Betting On Hope – Debra Clopton – Four of Hearts Ranch #1 – Thomas Nelson – Published 24 February 2015
Advice columnist Maggie Hope never dreamed she d be shaking hands with champion horse trainer Tru Monahan over a high-stakes bet, especially one that involves horses. And saddles. And everything else a city girl like Maggie feels uncomfortable around. But after filling in for a coworker and interviewing the handsome cowboy, she finds herself doing just that. Anything to save her advice column.
Despite Maggie s two left feet, Tru is bound and determined to bring out her inner cowgirl by teaching her to ride a cutting horse, trained to separate cattle from the rest of the herd. While her riding improves, their attraction intensifi es, but Tru knows he can never let her into his heart for her own good.
In Wishing Springs, a community full of meddling but well-meaning townsfolk, Maggie discovers the home she s always longed for. But she s holding something back a secret that could destroy her reputation and any future she s ever hoped for with the cowboy she mightust love.
This book has all the makings of a great western romance, with a handsome cowboy, city girl thrust into the country with only said cowboy to save her from being eaten alive by horses, multiple secondary characters who bring interest and depth to the story, and backstories of hardship and resilience, as well as all the crazy fun that comes with a small-town country setting. Maggie Hope’s advice column’s future is on the line, so when she is asked to fill in and interview celebrity heartthrob cowboy, Tru Monahan, she has no choice but to acquiesce. What she doesn’t expect is her instant connection to the handsome cowboy, nor being forced to take up the bet thrown out during the interview: that Tru would be able to teach even a city girl like Maggie to ride a cutting horse.
The attraction between Tru and Maggie is instant, with fireworks exploding when they touch and their nearness affecting the other. Despite this, and luckily for the book’s believability, Tru is wary of Maggie’s motivations as a journalist (he has been burnt once before by those in the spotlight and has no plans to fall for that line again) and Maggie is wary of men in general. So, both do their best to stave off any growing affection. But with the two months Maggie must spend on Tru’s ranch learning to ride, not falling for each other is easier said than done. And despite the fireworks at the start, the romance between Tru and Maggie does develop gradually throughout the book, making it both believable and enjoyable to read (and really, who doesn’t enjoy reading about romantic fireworks?).
There are a whole lot of stories intermingled with Maggie and Tru’s. There are Bo and Jarrod, Tru’s brothers who bring jokes and banter to the story, and Pops, Tru’s beloved and ageing grandfather. There are the town’s people, everyone from the nosy Clara Lyn and Reba to the identical twin Mayor and real estate agents Doobie and Doonie, who bring humour to the story. And there is Jenna, a young mother-to-be with whom Maggie instantly connects. I liked that the characters had troubled pasts and had to deal with troubling situations. It made the story that much more heartfelt and relatable.
This is more a clean romance than Christian romance. While there are a few mentions of God and prayer, how faith impacts the characters’ lives or is active in everyday life is not a detailed part of the story. It also seemed that Maggie jumped from referring to God as that someone/anyone up there to already knowing God. It just seemed a little inconsistent. There were also a few instances where themes of forgiveness or trusting God to lead could have been discussed. But the book still works as a romance with the gentle underpinnings of faith.
I had a few problems with the writing, just silly little things, such as finishing sentences with of (not a big deal, but it’s a pet peeve of mine). The perspectives also seemed to jump around a little, one minute we are in Maggie’s head, then given a sentence straight from Tru’s thoughts and then back again.
But ultimately, this is a fun book and I couldn’t help but become wrapped up in the characters’ adventures, which are just a little bit crazy and a whole lot of fun. At its heart, Betting on Hope is a romance, with a lot of the action scenes, such as Maggie learning how to ride a cutting horse, brushed over to focus on the tension between her and Tru, as well as them dealing with their pasts.
Betting on Hope is an intense and pounding romance, with humour and a surprising depth. It is the first in the Four of Hearts Ranch series, but it can be read as a standalone. I am looking forward to reading book two in this series.
Genre: Christian contemporary.
Themes: Romance. Advice. Cowboys. Small towns. Journalism. Family.
Published: 24 February 2015 by Thomas Nelson
Format: Paperback, ebook, audiobook. 320 pages