from SOURCEBOOKS Casablanca in exchange for a honest review.
Mel Shaw has poured everything she has into making sure her family ranch stays afloat, and has no intention in letting everything that her family has worked so hard to maintain slip away. But the debt is piling up and she needs to find a way to pay it off soon or they will lose it all. When an opportunity to earn a large sum of money presents itself, Mel is all to eager to take on the job, that is until she meets her new boss. He is a handsome NHL star that is looking to restore life into his families old ranch, but doesn't have the slightest clue where to begin, which is where Mel is suppose to come in... but only after few days together Mel is unsure if she can handle the task. He tests her in ways no one else has and is tempting her to stray from the straight and narrow, which has this tough cowgirl wanting to admit defeat and run... Dan is nearing the time in his career when NHL players are expected to retire, and he is looking for something to move onto after he's played his final game. His grandfather encourages him to visit the old family ranch and see if it would be something that would fit into his future plans. Dan is a little apprehensive since it is something he knows very little about, but decides to take his grandfather up on his offer and make a visit to the Montana ranch. Once he is there his belief that he is in over his head is reaffirmed, so he sets out to find someone who can help him get the ranch back into working condition, and gets the surprise of his life when "Mel" turns out to be a hardworking cowgirl. She is beautiful, bossy, keeps him on his toes and has him reconsidering his return the ice... Mel and Dan's story captivated my attention right from the start, and it was evident from the beginning that they were perfect for each other, even if Mel was a little slow to admit it. It was refreshing to read a story where the heroine could hold her own against a touch alpha male, and I was impressed to see that she managed to keep him on his toes the whole way through. The heated banter between them was not only entertaining, but also help to create quite a spicy little reading treat for me! This was definitely a memorable first read for me, and I look forward to reading future installments in the series! Highly recommend you add this one to your reading lists, it's sure to satisfy all your reading needs!! ARC requested through NetGalley, and kindly provided by Sourcebooks Casablanca in exchange for a honest and unbiased review.
There's a reason this book is only $1.99.....just could not connect with the characters or even the story. Seemed very disjointed.