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Reviewed by Jaycee Allen for Readers' Favorite
In Andrea Downing’s romance, Always on My Mind, vegetarian hippie Cassie Halliday is heading for San Francisco’s Haight-Asbury when, during an evening in a bar in Jackson Hole, she meets Stetson-wearing cattle rancher Cooper Byrnes. Certainly, they would make an unlikely couple, yet, despite her long hair, feathers, bell-bottoms, sandals, and a pocket full of pot, Cassie’s not really a free love, anti-establishment, anti-straight rebel. As for Cooper, despite his family background and narrow horizon, he is no backwoods, small-minded hick. Cassie and Cooper show themselves to be intelligent, honest, hard-working people, and their attraction to each other can’t be denied. Still, notwithstanding their moral strength, when there’s such a great difference between two people, it’s no surprise that the lines of communication come crashing down.
Always on my Mind is a beautifully written book, one that takes us far beyond the usual romance story with its tunnel vision, sugary sweetness, and banal perfect families. Thanks to the conflict between Cassie and Cooper, Andrea Downing can open up a larger world and give us a picture of the west coast in the 1970s. She also presents us with a panoply of interesting characters: delightful Gary and Larry, controlling Brad, bland but deceitful Barb, and traitorous Ty. And, because this is a story that takes place over several years, we can see how an open heart can usher in new knowledge, maturity, forgiveness, and acceptance. But, above all, it is Andrea Downing’s excellence as a writer that takes Always on My Mind beyond tropes and into literature.