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Sunday, November 18, 2007

Review: Locking Horns

Locking Horns
by M. K. Trent

High school comes back to haunt Lexi Cunningham when she finds herself doing community service in Charles Town, West Virginia at Buddy Beckett’s cattle ranch. Buddy was the school trouble-maker she had no time for. Now she has to make time for him – 100 hours of time to be exact.

Buddy Beckett’s favorite fantasy thirteen years ago was arrogant, unapproachable Alexis Cunningham. Much to his delight, she’s gotten herself into dutch with the law and her retribution includes cleaning stalls in his barn. Quite a come-down for the girl who considered herself better than everyone else in high school.

Thrown together in one crazy situation after another, Buddy and Lexi discover that life can toss some pretty big cow pies into the ring – including the big “L” word, Love.

M.K. Trent's "Locking Horns" jumps right into the heart of cowboy-action and maintains a breakneck pace throughout this full-length, contemporary romance. Powerful, strongminded (if not downright stubborn!) characters meet head to head, and the battle of the wills makes it a cannot-be-put-aside read.

Lexi is unquestionably a babe, from her fancy peep-toed shoes to fine city-slicker outfits. We meet Buddy as he pries his thoroughly bruised self up off the dirt in the calf-wrangling pen. While Buddy is one tough cowboy, we suspect straight away that he has more than met his match in Lexi. We discover - as they discover - in their first chance meeting, that they in fact know one another from high school, and neither one has a good memory of the other.

Tough attitudes and some strong language to accompany it are sprinkled throughout this story. So is humor; you have to appreciate some wonderful moments, like when Bess, the loveliest of the Longhorn Ladies impersonates a bull to become a real ranch terror. Or when Randy, the calf, seems to be developing a unique (and Houdini-like) personality. This is real farm-life, from running the manure-spreader to rounding up the herd.

The antagonism between the main characters is central to this story. It is perhaps a little alarming that, at the start, the man doesn't so much want to charm, or seduce the girl, but more like, break her. Course' now, his memory of Lexi brings him the girl that was so unkind... while Lexi says Buddy has a "Disposition like a mule with a corncob up his butt." Their feelings about one another are plainly mutual.

And, just when you think you can tell where this story is going, the unexpected pops up! In addition to a heartfelt, realistic romance, there are wonderful and gentle moments of compassion. Each main character's life is beautifully portrayed, so that parents, siblings, and friends are all important elements in this story. The characters, and their situations are complex and intriguing.

"Locking Horns" is a fun, fast read. My one regret is that Trent didn't include a recipe from that "Grange Cookbook" she mentioned... of course, it would have had to be a spicy one to fit in with this sizzling read.

Review by Snapdragon