Rebekah Weatherspoon kicks off her Cowboys of California series with a challenging trope – the Amnesiac Lover. The Amnesiac Lover has one member of the pair unable to remember who they are or some aspect of their identity which opens the door for a romance that would not otherwise occur. It’s a problematic trope, because so much of who we are is formed by our experiences. Even though I knew she would do it well, I was still anxious about how she would pull it off. I received A Cowboy to Remember from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
Romance novels are about the journey. We know that the destination will be at the very least a happily for now. How the reader gets there then is the point of the story. How do these two or more people come together and decide to partner up, and what does that look like in our contemporary world? How do two people build a romantic relationship when one of them has amnesia?
Yvonne “Evie” Buchanan has not talked to childhood friend Zach Pleasant in 10 years, not since the night after her grandmother’s funeral when he refused to admit he loved her. A decade later, she is a celebrity chef and a co-host one a popular new daytime talk show. At a holiday party, she is found unconscious in a stairwell. She wakes up in the hospital with no memory of her life, or any of the people around her. Evie returns to her childhood home in Charming California to recuperate and, she hopes, recover her memory. Though she doesn’t remember Zach, he’s the person she connects with the most. Weatherspoon navigates tricky waters making sure that we know Zach is not taking advantage of a vulnerable woman by focusing on Evie’s agency. Zach makes sure she knows that he was at fault for the estrangement between them and puts her firmly in charge of where their relationship goes. I, personally, would have liked to see a few more pages of grovelling.
I’m certainly not advocating head injuries as a way to solve life’s problems. Evie’s fictional head injury/amnesia gives her a clean(ish) slate from which to reset her life. She’s able to connect with people who were important to her, connect with her family legacy, and connect to her love of cooking without the baggage that a decade of life will give you. Evie gets to know and value herself without her worth being tied up in her work. Her clean slate is temporary. But when her memory does return she still has those connections and she’s able to move forward with clarity and support. Evie’s amnesia serves two purposes in her relationship with Zach – it let’s her get to know him as an adult, and it gives him the extremely hard kick in the pants he needed to recognize how much he has always loved Evie.
A Cowboy to Remember is a lovely romance. Weatherspoon has turned down the heat (which may disappoint some people and make her more accessible to others), but it has a good dose of pining and emotional connection. I loved Miss Leona and hope there is a lot more of the matriarch in subsequent books.