Review: A Cowboy to Keep by Barbara Ankrum

May Contain Spoilers

I haven’t read this author previously, but my curiosity  was piqued  by the relationship between Adam and his teenaged niece.  I love stories when the hero is a caregiver of a younger relative, especially if there is some conflict between them. This seemed right up my alley, so I was eager to dive right in.

Ali has spent the past two years on the run. She’s landed in Marietta long enough to sneak a peek at her half-sister, who doesn’t know she exists, and to earn some money as a photographer. Only problem? Reclusive rancher Adam Wolfe has purchased her camera from the shop she was forced to pawn it at for some quick cash. When she drives out to Adam’s ranch to offer to purchase her beloved camera back, she discovers that Adam needs just as much help as she does. Guardian of his young niece after she’s left orphaned, he desperately needs someone to help cook, clean, and take care of Carrie while he’s busy with his herd of cattle. Ali accepts a job with misgivings, but the lure – the opportunity to buy her camera back from him – is too tempting to refuse.

I really enjoyed this one. Ali, through no fault of her own, has made a nasty enemy, and she’s been looking over her shoulder ever since. With no family or close friends to offer her protection, Ali is used to taking care of herself. Afraid to make connections now that she might place others in danger, she has hopped around, trying to stay one step ahead of the man who has vowed revenge on her. Adam’s ranch seems like heaven. She has the use of a bunkhouse, which is a huge step up from living in her car, and Adam’s kitchen is to die for. Carrie may have a few issues, but what teen doesn’t?

Adam is a likeable guy. Hiding out at his ranch after an accident disfigured him, he is used to being alone. When his young niece invades his privacy, he’s ready to make the best of it. He loves Carrie, but he knows that she is carrying the weight of the world on her shoulders. Adam tries to give her space to come to terms with her grief, as well as her anger at him, but once Ali arrives, he sees that he’s taking the wrong track. Maybe he needs to confront her about her feelings, and help her deal with them. With Ali there to act as a buffer between them, Adam and Carrie are able to finally communicate. It was very touching to see them finally acknowledge how much they meant to each other, and how much they were both grieving for Carrie’s parents.

Ali and Adam’s romance is a slow-burn, which I liked a lot. There was a lot of chemistry between them, even though they both tried to deny the feelings they had. Ali knew that she would be leaving soon, and Adam didn’t think he was worthy of love. When Ali saw past his scars and saw the man beneath them, hope flared that maybe they could make something work out. But then Ali’s past catches up to her, throwing everything in doubt.

I thought the final resolution to Ali’s trouble was a little too pat. It was not believable to me, but it wasn’t a deal breaker. A Cowboy to Keep is a pleasant way to spend a weekend afternoon.

Grade: 4 stars

Review copy provided by publisher

About the book:

On the run from her past, photographer Ali Thibeaux arrives undercover in Marietta to find her biological half-sister. Plan A: Meet Olivia, photograph her wedding, and disappear before endangering anyone. Plan B: All hell breaks loose.
Reclusive rancher Adam Wolfe’s only plan when he hires Ali to manage his dysfunctional household is to go on hiding from the world. But his scars don’t seem to matter to the beauty who unexpectedly turns his house into a home and heals the rift between him and the teenaged niece he’s taken in. Still, he suspects there’s more to Ali than meets the eye and he’s determined to uncover what she’s hiding from him before it’s too late.