Casanova Cowboy: Where the Old West Lives on in the Rusty Springs Valley
By: Jo Ann Bender Publisher: Bender & Associates Publication Date: April 2018 ISBN: 978-1882384051 Reviewed by: Barbara Bamberger Scott Review Date: June 10, 2018
There’s a new man in town, and he’s a cowboy. This is the underlying theme of the latest novel by author Jo Ann Bender (Rusty Springs, Lebensborn Secrets).
Joy Ann Oliver can hardly wait to tell the Stitch’n’Bitcher club the news: her husband Larry has engaged the services of a cowboy to help out on their Montana ranch for a few months. Lance Turbyfill, it turns out, is a rugged, blue-eyed 50-something cowgirl’s dream, and he is soon ensconced in his self-built tipi (he calls it a lodge) on the Olivers’ property. As he reunites with an old love, and considers a new one, Joy Ann is observing the new ranch hand, and wishing Larry was just a little bit more like Lance.
During his time on the Oliver homestead, likeable, hardworking Lance will join the local scene. He attends a nearby gathering for folks who think the US is headed for a fall and are saving up provisions for that fateful time, and later goes to a meet-up for former Viet Nam vets where he hopes to get some relief from the PTSD that riles up inside him periodically. There he meets a strong-minded, soft-voiced woman named Alexis who has the power to take his bad dreams away.
Lance finds himself needed most when wildfires start up and the winds are carrying the blaze to Rusty Springs. He volunteers to go with a young man named Cole to do some emergency work near an abandoned mine. Neither man realizes that old enemies of Cole are stalking the area, waiting for a chance to exact some long-festering revenge.
These dynamics and more make Bender’s book a fast paced adventurous read with some intellectual and spiritual overtones. Lance is not “just a cowboy” – he helps Joy Ann save Larry’s life and keeps Cole from breaking down when the two of them are in grave danger. Bender seems to have an eye and ear for Americans who break with tradition, whether it be those getting ready for the end times, or vets haunted by the horrors of war, or a cowboy who chooses to live like a Native American. She also displays a pleasant way with language; early on Lance realizes he is losing his enjoyment of the simple pleasures of life: “There is no music in the soul of a man who cannot see the freshness of an early morning after a rain, or a night sky beginning the day.”
There is plenty of action here, and romance, and some sexy interludes. There is also the thread running through the narrative of Joy Ann’s mute longings for a more fulfilling relationship; yet she will not let these feelings destroy the bond she and her husband have been building for so long.
Quill says: This is the modern West at its complex best. Lance is a well-drawn hero with an eye for the ladies and the guts to take on Mother Nature and some nasty bad guys. In the end, he’s off again to chase a new kind of dream. Does this alluring story beg a sequel? Bender’s readers may well hope so.