on November 1, 2017
Purchase: Amazon | Book Depository | Bookshop
Add to Goodreads
Also in this series: A Cold Creek Christmas Surprise, The Christmas Ranch, A Cold Creek Christmas Story, The Holiday Gift
Keep a song in your heart this holiday season…
Music teacher Ella Baker's plate is already full. But when single dad Beckett McKinley's wild twin boys need help preparing a Christmas song for their father, Ella agrees on one condition: they teach her to ride a horse. She's hoping that'll help mend her strained relationship with her rancher father; it certainly has nothing to do with the crush that's lingered since her one and only date with Beck.
It isn't disinterest spurring Beck to keep his distance—if anything, the spark is too strong, with Ella reminding him of his ex-wife. Soon what started as an innocent arrangement is beginning to feel a lot like family. But with the holidays approaching, Beck and Ella will have to overcome past hurts if they want to keep each other warm this Christmas…
I received a review copy of this book from the publisher.
The Rancher’s Christmas Song is short and sweet, in both senses of the term. It’s emotionally sweet, a warm, feel-good romance featuring some of RaeAnne Thayne’s strengths: an attraction that goes well beyond the physical, a pair of adorable but mischievous children, and family relationships that bring both joy and sometimes pain. And it’s sweet in the sense of “not steamy”; the hero and heroine’s relationship never progresses past some toe-curling kisses, on the page or off-stage.
Ella is almost a stereotypical perfect heroine, by which I mean not perfect in herself, but for the book. She’s caring: she has moved from Boston to Pine Gulch to take care of her father, who has Parkinson’s disease, and she teaches music at the elementary school. She’s got grit and tenacity: she tackles an overwhelming fear and tries to overcome it. Her outward gentleness hides an inner strength and determination, but also the aforementioned fear, and the knowledge that her father doesn’t believe she belongs on a ranch.
Beck thinks the same thing, at least at first. Ella reminds him too much of his former wife, who didn’t take to the ranching life. Since she left, he has raised his energetic twin boys with the help of his uncle, brother, and a nanny who is currently off having surgery (rather conveniently, for the sake of the story.) He’s the sort of good neighbor and decent man you would like to call friend—or in Ella’s case, more than friend. Too bad he seems to be rather cold and distant around her…
Of course, both of them are hiding their attraction, and of course, it comes to the surface, and of course, there are several complicating factors both internal and external. And of course—this being both a romance and a holiday romance—everything eventually works out, leading to a satisfying happy ending.
What makes this book more than merely formulaic is Thayne’s writing. The emotions her characters experience feel real to the reader. So do the situations they find themselves in. Take away the ranch setting, and the family and romantic relationships that Thayne writes about are familiar: the ordinary, everyday loves and hurts and disappointments and joys that all of us have experienced or seen. But the setting isn’t incidental. Thayne writes about the West’s mountain towns and ranches with clear-eyed love; she may idealize the small-town atmosphere a bit, but she doesn’t gloss over the real challenges and even dangers of ranch life.
There’s a bit less “Christmas” in this book than there was in the three related Christmas Ranch novels published in the previous three years. But there’s enough to satisfy you if you’re looking for a good holiday romance. On the other hand, if you’re not a big fan of Christmas romances, there’s not so much that you’ll drown it it, either. The “holiday” aspect leans more toward a time-of-year setting than a strong Christmas-spirit theme.
Either way, I enjoyed it…and it put me in the mood for colder weather, snow, and the warmth of family at the holidays!
Reading this book contributed to these challenges:
- HoHoHo Readathon 2017