“Holier than thou” is a well-known phrase in the English language, and in Valerie Comer’s first cowboy inspirational romance, Kade and Cheri struggle with just that as they try to overcome their history. It’s much easier to compare your faults to another’s than live up to your own standards in the eyes of God. Part of the reason I’m a long-term fan of Valerie Comer is her ability to bring real characters to the page. They don’t just pass through her stories. They struggle with questions about faith and living up to their own image of self in very tangible ways.
The Cowboy’s Christmas Reunion is a second chances story because Cheri left Kade at the altar six years before. She returns with her daughter Harmony to the small town where she grew up because she has run out of choices. Kade is busy being a good Christian as he organizes a Christmas relief effort with some of his friends and the support of his church. They’ll bring food, presents, and assistance to the elderly families and single mothers throughout the area…a group he does not realize includes his ex-fiancee.
Kade thinks he’s moved on from his first love, but one sight of Cheri brings it all back, the love, but also the betrayal. Cheri’s not much better. Her love never died despite what happened (we learn more in the story and it’s far from as simple as Kade believes it to be), but she’s drowning in her own failure, as unwilling to forgive herself as Kade is to forgive her.
Though Kade seems the better person from the start, the story is more complex than that. I found a greater strength in Cheri’s acceptance of responsibility for what happened, even though she could easily have transferred blame to another. Forgiveness, though, is something they both struggle with.
The faith message, while a little heavy toward the end, is solid and shown both through actions and words. The characters are far from perfect, but none of them, including Cheri’s grandparents and Kade’s brothers, lack flesh and blood reactions. I found everything I’ve enjoyed in Valerie Comer’s farm romances in this story, especially the roles played by Harmony and Jericho, her daughter and his son. She has a wonderful ability to write children who are neither stand-ins for adults nor hard to relate with. Then, of course, there were horses this being a cowboy story, and the connections between the people and their horses were lovely.
I quibble a time jump toward the end and a scene revealed in memory rather than as it occurred, but those are a minor wrinkle and probably due to space issues. The story is complete and satisfying on both the romance and the faith side. At the same time, it raises questions and hints at where the world will go next.
It may be hard to live up to the standards expected in a person of faith, but this novel helps demonstrate how to both forgive and accept gifts with joy, whether they come from neighbors of God. The theme is definitely in keeping with the Christmas setting, and the setting rang so true, I found myself humming Christmas songs way too early.
I read broadly, so this is far from my first cowboy romance. I believe Valerie Comer has successfully brought her skills to a new subgenre and look forward to the other novels to come.
P.S. I purchased this novel in A Christmas to Remember, a box set of eight Christian romances.