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Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Walker: The Rodeo Legend by Rebecca Winters

Walker: The Rodeo Legend by Rebecca Winters
(Codys: First Family of Rodeo series)
Publisher: Harlequin
Genre: Contemporary
Length: Full Length (215 pgs)
Heat Level: Sensual
Rating: 4 books
Reviewed by Poppy

Out of nowhere, Walker Cody swoops in and saves Paula Olsen's toddler son from a dog bite. Before she can properly thank him, the handsome Iraq War veteran fades into the crowd.

Walker's in training to retake his World Champion Bulldogger title. The practice rides are bruising, but still don't knock thoughts of a certain beautiful young widow and her little boy out of his head. And Paula's shocked to realize she has a bad case of Pervasive Walkeritis.

Survivors' guilt and ghosts from their pasts stand between them. Walker's need to prove himself on the rodeo circuit runs deeper than bragging rights. But can Paula risk her healing heart on a troubled man who deliberately puts himself in danger?

Looking for a Harlequin American a little different from the norm? This is it. I’m a big fan of the American line – I love the sense of community and large cast of characters, so was thrilled to review this book. What I found was a story a little less fluffy than usual. One that addresses some pretty serious issues that are quite relevant to our time.

Our hero, Walker, has just returned from the Middle East after having been seriously injured. He suffers from significant PTSD and has flashbacks which can happen anywhere and without warning. When we meet him for the first time, he saves a little boy from a dog bite but the action sends him back, mentally, to the war. It isn’t pretty.

Our heroine, Paula, was widowed by the same war that has psychologically scarred Walker. She struggles daily with the fear of losing someone else she loves, and also deals with raising a baby on her own. When Walker saves her child, Clay, from a dog attack she wants to thank him – but he’s there and gone so fast, it’s almost like she dreamed him.

This book gripped me with its realism from the start. I didn’t want to stop reading it until I discovered how Walker and Paula were able to come to grips with those things that were hurting them. I will admit that things got a little frustrating for me when the two main characters spent almost no time together for a good sized chunk of the book – this IS a romance after all – but things sped right back up again once they began to become friends.

Friends? Yep. That’s right. At first, they simply enjoy being together. Walker likes Clay, Clay like Walker, Paula enjoys the insight Walker gives her into being a soldier (something her husband never did). They slowly grow to know each other, and it’s a wonderful thing. Truly, two people couldn’t be more perfect for each other, even when Walker starts competing in the rodeo again and Paula questions whether she can deal with him putting himself in harm’s way on a regular basis.

This book offers a slow, realistic courtship between a man and woman with wounds that need to heal. Understand this: there isn’t some miraculous healing that occurs in this book – only the beginning of one, that we know will continue due to love and acceptance.

This is a warm, sweet, real story. And one I highly recommend.