I Love This Bar, Carolyn Brown, pp. 172
Daisy O’Dell, owner of the Honky Tonk beer joint, is well liked in the community. Her skills as a veterinary tech are often put to use since no one else is qualified to take care of the pets and other animals owned by the good folks of Erath County, Texas. Tricked into a friendship with Chigger, the town’s “almost” prostitute, and pursued by handsome Jarod McElroy, Daisy finds her nice, predictable, orderly life thrown into a tailspin. How could she be good enough for Jarod, she asks herself. After all, what sort of man would be seriously interested in a bartender? Besides, she’s already escaped one abusive relationship. Jarod is only in town to help his elderly uncle with his ranch, and his list of tasks doesn’t include getting involved with a woman.
The key to a good romantic cowboy novel for me is half chemistry and half hilarity - if it's not funny, I won't be able to finish it for a loooong time. Just am not usually a Western fan. Unless it comes to those cross-genre westerns - like Aliens & Cowboys which I am so psyched to see!
In I Love this Bar, Carolyn Brown works her magic - adding tonnes of humour, a lot of emotion and cattiness and just that little bit of smoldering chemistry that pulls you in. I read the e-book version of this book, on my awesome Kobo, and I liked it.
The story is about two very similar people who think they are completely different: Daisy and Jarod. They are both stubborn, headstrong, and looking for love, but where Jarod falls headlong into love after love, the problems of each hitting him too late - Daisy seals herself from love, preferring her bar - inherited from her old friend. Their relationship is interesting - it begins with a bang - literally. They meet after both slipping on a puddle of beer in the bar and crashing into the floor together. Their romance is slow, developing over the whole of the book in one of those slow smoking ways. And aided heavily by my favourite character of the book: Chigger.
Chigger is first introduced to the reader through Daisy's flippant remark over how the made up cowgirl was the closest thing the Hony Tonk Bar had to a prostitute. But Chigger is so much more than that one line. She is the lynchpin of the book - all the characters owing her in some way for their development and for the story's progression. She's the straight-talking fierce protectress type, old Southern girl with a wild streak and a heart of gold.
And she's as sharp as a whip - she recognizes the signs of Daisy and Jarod's infatuation and realizes they're both too chicken sh*t to do anything about it, so she does what she knows will get them together - she keeps concocting situations where they have to be alone together. She plays them both and keeps everyone in line, manipulating her little world in order to do the best work possible.
If not for her, there would be no story.
There is something strange and wonderful when a side character shines through like that, and I am glad I read the book, even though it wasn't my usual read. She's fresh and funny and realistic, her whole world balancing on the complicated white lies to her straight laced Christian mother and her cat-and-mouse relationship with her boyfriend.
In all, the book was entertaining - a great subway read on those lolling summer days, and it was funny enough that I totally laughed out loud on the subway. A little slow sometimes, and I felt - as a Canadian, that I missed some of the subtleties of Southern ranch-like lifestyle. However, it is still pretty awesome.
Read if you like:
- "Smoking Six Shooter" by B.J. Daniels
- Patti Berg's Wyoming series ("Wife for a Day", "Born to be Wild" and "Something Wild")
- "For the Roses" by Julie Garwood