Jenna's Cowboy: A Novel (The Callahans of Texas)
by Sharon Gillenwater

Published: 2010-01-01
Paperback : 334 pages
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Jenna Callahan has a young son and rewarding work on her father's ranch. She's content. But she never expected to see Nate Langley back in town--the first guy she noticed, the one her father sent away all those years ago. And she never thought the attraction they felt would be as strong as ever. ...
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Jenna Callahan has a young son and rewarding work on her father's ranch. She's content. But she never expected to see Nate Langley back in town--the first guy she noticed, the one her father sent away all those years ago. And she never thought the attraction they felt would be as strong as ever. Jenna's cowboy has some healing of his own to do, though, after two tours of duty in the armed forces. With the help of good friends, strong faith, and a loving family, he hopes to put the horrors of the past behind him--and become the man Jenna deserves. With an emphasis on simple acts of love, Jenna's Cowboy gives romance readers what they want most: a love story with a Texas touch.

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Callahan Crossing had changed some while he'd been gone.
But then, so had he. A man couldn't fight for his country and
not be affected by it. Nate Langley had served with honor,
and according to his army commanders, courage. Which he
figured really meant he was as bullheaded as his father had
always said he was.

But some things ran deeper than love of country, such as
family loyalty and duty. It was time to protect those he loved
by tilling the land his family had owned for almost a hundred
years. Time to help his father, who could no longer handle
the load of running a farm alone.

Thumbing through the latest issue of Western Horseman
magazine, he glanced down the aisle of Miller's Grocery
toward the deli. The roasted chickens were still turning in the
rotisserie, so he'd have to wait awhile longer. He'd already
picked up the new battery for his truck, and it would be at
least twenty minutes before UPS delivered the tractor part
his dad had ordered from the farm implement store. Killing
time at Miller's was preferable to listening to long-winded
fishing tales any day.

Halfway down the aisle, two elderly ladies stopped by the
birthday cards for a chat, their West Texas twang bringing
a smile to his face. At the other end, two high school boys
stopped while one of them scribbled on some paper attached
to a clipboard.

Nate's smile widened into a grin. It was the last week in
September, traditionally the time for the local newspaper
subscription drive. It was usually handled by two or three
clubs at the high school as a fund-raiser, but he hadn't heard
which ones were competing this time around. It was also
homecoming week, and judging by the boys' appearance,
Costume Day was still part of the celebration.

One was dressed as a stereotypical TV geek-pants a
couple of inches too short, white socks and black loafers,
white shirt with a plastic pocket protector holding pens and a
short ruler, slicked-back hair, and dark-rimmed glasses. The
other guy, who probably played tackle on the football team,
wore a purple tie-dyed loose cotton T-shirt, yellow flowered
bell-bottom pants, and sandals. An orange flower painted on
his cheek clashed with a shoulder-length, cheap pink wig.
Pinky glanced up toward the checkout counters and tilted
his head, giving somebody the eye. "We haven't asked her."

"Quit staring at her like that." The Geek made a face.

"Dude, she's old, and she's got purple hair."

"Just a couple of stripes for school spirit. So she's cool."

"Well, yeah . . ."

"She may be old, but she's still lookin' good." Pinky moved
out of sight. The Geek rolled his eyes and followed.

Curious to see who they were talking about, Nate tossed
the magazine into the cart and moved down the aisle. He
stopped and peeked around an end display of hot dog buns,
canned chili, and baked beans.

Jenna Callahan Colby.

Pinky was right about one thing. She did look good. Nate
supposed that to a teenager, twenty-eight was old. Since he
was a year older, he didn't have a problem with it. She was
still slender, with an athletic build. Her red hair, short now
instead of shoulder length, was cut in a simple layered, flattering
style. She wore a short-sleeved shiny gold top, close
enough to the school colors to count. Her slacks and the
purple stripes in her hair were a perfect match to the letterman's
jacket hanging in his bedroom closet at the farm.

He drew back and watched her between the shelves while
she teased the boys.

Her turquoise eyes sparkled as she gave Pinky the once
over. "So are you in the drama club?"

He shook his head, the pink hair flopping across his face.

"Is there a hippie commune around here that I don't know

Pinky chuckled and shoved a clump of wig out of his eyes.
"No, ma'am. At least I haven't heard of one."

"How about you?" Jenna turned to the Geek. "Science
or math?"

The kid grinned, but his face turned bright red. "Looks
like I should be in one of those, huh?" He tipped his head
toward his friend. "We're in FFA."

"No! Well, you certainly fooled me. Great costumes."
A wave of nostalgia swept over Nate. The Geek was right-
he and Jenna were old. He'd been in FFA a lifetime ago. For
years, the letters had stood for Future Farmers of America.
About the time he hit high school, the organization changed
the name simply to FFA since there were many more facets to
agriculture education than farming. He supposed that was
progress, but he'd always think of farmers like his dad when
he heard the name.

Out of the corner of his eye, he noticed the lady at the deli
waving at him. She held up a couple of packages. The roasted
chickens were ready. He nodded, then absently picked up a
can of chili and some hot dog buns and started toward the
deli, hoping nobody had noticed that he had been watching

Nate had fallen in love with her the summer he was fifteen
when his horse threw him into the big, water-filled dirt stock
tank, and she hadn't laughed. She'd watched him with a
tiny frown of concern as he sat up, sputtering muddy water
and dying of embarrassment. Then she asked if he was all
right. Momentarily hurting too much to move, he stayed
put and forced a grin. When he plopped his wet Stetson on
his head, she dismounted, took off her boots, and waded in
to cool off.

Between the time she got off her horse and sat down beside
him in the water, he was a goner. He'd been crazy about her
all through high school, although he never told anyone, not
even her. He'd tried hard to keep his feelings hidden whenever
he was around her and especially at her father's ranch, where
he sometimes worked.

He'd slipped up once his senior year, watching as she
walked to the house from the barn. Her father, Dub, noticed
and flat-out told him that he wouldn't take kindly to a parttime
cowboy making a move on his little princess. Though
Dub liked him, the tough rancher didn't pull any punches in
letting him know he wasn't good enough for his daughter.
When she married, it would be to someone who was going
places. And they both knew he wasn't. He was a cowboy at
heart, and working the farm came in a close second. Neither
occupation would earn more than an honest living.
Nate had only nodded in acceptance. It would have ruined a
good friendship if he told her how he felt. By then she'd been
crazy in love with Jimmy Don Colby, a high school football
star who was being pursued by a dozen colleges.
After graduation, Nate went to work at a ranch in far West
Texas and convinced himself that he was over her. That it
had been a bad case of puppy love.

Then 9/11 happened, and Nate felt a call that ran deeper
than anything he'd ever known. Less than a week after that
fateful day, he joined the army. He was in Afghanistan when
his mom wrote that Jenna and Jimmy Don had gotten married,
and Jimmy had been drafted into pro-football by the
Dallas Cowboys. Nate was in Iraq when he heard that she'd
had a little boy. Another letter from his mom several months
later said that Jenna and Jimmy were getting a divorce because
Jimmy had found someone new.

Nate had thought of her often during the lonely nights
camped in the windswept sands of the Middle East. Picturing
her face, he had silently prayed for her and her son as
he drifted off to sleep. In his dreams, he'd seen her smile,
heard her whisper his name, felt her fingertips brush his

He caught another glimpse of her through the store window
as she walked to her pickup. A familiar ache tightened
his chest, one he thought he had vanquished long ago.
Maybe things hadn't really changed at all.
... view entire excerpt...

Discussion Questions

1. Jenna was outgoing and confident in high school and college. But her husband's constant derision, along with his infidelity and the divorce, made her feel worthless and a failure. Have you ever felt that way? How did you overcome it? How did God help you? Are there any Scripture verses that encouraged you?

2. As a single mom, Jenna is greatly blessed to have a loving and helpful family. But not all single parents have that kind of support. Do you know a single parent who is trying to deal with everything on her/his own? What are some things others can do to help?

3. When Nate was in high school, Dub basically told him that he wasn't good enough for Jenna. And Nate agreed. Is there something you desperately want but don't think you deserve because you aren't good enough? How can you change-or change that perception-to reach your goal?

4. Though post-traumatic stress disorder doesn't happen to everyone who has been traumatized, it can happen to someone who has been through war, natural disasters, rape, mugging, kidnapping, being held captive, serious car accidents, train wrecks, plane crashes, child abuse, etc. Or it could stem from witnessing something such a plane crash. People often will have many of the symptoms right after the traumatic experience, but it isn't considered PTSD unless the symptoms last for a month or longer. Have you ever experienced anything traumatic like this? How did you feel afterward? Did those feelings and problems eventually fade away? Or do some of them still trouble you? If so, what have you done, or what can you do to get help?

5. Nate knew he was having problems, but he thought if he toughed it out, they would go away. Even when he finally admitted to himself that he probably had PTSD, he wanted to leave his family and friends and go off by himself so he wouldn't put anyone in danger. Why is it important for someone with PTSD (or some other issue) to recognize that they have a problem and admit that they need help? Why was he afraid to seek help?

6. Why did he think Jenna and the Callahans wouldn't want anything to do with him after his blowup with Chance and Will?

7. When Nate's PTSD symptoms became obvious to the Callahans, they rallied around him. If someone you know is showing symptoms of PTSD, how can you help them? What can you do if they don't want your help or if they even drive you away?

8. Experts tell us that people with chronic PTSD are never the same; it never leaves them. Do you believe this is true? If not, how do you think people can be restored to normal? What is God's role in their healing?

9. One of the common manifestations of PTSD is sudden, irrational anger, such as when Nate threw Chance and Will to the floor. What should Chance have done to diffuse the situation before it became violent? Does the Bible give us some guidelines about that?

10. Nate clung to his faith and asked God to help him deal with his problems and make them go away. But they kept getting worse. Why do you think God allowed that to happen instead of simply healing him right away?

11. Even in Nate's darkest hour, Jesus was his anchor. How do we develop a faith that strong?

12. Callahan Crossing gave Nate a hero's welcome when he came home, as they had done for other hometown military personnel. Does your town or community do something to honor our servicemen and women or veterans? If not, can you think of some things you might do?

13. When the fire struck Callahan Crossing, those who hadn't been affected immediately pitched in with donations of all kinds. But it quickly became apparent that neighbor-helping-neighbor didn't just apply to the people of their local community. People from all over the state and the country helped with goods and money. Church members from other towns later came to help people rebuild. Have you or your church ever participated in such a rebuilding project? What other things can people do to help those hit with disaster?

14. Zach is a very talkative little boy. Every child is special in their own unique way. Do you have something fun to share about a child in your life? (I based Zach on my grandson. Yes, he talked that well at that age and did all those cute things. I took meticulous notes.: And that's my grandma-brag for today.)

Notes From the Author to the Bookclub

A note from the author:

I grew up on a West Texas ranch, so cowboys have a special place in my heart. I also have great respect and gratitude for the men and women of our military. They and their families sacrifice so much for us! Though they might not return from battle with physical injuries, too many are still wounded warriors suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. As the wife of a Viet Nam veteran with PTSD, I know something of what they and their families go through. It is my hope that Jenna's Cowboy will not only bring you a good love story but also provide insights into this issue. Perhaps, through God's grace, it will bring a bit of healing to some. For more about me, future books and previous ones, please visit my website. www.sharongillenwater.com

Sharon Gillenwater

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