I wonder about that. As a reader, I love a variety of the archetypal heroes. I love the vampire--who wouldn't love a man who needs you for more than company. So, he's got to take a little blood and offers a trade of sensual pleasure while he fills both his appetites. Sexy, right?
There's the wealthy business man who can provide a woman all the luxuries she'd ever want, who can be selective of a mate, but chooses you over all the women fawning over his wealth and handsome face. I could dig living in the lap of luxury with a man willing to shower me with gifts.
What does the cowboy offer in exchange for the pleasure he provides? As a woman, I like the idea that's he's self-sufficient, that he really doesn't need me to survive. Then his interest, his needs become all about what that one particular woman gives him to fill a void in his life that he didn't know was there until he met her.
A cowboy leads a very physical life. Fixing fences, delivering hay to the herd, wrestling a calf to the ground to brand it--you know that takes some muscle. Am I being shallow if I admit I love me some muscle?
I love the idea he's prepared to risk his own neck to protect his interests--his cattle, his woman, his homestead. He's worked damn hard to build his life, so he's not letting snakes, or weather, or rustlers take it from him. And he knows how to fight, knows how to use a gun--he can protect what's his, and if I'm his (at least, I'm the heroine in all my stories!), I appreciate that he makes me feel safe and cherished because his constant watch over all the things he owns (and don't let a cowboy tell you he doesn't feel possessive of a woman!) fills a void in me that loves the thought of a man who's willing to put himself at risk to protect me.
I lived in south Texas for nine years, surrounded by ranches and men in Wranglers, and they don't act like city boys. They're respectful of a woman's strength and polite (I melted into a gooey puddle whenever they tipped their hats in passing). Most of them aren't big talkers. They don't waste words and prefer to show you rather than tell you what they feel. I'm okay with that.
And I'll admit to being shallow when I say I love a cowboy's body--all wiry muscles, filling a pair of jeans with chaps emphasizing the size of their thick thighs, the mystery of their glances hidden in the shadow of their cowboy hats--all those external qualities give me a thrill.