Once a Rancher (Linda Lael Miller)

August 9, 2016 Book Reviews 4 ★★★★½

Once a Rancher (Linda Lael Miller)Once a Rancher Series: Carsons of Mustang Creek #1
on April 1, 2016
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Also in this series: Always a Cowboy, Forever a Hero

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.


About Linda Lael Miller

The daughter of a town marshal, Linda Lael Miller is a #1 New York Times and USA TODAY bestselling author of more than 100 historical and contemporary novels, most of which reflect her love of the West. Raised in Northport, Washington, Linda pursued her wanderlust, living in London and Arizona and traveling the world before returning to the state of her birth to settle down on a horse property outside Spokane.

Linda traces the birth of her writing career to the day when a Northport teacher told her that the stories she was writing were good, that she just might have a future in writing. Later, when she decided to write novels, she endured her share of rejection before she sold Fletcher’s Woman in 1983 to Pocket Books. Since then, Linda has successfully published historicals, contemporaries, paranormals, mysteries and thrillers before coming home, in a literal sense, and concentrating on novels with a Western flavor. For her devotion to her craft, the Romance Writers of America awarded her their prestigious Nora Roberts Lifetime Achievement Award in 2007.

Hallmark Movie Channel is developing a series based on Linda’s Big Sky Country novels. Her latest book, Forever a Hero, is the third in her Carsons of Mustang Creek series. She is currently working on a big-book Civil War series and writing her next western romance.

Dedicated to helping others, “The First Lady of the West” personally financed fifteen years of her Linda Lael Miller Scholarships for Women, which she awarded to women 25 years and older who were seeking to improve their lot in life through education. She anticipates that her next charitable endeavors will benefit four-legged critters.

Reading this book contributed to these challenges:

  • COYER Summer Vacation 2016

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