We are so excited to reveal the gorgeous cover of Kari Lynn Dell’s upcoming standalone contemporary western, Last Chance Rodeo (out July 30)! We asked Kari to talk about the inspiration behind the book.
The year was 1987, the cowboy a hot young gun named Tod Slone, on track to qualify for his first National Finals Rodeo. On the night of the first of September, he finished competing in Fort Madison, Iowa and tied his outstanding rope horse to the fence along with all the others during the closing ceremonies. When he came back, Freeway was gone.
Imagine losing an animal that was as dear to you as any family pet. Imagine that animal was also the source of your livelihood. And it was just gone. No trace of Freeway or the thief was ever found--until eight years later when rookie tie down roper Wes Durfey arrived in Denver for one of the first rodeos of his professional career.
Riding Tod Slone’s missing horse.
The story made quite a splash in rodeo circles, ours especially because my husband knew the Durfey family well. Such joy for Tod Slone, to know that Freeway had been alive and well all this time, and to have him back. Such heartbreak for a young man on the cusp of his career, to abruptly lose his beloved equine partner. And what a novel it could make…with a few tweaks, of course.
From the time I started writing rodeo romances I toyed with the idea of a book loosely based on Freeway’s disappearance, but believe it or not, it needed more drama. Although devastated, Tod Slone was able to recover fairly quickly and continue as one of the elite ropers of his era. And when the truth came out the Durfeys turned the horse over immediately, having others their son could ride. What my book required was a cowboy whose career—and life in general—would be completely derailed by the theft. And on the opposite side, a teenager who could be quite literally destroyed when the horse was snatched away from him.
I found my answers when I moved back to Montana. What if my cowboy, David Parsons, is just getting his life back together four years later when his horse reappears? Not just anywhere, but here, where I live, on the Blackfeet Nation, having found his way into the hands of an at-risk Native teenager struggling with fetal alcohol syndrome who has—with the help of arrogant, incorrigible, brilliant Muddy—found a measure of success and confidence for the first time in his life.
And now David is going to take it all away.
Legally. Rightfully. Muddy is his horse, his shot at reclaiming his own dream, and in purely financial terms, worth a lot of money. No one can stop David from simply loading up the horse and driving away—except the teen’s fiercely protective guardian, Mary Steele, who will use any means at her disposal to protect her nephew. And the Blackfeet Tribal Court, which is the law of this particular land. Plus there’s David’s highly developed conscience, which won’t let him callously grab his own future knowing the damage he is inflicting on the boy.
And David’s heart, which has developed a very inconvenient attachment to prickly, fascinating, intensely loyal Mary, and her equally troublesome nephew.
Last Chance Cowboy is set almost entirely on the Blackfeet Nation, the story of good people trying to make the best of an impossible situation, and a heart finding its home in the last place a world-weary cowboy would ever expect. I love this book. I hope you will too.