After a disappearing act several years ago, Clay’s back, and Jen’s not so sure she can stand having him around. He had just proposed, just celebrated their engagement with her family when Jen awoke to an empty bed and no goodbye. She hasn’t stopped loving him, but she also hasn’t stopped hurting, and she’s not sure any explanation or excuse can put them back on solid ground.
The Verdict: If I had noticed that this was a novella, I probably never would have grabbed it, and now that I’ve read it, I can say that would have been a huge mistake. I’ve loved every book in the Rodeo series so far, so of course I jumped at the chance to read Runaway Cowboy. And you know what? It felt like a full-length, complete story, not the rushed peeks that I usually get with novellas. And getting a closer look at Jen and Clay’s history was wonderful!
Runaway Cowboy takes us back to a time before the beginning, when Derek was still pretty green, Scott was still single, and Jen was heartbroken over Clay’s desertion of her a few years before. They’d been passionately in love, and when he’d proposed, she was given a glimpse of the future she’d dreamed of with him. But the next morning, it was all gone, and she’d been devastated. There’d been no sign that things between them were anything except perfect, but he left without a word and never answered her calls afterward. And as if she wasn’t wounded enough, he’d spoken with her brothers after leaving, but he never offered any explanation to the woman he’d claimed to love.
It’s been a few years when Clay happens upon the scene again, catching Jen by terrible surprise and sending her heart into overdrive. More than anything, she wants to know why he left, why he came back, and why he didn’t love her enough in between to give her even the smallest bit of closure. But even if she still loves him, she doesn’t trust him, and the part of her he left broken wants to strike out and strike back before he rips her apart again.
Clay was surprisingly cocky, and I wasn’t so sure I was okay with that at first. But the more I read, the more it seemed almost like a coping mechanism, as if he acted that way to somehow further convince himself that he’d done the right thing by leaving her in the first place. Turns out Clay’s past is a bit on the sketchy side, and when the past came calling, he turned tail instead of dragging Jen into that mess with him. I don’t want to give that secret away, as it has a big part in the more intense scenes in the book, but Clay actually convinced me that maybe his leaving was the right thing to do. Granted, he went about it all wrong, but it was more than just some misguided attempt to protect Jen.
And Jen’s residual pain from their breakup read fresh and deep, pulling me right into a mess of depression and confusion alongside her. She was strong, though, insisting on the truth and making sure Clay knew just how much damage his leaving had done, and for that I was pretty proud of her.
Runaway Cowboy is a quick read, but it’s written in a way that makes every moment of it count. It’s second chance, cowboy romance at its absolute best, filled with emotion, chemistry, and intense drama all leading up to a well-deserved happily ever after. If you love T.J. Kline’s Rodeo series, this one’s the icing on the cake. And if you haven’t read them? Start with this one and get hooked!