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A Cowgirl's Secret (Harlequin American Romance) - Laura Altom The Cowgirl’s Secret is an emotionally-charged story with so much anguish that it completely distracted from the romance. I’ll be very honest: if you’re a survivor of any kind of sexual abuse, this story could be triggering, and at the very least, painful to read.

Daisy Buckhorn left Weed Gulch, Oklahoma ten years ago, pregnant and fearing for the safety of herself and her unborn child. For years, Daisy was molested by a trusted family friend. And as any truly evil child predator will do, he put a fear so deeply into her soul that she had no choice but to run without telling anyone. She’s made a new life for herself as Julie Smith, a successful lawyer in San Francisco. She yearns for home and the people she left behind. Most especially she misses Luke Montgomery, her high school sweetheart.

The Buckhorn family have never stopped looking for Daisy. Luke follows-up on one of the leads, finding himself face-to-face with the woman who broke his heart so long ago. Luke wants answers that Daisy is having a hard time giving him. She wants to trust him with what happened to her, but the shame she still feels is so heavy that she can’t. When Daisy’s son, Kolt, arrives suddenly, Luke realizes she took much more from him 10 years ago than he ever would’ve guessed. To Daisy’s credit, she doesn’t try making excuses for not telling Luke she was pregnant. Her apologies were that of a woman who’d spent many years feeling guilty for what she’d done.

Daisy returns home to Oklahoma without Kolt the first time. She wants to clear the air with family and she needs them to know her secret. Everyone assumes the secret is that she was ashamed of a teen pregnancy. Luke is blinded by the pain he felt when she abandoned him, and now the added loss of missing out in his son’s life. There were times his words were downright cruel. Despite everything, Daisy makes the decision she and Kolt will move back home to Oklahoma. This isn’t an easy task. On top of all the anger from everyone, the man who molested her still lives on her family’s ranch. Her days are spent dealing with the guilt everyone is doling out at her for leaving and keeping Kolt away; while she’s consumed with fear over seeing her molester again. If she had to say “I’m sorry” one more time to Luke or any of her family, I thought I’d cry in desperation for her!

It takes coming face-to-face with her molester for Daisy to find the courage to speak. And once her secret is out, I hoped to see Luke and her family rally around her. They did to a point. Luke’s reaction was hard for me to take. While the pieces seemed to fall into place, and he suddenly recognized all the signs he missed, it stopped there. He couldn’t look past his own feelings of betrayal to understand that he had nothing to do with her leaving. I had to remind myself that he was hurt, too, but I really expected much more from him.

I don’t want to be too hard on Luke. He spent a lot of time after Daisy left wondering if he did something wrong. There were many countless hours of wondering if she was alive or what horrible thing had happened to her. The same feelings her family experienced. I’m not saying any of their emotions are wrong. Her family loves her deeply. Luke loves her deeply. I just wish I’d been able to see more of that in the book and less ridicule.

The Cowgirl’s Secret gets an A+ for the spot-on emotional portrayal of child molestation. However, this is a romance, and honestly it pains me to say, but I found it lacking greatly in that area.