Review of Prize Money by Celeste Castro
Toma, stuntwoman to the stars, comes home after 12 years of traveling around the world. After a teen/father argument, she stormed out and never looked back. But now her father needs her and it’s time to face up to her past in Caldwell, Idaho. A moment of compassion from a stranger opens a new path for Toma and life is changed forever. Eva is a glittery, phenomenally talented Rodeo Champion. She’s a wonder of a barrel racer, but much more, a decent human being. She’s determined to make her dreams of wild horses and life on wide-open spaces come to fruition.
It’s a slow simmer of a romance as both women are acutely aware of Toma’s temporary stay and push down their feelings. Still, the chemistry is wonderful even if it takes seemingly forever.
If you’re looking for a smoothly told, hallmark-like sweet tale of two very likable characters from huge, affectionate families, this book is it. Oftentimes, Lesfic readers say, can we just get stories of two people falling for each other without the extra of coming out or anti-LGBTQ narrative, and here it is. The author also paints a fond picture of Idaho and rural life. Pickups, horses, and Patsy Cline slow numbers on the dance floor.
Speaking of Americana, Toma is Native American and Eva is American but of Mexican descent. Again, the author makes it a non-issue to have these women trying to live their best lives just like anyone else. There’s some Spanish integrated into dialogue, especially when Eva speaks to her devilishly irreverent grandmother, Aleida. It’s interspersed with English so it seems clear as to meaning but I’m fluent in Spanish so I can’t be certain how it will read to a non-speaker.
I’m giving the book 4.25 stars only because I wish there had been a bit more conflict or a harsher rival, just to give the story more urgency. Prize Money is a tender romance perfect to read on your porch one of these soft summer mornings or in front of a fireplace on a cool night.
Read an ARC courtesy of Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.