Give Me Another Chance, Cowboy by Valerie Comer

Give Me Another Chance, Cowboy by Valerie Comer

This book plays on Valerie Comer’s strengths in so many ways. Like her other cowboy romances, book 2 of the Cavanagh Cowboys Romance series depends heavily on the characters, bringing them to life through relatable circumstances and reactions. It also involves four-year-old Toby, who is a person in his own right.

The story revolves around the long-term scars left by dysfunctional relationships, especially familial, but focuses on finding ways to keep from passing the problems on to the next generation. While these books are a spinoff of the Saddle Springs Romance series, they seem to tackle bigger issues (a trend started in the last Saddle Springs book). For Travis and Dakota, this begins with undemonstrative parents, and parental relationships where the men are angry and the women stay in the background. But neither escaped their origins unblemished. Travis has anger issues he suspects are as bad as his father’s while Dakota has trouble trusting someone who acts a lot like her dad when angry.

If the title didn’t give it away, that this is a second chances romance is clear from the start and it’s mutual. The trouble is not that they need to talk, but rather that they’ve put up huge barriers to protect themselves from further hurt. Dakota and Travis talk every week, at least to exchange a word or two, but those conversations are full of sarcasm and bite to enforce the firm distance between them. The only thing they agree on is that their son must come first, something both must consider before extending the smallest olive branch.

I like how the story addresses the very real issue of broken families while providing hope for the future. That doesn’t mean Dakota and Travis stroll along the path through their difficulties, though. The book doesn’t expect them to overcome their problems just by strength of will. It recognizes they might need help. Travis and Dakota have to work for the peace they want to achieve, and the hardest part is having faith in a different outcome so they’re willing to try.

Which leads us to the inspirational aspects. I thought Dakota represented this part at first, but by the end, Travis found as much to think about. One of the stronger inspy aspects is how the characters engage with the biblical passages, actively exploring how the text applies to their situations and their behavior. Dakota uses the Bible as a weapon at least once, but turns her behavior around when she realizes the passage reflects on her as well. Nor is it only quotes they consider as theological questions about forgiveness, for example, play a big part.

Valerie Comer’s stories tend to have strong connections within families and communities. This book is no exception. Despite all their negative history, Travis’ brothers, step or full, are ready to help him when they see the need. Neither of the main characters stands alone, though I found Dakota’s support base more willing to undermine her while overtly lending a hand. I agreed with what the brothers were trying to get Travis to see more often and found how they get into each other’s faces amusing.

Several quick catchups remind the reader of the characters’ situations, mainly with Travis’ family history. There were one or two times later in the book where the catchup information repeated, but for the most part, the backstory worked with the scene well enough not to interrupt.

While the book focuses on Dakota and Travis, it’s about second chances in the greater context. Neighbors, people from their churches, and even their parents have the opportunity to change whether or not they take it. The mystery around Declan and Kathryn’s relationship deepens as well. I’m still waiting to learn more than the facts because I believe that will show facts are only one aspect of the whole story.

There’s so much more I wanted to mention, but I think this makes it clear I enjoyed the story and why. The handling of the faith aspects seems even stronger than her previous novels, while the well-drawn characters faced problems that exist in a modern world of broken homes and inadequate role models. Of course, I loved Toby, but there were many others who captured my attention, and I’m hoping for better futures among those whose stories are still to come.

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Things That Make Me Smile No. 244: Folk Tradition in the Modern Age

I come from a long-standing folk music tradition. I was raised on guitar music, including American political folk and traditional folk music from all over, though with an emphasis on Irish songs. So, you might imagine how delighted I am to have my son offer this sea shanty video to share as a smile.

The song is lovely, and the way this band brought together folks from all over (including my son) shows how the modern world provides novel ways for folk traditions to continue. Enjoy.

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5 Interesting Links for 02-19-2021

Note: Videos may auto start with sound so be prepared.

Psychology (Pandemic)

The pandemic has lasted long enough to overwhelm our coping mechanisms, and many are struggling. This article points to things that can help while validating the problem and confirming you are not alone. The last two paragraphs are especially valuable.

Exhibits (Automatons)

The Gosport Gallery’s Marvellous Mechanicals exhibit contains a variety of mechanical marvels for the enjoyment of visitors. You can explore the exhibit virtually as a safe alternative during the pandemic and for those who are too far away. I enjoyed browsing through the exhibit virtually, and while the movements took time to get used to, approaching each display and clicking on the speech bubble is worth your time. You’ll be rewarded with a short video of the mechanical in motion as though you are physically present for the exhibit.

Bathrooms (Society)

A look at bathrooms and bathroom use from a historical and cultural basis. The article ignores the embarrassment factor and goes straight to the consequences of shaming such a natural function.

Comfort (Wheelchairs)

Wheelchairs are rare in how widespread they are. Whether age, disability, or an accident, the odds of ending up spending some time in one seem high. This article (posted on a medical supply store blog) breaks down the different ways to make wheelchair use more comfortable. It looks at everything from additions to improve a manual wheelchair to features worth considering in a power chair.

Conflict (Writing)

While not heavy on text, this comic is an excellent summation of the types of conflict you can use in your writing. Many seek the overarching conflict in a work, but most stories contain many types, though they take up different amounts of the story. You can use this as a tool to find and perfect the conflicts in your own works.

A Country Masquerade (Uncommon Lords and Ladies, Book Two)
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Calculated Risks by Seanan McGuire

Note: Calculated Risks releases on February 23, 2021, but is available for preorder.

Calculated Risks by Seanan McGuire

The book has a prologue of when Sarah first met Artie, a cute scene, but also one that grounds us in Sarah’s loss. The first chapter starts right where Imaginary Numbers ends, as though a year hadn’t fallen between the two releases. Imaginary Numbers and Calculated Risks form a duet, or perhaps more accurately, a two-part episode in the style of television shows. There are reminders of what happened before, but where the InCryptid series can be read as individual, if related, stories, these two cannot.

Oddly, Calculated Risks can also serve as an introduction to the series as a whole. Sarah realizes in those first moments that the adopted cousins she’d grown up alongside, trained, and even fell in love with, no longer remember her existence. She’s gone from family and more to irredeemable cryptid that should be killed on the spot, cutting the emotional ground from beneath her feet.

She spends the first three chapters tied to a chair, desperate to make her case without manipulating them further. Explaining their memory loss is all her fault doesn’t help them trust her, but it does offer the opportunity to remind readers what happened in the first book. Sarah didn’t mean to change their memories. Instinct drove her to save them from the pain of realizing the equation had killed her…only it didn’t.

The book is not lacking in action. They encounter the various species native to this dimension, along with more troubles Sarah brought with the campus. The indigenous sapiens are similar to Earth hominids, while other species bear some commonalities and significant differences. Also, natural forces in this dimension, including those governing magic, are not the same as on Earth. There’s a lot to explore. However, like the previous book, this is more of a personal story, but remains in Sarah’s perspective throughout.

Sarah learns more about her species, including how many assumptions the Price family has been basing their actions on, but it’s not cryptozoology like how Alex details a discovery. This is her life, even more so with all family members in the new dimension having no memory of her. Worse, their recent connection with Mark, another cuckoo, is unaffected. They remember Mark survived puberty without losing his feelings for the human family that raised him. He’s safe and comfortable while she’s the enemy.

Nor did Sarah’s protective instincts spare Artie or their brand-new status as a couple.

She’s not used to being isolated. The Prices are forever finding new people in need of family, always growing. But in her case, it shrank with Sarah on the other side. This is the heart of the story. Her trying to convince them she’s their beloved cousin while taking responsibility for the fact that they can’t remember her…or having consented to her using them for the equation.

Without specifics, I’ll say the relationships form the foundation of this book. Not only those destroyed and built in these pages, but also those that came before. The biggest plot thread is how Sarah functions with her family, and the love of her life, having forgotten she exists while they still depend on her, as a cuckoo stranger, to get them home.

Imaginary Numbers ended in a cliffhanger, but this one has a satisfactory conclusion. There are still consequences to be dealt with, but the big questions, the urgent questions, are all resolved one way or another. Still, this book opens the possibility for many more stories, whether novels or novellas, meaning the series still has room to grow. One such novella appears in the back of this book, even.

P.S. I received this Advanced Reader Copy from the publisher through NetGalley in hopes of an honest review.

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Things That Make Me Smile No. 243: Codes of Honor

A friend introduced me to Testify, a Navajo Nation band, on Indigenous People’s Day last year (the second Monday in October). This acoustic song is inspired by the Navajo code talkers in World War II.

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