Series: Carsons of Mustang Creek #1
Published by HQN Books on April 1, 2016
Genres: Contemporary Romance, Western Romance
Also in this series: Always a Cowboy
Also by this author: Christmas in Mustang Creek, Always a Cowboy
The Carsons of Mustang Creek: three men who embody the West and define what it means to be a rancher, a cowboy and a hero in this brand-new series from the queen of Western romance.
SLATER CARSON might be a filmmaker by trade, but he's still a cowboy at heart—and he knows the value of a hard day's work under the hot Wyoming sun. So when he sees troubled teen Ryder heading down a dangerous path, he offers the boy a job on the ranch he shares with his two younger brothers. And since Ryder's guardian is the gorgeous new Mustang Creek resort manager, Grace Emery, Slater figures it can't hurt to keep a closer eye on her, as well…
GRACE EMERY doesn't have time for romance. Between settling into her new job and caring for her ex-husband's rebellious son, her attraction to larger-than-life Slater is a distraction she can't afford. But when an unexpected threat emerges, she'll discover just how far Slater will go to protect what matters most—and that love is always worth fighting for.
Once a Rancher is a warm, feel-good romance between two people who aren’t looking for love, but find it irresistible. I loved the Carson family, the Bliss County/Mustang Creek milieu (familiar from Christmas in Mustang Creek), and especially the three main characters: Slater, Grace, and Grace’s stepson Ryder.
Slater is busy with his work as a documentary producer, but he is immediately drawn to Grace. Grace’s time and attention are taken up with her job as resort manager and dealing with her stepson’s behavior problems. She’s also reluctant to get involved after her marriage fell apart. Ryder is a good kid in a tough situation: his dad is deployed most of the time, his birth mother hasn’t seen him since he was born, and his grandparents can’t cope. The uncertainties have him acting out. Luckily for Ryder, Grace really loves him, and she’s determined to do her best as his parent/guardian. And luckily for Slater, Grace can’t deny her attraction to him—though she certainly tries!
I enjoyed the other characters as well, except for Hank, Grace’s ex, who is a self-centered ass. (I don’t care how good you are at your special-forces work; when you have a child who needs you, you figure out a way to avoid deployments and step up to the parenting plate.)
Grace’s resistance to Slater’s determined pursuit provides romantic tension, while vindictive acts directed at Grace by a fired resort employee add suspense. I loved that Grace is an ex-cop, so that instead of being a damsel in distress, she actually knows more about how to handle the problem than Slater does. Miller’s pacing is excellent, and the few sensual scenes are well-placed but not overdone. Bliss County fans will enjoy appearances by series regulars, from the police chief, Spence Hogan, and his wife Melody, to the new vet, Noah. And if you can resist the Carson family (especially matriarch Blythe), you’re a stronger woman than I! All in all, Once a Rancher is a very satisfying summer read.
Reading this book contributed to these challenges:
- COYER Summer Vacation 2016