Sweet on You (Sweet on a Cowboy)
Grand Central / August 26, 2014 / $8.00 print, $7.99 digital
A Love as Bold as a Texas Sunset...
Ex-army medic Katya Smith has always healed other people's pain. Now she has to deal with her own. Taking a job as an athletic trainer on the Pro Bull Riding circuit seems like the perfect escape from her grief-except Katya doesn't know anything about bulls, and even less about the tough men who ride them. She doesn't expect to fall for the sport, or for one tantalizing cowboy who tumbles her defenses.
For rodeo champion Cam Cahill, fifteen years of bucking bulls have taken their toll on his body. Before he retires, he wants a final chance at the world title-and he doesn't need some New Age gypsy telling him how to do his job. But when the stunning trainer with the magical hands repairs more than his worn muscles, everything changes. Soon Cam finds himself trying to persuade Katya to forgive her past so she can build a future...with him.
Hearing that Laura Drake’s The Sweet Spot won the 2014 Romance Writers of America RITA award for Best First Book intrigued my interest in her work. Although I know little to nothing about rodeos, or bull riding, the heroine’s profession in Sweet on You appealed to me. After reading the book, it's clear that Drake is an author that unhurriedly and thoroughly builds a strong emotional bond first, and I appreciate that.
Neither Katya Smith nor Cam Cahill are in a good place for a relationship. After eight years as an army medic, Katyla can no longer do her job. High stress situations immediately take her back to that afternoon in Kandahar, Afghanistan, when a young boy about nine shuffled toward her and her companion, Corporal Murphy. Katya, sensing something was wrong, stepped back, unslinging her gun, but Murphy, only seeing a young boy in need, raced forward, his body shielding her from most of the bomb’s blast.
She returned home to the States to heal, only to lose her beloved grandmother. Rudderless, she seeks anything to keep her hands busy, something to quiet her thoughts, to mask her grief and to not trigger her memories. Luckily she has an athletic trainer degree, but her career options are limited since she can no longer deal with the sights and sounds in the emergency department. When she discovers a position as a physical therapist with a rodeo sport medicine team, she eagerly applies.
Although Katya is overqualified with her physical therapist license, plus her athletic trainer license, and her two tours as a medic, once she comes clean about her PTSD, Doc Cody is willing to give her a trial.
Cam Cahill’s only worry is his career, not his love life. Once one of the most successful riders out there, Cam’s standing has fallen correspondingly with his injuries. In short, Cam’s body is wearing out. He’s unable to instinctively move like he did in his youth. And the more he second guesses himself, the less he wins. He’s pondered several career options, but found all of them miserable. After going home for a visit he even thought maybe he should move back, but his brother-in-law Dan has settled in, successfully running his family's farm. And even if Dan wasn’t there, Cam knows that his heart wouldn’t be in it. His only goal is to go out on top, then he will worry about what to do next. The last thing he's thinking about is a relationship, especially since his disastrous marriage and then divorce soured him completely.
Both Cam and Katya get off on the wrong foot with each other. When Katya tries to apologize, Cam brushes her off but touch and Katya’s magic hands have a way of breaking down barriers:
When the muscle lay loose and pliable, her fingers delve deeper, to the tendons and connective tissue. There, they located the damage, close to the bone. The tendons were rigid and strained, tired from guarding the shoulder against pain and more injury. Gently, firmly, her fingers stroked the tendon’s length.
Katya smiled at his moan. Cam lay, eyes closed, completely relaxed. She doubted he even knew he’d made a sound. His features in repose lost the hard look of a man; Katya saw what his mother must have seen, looking down at her sleeping little boy. She couldn’t help her soft smile. Vulnerability in a grown man was rare. She felt the surprise of delight, as if she’d come upon a deer grazing in a glen.
But there is nothing boyish or soft about the attraction between them:
Cam snaked his arm around Katya’s waist and bent her over his arm. She went stiff and grabbed his neck for balance. With his kiss, he staked his claim. At least, that’s how it started.
When she relaxed into him, he forgot everything. Her mouth was sweet and he’d been craving sweet. Her weight in his arms felt just right; he’d missed her.
As I said, a good portion of the book is spent dealing with Cam’s and Katya’s issues and building their relationship. They both have quite a journey to travel before they are ready for love, but as a reader you’ll find it is a gratifying and rewarding one as you proceed with them.
Learn more or pre-order a copy of Sweet On You by Laura Drake, out August 26, 2014:
Leigh Davis, blogger