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The Last Cowboy by John Isaac Jones

The Last Cowboy - John Isaac Jones

This tale starts off in Florida in 2017 but the bulk of the tale is set in 2007 as the main character, J. L., reminisces meeting his current wife. J.L. of 2007 has just been laid off from a Montana ranch but he has a fall back plan which is to go to Argentina and work as a vaquero there. Along the drive to catch the boat to his new life, he meets Karina, who is also making a journey cross country heading to Florida.

While the set up was there for this to be the romantic comedy it claims to be, it fell flat in many ways. The story felt very dated, Karina’s main purpose in the tale was to be the romantic interest, some of the situations just didn’t ring true, and there just wasn’t much humor at all. I’ve listened to several stories by this author and some of them have been top notch. Alas, this is not one of them.

To be up front, contemporary romance isn’t my cup of tea. With that said, I found the little bit of romance we have in this book to be rather stiff and not titillating at all. In fact, when we get near the end of the story (and we know from the beginning that marriage happens), the whole marriage thing felt more like a business arrangement between two people who have a bit of fondness for one another instead of a great sweeping romance. Now, if that was the plot point, I’d be fine with it. But since this is labeled a romance, I want there to be real romance & heat between these characters.

The book is set in 2007 but it really felt more like 1967. I believe J.L. is in his late 20s in 2007 so I expected some modern ways of thinking. He insists on opening doors for the ladies (which isn’t all bad but when added with all the other dated things, it leaves this impression of a cowboy out of time). There’s some arguments about Custer’s last stand and an old Indian show that J. L. catches. Then that restaurant scene where J. L. was the only one to know the Heimlich maneuver. Then that scene where he splashes a little gas on the vehicle carburetor to get it started and the whole car catches on fire and no one has a fire extinguisher or a fire retardant tarp or even thinks to slam the hood down to smoother the flames. I could go on, but I won’t. All together, this didn’t feel like it was set in 2007.

Karina was a problem for me. For much of the story, she could be any woman. She does get a little background here and there but her lines are pretty standard and she makes few (any?) of the plot-relevant decisions in the story. The first night she and J. L. are traveling together, he offers to sleep in the truck and get her a hotel room. But she counters by insisting they just put up a sheet between the beds. The next day, she confesses that she’s always been afraid of men and that she doesn’t know why (so why were you OK sharing a room with a strange man?). Yet she then launches into her upbringing with a father who beat her mother regularly. J. L. then mansplains the psychology of how she’s afraid of men because her father was an abusive spouse. She then has an epiphany in which all that becomes clear to her. Sigh… Really? Later in the story, she faints and has to be carried. Further on, she says nothing would make her happier than to have his babies. Then even later, she wants a daughter so she can teach her how to be a lady, because gender roles…. in 2017…. sigh. Karina was not a worthy character.

During the 2007 trip, these two get into several situations that could have been funny but they are told so seriously that I didn’t find any comedy in them. Indeed, the main characters rarely laugh at their predicament either. There’s not even any slap stick humor. All told, this wasn’t the story I was expecting. 3/5 stars.

The Narration: Richard L. Walton has a very good cowboy voice. I liked his deep voice for J. L. While he gets a B for effort on attempting distinct character voices, he didn’t usually achieve clear, distinct character voices. Sometimes he used a lighter voice for the ladies, but not always and he pretty much only had the 1 female character voice. For the male characters, he relied on attitude and emotions rather than actual different voices, with the exception of doing a deeper voice for a very minor character mentioned by Karina as she went over a memory. His pacing was good. I did notice some background noise (rustling paper?) once or twice. I liked how he handled J. L.’s rudimentary Spanish while being pretty smooth with Karina’s native Spanish. 3/5 stars.

I received a free copy of this book.