I received this book for free in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.
He had a bad reputation. Nikki had a crazy mother and an even more demanding work schedule. He could sure look past her issues if she could see past his.
Fourth in the Longhorn Canyon series following along a family and friends in Texas, Cowboy Rebel stars Tag, the always in trouble Baker boy and Nikki, the bestfriend of Tag's sister Emily. Nikki has always been attracted to Tag but never wanted to get involved with a bad boy, her mother's issues are enough for her. Tag's had his eye on Nikki but even though he is trying to clean up his act, he's not sure he is good enough for her.
But then would she care as much for him if he didn't have just a little bit of wild in him?
This was my first read in the Longhorn Canyon series, I think I missed some of the beginning spark between Tag and Nikki, there is talk of the two really starting to notice each other at Tag's sister Emily's wedding (Cowboy Brave). For all the talk of Tag being a rebel, he has decided to clean up his act, so there is no bad boy antics in this one. As a new reader, I wasn't completely feeling why he thought he wasn't good enough for Nikki. It's mentioned that he ran with a tough group and his bestfriend died in a motorcycle accident when he was seventeen, why Tag decides to “live like he was dying”. If you are a country music fan, you'll enjoy all the mentions of country songs and how the author picked songs that match the emotions or scenes that are happening when the song is mentioned.
Tag ended up feeling a bit of a blah character, Nikki had more life to her. Her relationship with her mother was sad but written in a very realistic way; I liked how the mother was completely demonized for having OCD, hypochondria, and the way those presumed issues (she's not diagnosed) amplified or caused her maternal bonding issues. The storyline involving Nikki's father ended up lacking an emotional punch as it felt like a manipulated happy ended with an unnecessary red-herring mystery side-plot.
The actual action/danger plot also ended up feeling forced, a friend from the crew Tag used to run with appears out of the blue and suddenly is angry Tag won't hang with them anymore. This leads to Nikki being put in danger with an almost eye-rolling second ending conclusion. Our characters had actual emotionally charged backgrounds, Tag with his friend dying, Nikki with her brother dying, mother, and father issues but the author never really delves deep enough in them to make the reader feel.
It had taken her a while to understand that family didn't always share DNA.
Even though I haven't read the others in the series, I enjoyed the friendships showcased with Nikki, Emily, and their Fab Five; I like when characters have relationships outside the romantic one, feels like the character gets flushed out more. If you are a reader of the series, you'll greatly enjoy all the reappearances of past couples and get caught up on their lives, there are also numerous side characters who look to be waiting in the wings to star in their own books.
There wasn't a lot of steam to this book, any bedroom scenes aren't until the latter half and the two sex scenes (I think one sentence to mention they have sex happened two other times) are only about two paragraphs long. There just didn't end up being enough umph, spark, or chemistry between Tag and Nikki for me and some of the story threads felt dragged out, manipulated, or not delved deep enough to strike emotion. However, if you're a reader of the series, you'll enjoy catching up with characters, if you like to listen to a soundtrack while you read there are plenty of country songs mentioned, or want a pretty darn close to clean read, this would trip those triggers.