on Sept. 1, 2016
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Also in this series: Once a Rancher, Forever a Hero
He's the middle of the three Carson brothers and is as stubborn as they come—and he won't thank a beautiful stranger for getting in his way!
Drake Carson is the quintessential cowboy. In charge of the family ranch, he knows the realities of this life, its pleasures and heartbreaks. Lately, managing the wild stallions on his property is wearing him down. When an interfering so-called expert arrives and starts offering her opinion, Drake is wary, but he can't deny the longing—and the challenge—she stirs in him.
Luce Hale is researching how wild horses interact with ranch animals—and with ranchers. The Carson matriarch invites her to stay with the family, which guarantees frequent encounters with Drake, her ruggedly handsome and decidedly unwelcoming son. Luce and Drake are at odds from the very beginning, especially when it comes to the rogue stallion who's stealing the ranch mares. But when Drake believes Luce is in danger, that changes everything—for both of them.
I received a review copy of this book from the publisher.
This sequel to Once a Rancher is enjoyable both on its own and as a chance to revisit the Carson family of Mustang Creek. However, it didn’t pull me in quite as much as the first book did. There’s less romantic tension than in the first book; Drake and Luce seem to resolve their differences fairly quickly and easily, considering Drake’s initial resistance to her presence on the ranch and Luce’s long-term goals. On the other hand, there are two interesting subplots, one involving a mare-stealing wild stallion and the other a large predator which has been killing calves. Both of these inject needed conflict and suspense to contrast the relatively smooth-sailing romantic relationship.
I enjoyed Drake, who balances his responsibilities as a rancher with a deep respect and love for wildlife and the natural ecosystem. He’s taciturn and blunt, but also upright and completely trustworthy. Luce is young and charming, if a little obtuse when it comes to recognizing the impact the wild stallion is wreaking on the ranch’s herd of horses. I did find it puzzling that she is completely enamored with the wild horses but doesn’t ride.
Another on the plus side is Roy, Drake’s mentor and assistant in managing the ranch. His folksy sayings are a delight, and he’s really a marshmallow under his gruff exterior. We see less of Slater, Grace, and Ryder than I expected (see Once a Rancher), but they are around, as is youngest brother Mace, who runs the ranch’s wine-making operations. Carson matriarch Blythe is her usual wise and unstoppable self, busily matchmaking as before, abetted in this case (albeit long-distance) by Luce’s mother, Blythe’s childhood friend.
I’m looking forward to Mace’s story next; I have a feeling he’s the most complicated of the three brothers. Forever a Hero comes out in April 2017. Meanwhile, if you haven’t read Linda Lael Miller yet, I recommend starting with Once a Rancher before reading Always a Cowboy; you’ll appreciate the characters better. You may even find, as I have, that you want to go back and read the Bliss County series, too!
Reading this book contributed to these challenges:
- COYER Summer Vacation 2016