You may love a good cowboy book boyfriend, but probably not as much as romantic thriller writer Winter Austin does. Read how her cowboy crush started and compare her list of favorite cowboys to your own! Plus her most recent book, Liar, Liar, is now on sale! (surprise, it star a sexy cowboy sheriff)

From an early age, my attention was captured by cowboys. Was it because I grew up around them? Even in my li’l area of Iowa, we had cowboys, and some were even family members. My great uncle Pete was an Iowa farm boy first, a Korean War hero second, and a cowboy for the rest of his life. His image graced the walls of the White House, was plastered all over TV in a Busch commercial, and in the winner’s circle of countless Quarter Horse races. He was a storyteller who could weave magic with his words, and his voice worked its way into my own writing, where it will live on despite his recent passing.

Maybe it was that distinctive cowboy drawl, instantly identifying these men of the land, that fostered my fascination. Or it could be those down-to-earth creeds of the cowboy way. “Treat everyone like you would your favorite horse.” “A good day’s work is based on the amount of sweat on your brow.” Then again, perhaps it was just the way some of them filled out those Wranglers. 😉 For these reasons and so many more, cowboys have always loomed larger than life for me. Here are some of my favorite fictional ones:

Jim Craig, The Man from Snowy River, poem by A.B. Paterson (1982 movie)

In the movie, The Man from Snowy River, “the man” of Paterson’s original 1890 poem, garnered the name of Jim Craig. Thought not truly considered a cowboy, this Australian man eventually became a decent cattleman, but he’s what we would call a horse whisperer. Jim fell in love with the rancher’s daughter but wasn’t considered “worthy” of the young woman’s hand until he did the impossible, and brought back the Brumbies, a herd of wild horses—and in grand fashion, might I add. The poem is fluid and full of the typical cowboy imagery. But the movie is what won my heart, and puts Jim Craig at the top of all my cowboy hero lists.

Walt Longmire, Longmire, by Craig Johnson

Walt isn’t your typical cowboy. Yes, he was raised on a ranch, but Walt is more lawman than rancher. But that doesn’t stop him from holding to the same cowboy code of his ancestors. Walt’s sharp wit is quick as Will Rogers, and his cunning is like that of the wildest longhorn. Yet under all that gruff exterior, he’s become a real ladies man of sorts, forming a professional and personal partnership with his deputy, Vic Moretti—if you consider a tart mouthed under-sheriff a real lady.


Luke Collins, The Longest Ride, by Nicholas Sparks

A more modern cowboy, a bull rider, Luke possesses that signature quiet strength. A brush with death brought him a reality check, but he was determined not to let his fear of riding again keep him down. He embodies what most romance readers want in their heroes, a strong man with a tender side, who can be protective without being domineering.


Augustus McCrae, Lonesome Dove, by Larry McMurtry

Ahh, what list of cowboys is complete without the silver-tongued Gus McCrae of Lonesome Dove. The voice of reason to Woodrow Call’s hothead, he’s the man with a romantic side that woos even the most stone-hearted woman of the West. Gus always found the best in men, but was no fool. He’d seen ugly most of his life in Texas, and with the grit and flourish as only Gus can, he took on his business partner’s hair-brained idea to trail cattle all the way to Montana. Gus McCrae is a prime example of the Old West cowboy.


Victoria Barkley, The Big Valley

You bet I went there. Victoria Barkley stands toe-to-toe with all the men on this list. While maintaining an aura of elegance, this matriarch of the Barkley family was no lady to mess with. She was whip smart and cunning, pushing the boundaries of what women of her era were allowed to do, and running an enormous ranch to boot. She well-deserves the title of cowboy.


John Wayne, any cowboy he ever played 

You can’t round up your favorite fictional cattlemen and not include “The Cowboy” himself, John Wayne. The man’s film credits number more than 200 films, and probably about 65% of those were westerns. Not matter what character he portrayed, Wayne embodied the true cowboy spirit: ride tall, speak softly, and carry a big gun. For me, Wayne’s most memorable cowboy character was Will Andersen in The Cowboys, where he takes on the role of surrogate father to a ragtag bunch of kids in order to get his cattle herd to market. I dare you not to cry watching that one.

Author Bio: Winter Austin perpetually answers the question “were you born in the winter?” with a flat “nope.” Living in the middle of Nowheresville, Iowa, with her husband and four teenagers, Winter is trying to juggle a crazy schedule with a career while writing deadly romantic thrillers. Find Winter Austin at, on Facebook, and on Twitter @WinterAustin.


Can’t get enough cowboys? We roped up a sexy cowboy excerpt for you!