Danger in a Small Town: Confessing to the Cowboy

Confessing to the Cowboy is a 2013 Harlequin Romantic Suspense by Carla Cassidy. Given the random nature of my romance book purchases, I’m surprised this is my third title from Cassidy. I’ve previously read Just Joe and Cowboy with a Cause – the latter from the same Cowboy Cafe series. That was number three, and this is the fourth and final.

Cameron, like Adam in Cowboy with a Cause, is a cowboy in name only. He’s the sheriff of Grady Gulch, and, as the book opens, he is at the scene of the third recent killing in his quiet little town. I know this is a suspense, but starting off with a dead body, the third in the story, and all women, casts a shadow that makes it hard to be happy about anything that follows. I prefer the suspense element of my romances to be cozier (and I’m not keen on dead bodies to establish bad character in any story). All three victims worked at the Cowboy Cafe, and Cameron suspects its owner, Mary, might be the next target.

Mary arrived in town eight years ago, baby in tow, and started working at the Cafe, eventually buying it. Cameron is fond of her, but she’s been cool to him, and in eight years he hasn’t given up on her – or bothered checking her background. Most nights he drops in for a late coffee and a chat with Mary, and they have a friendship of sorts. Mary’s attracted to him, but doesn’t want to get involved with someone in law enforcement, so the friendship works for her too.

The set up is a more forced than Cowboy with a Cause, and it’s the friends become lovers plot. The titular confession comes early, which avoids the annoying plot device of a secret causing the climax. On the other hand, once the confession is out-of-the-way, the bulk of the story is the suspense plot, with very little relationship or character growth. The suspense plot is solid enough, but unlike some suspense plots (such as in Cowboy with a Cause), the existence of a killer, their name, and their motivation are all established early, so it’s just of matter of who will find who first.

The timing of the one sex scene contributes to the heat level, and Mary is a strong character from beginning to end, though she takes more risks than necessary. Cameron rescues her more than once, but in the end she rescues herself. That’s good, but her actions were, for me at least, another dark note in the story.

Overall, it’s a competently told story, and it has the ordinary characters I prefer. I preferred Cowboy with a Cause to Confessing, but didn’t mind seeing the loose ends tied up. Now