Title: Taming the Brooding Cattleman
Author: Marion Lennox
May Contain Spoilers
My Larkville Legacy reading journey continues! This time, we find ourselves in Australia, on a horse farm. Alex Patterson is a large animal vet, and she wants nothing more than to work at a large horse breeding operation, but the big names in the US will barely give her the time of day because of her lack of experience. When her father uses his connections to land her a job in the Outback for six months, she is overjoyed. She’ll be earning some practical experience, so she will have something to put on her resume. She isn’t even bothered by the knowledge that she will also have to pitch in as a farm hand. She is hard-working and determined, and she will do whatever is asked of her. Did I mention that there are horses?
I found the premise a little hard to swallow, but quickly set that aside. Perhaps Jack could be confused and think that Alex was a guy. Perhaps Alex’s father, who is suffering from Alzheimer’s, could have either misled him or truly been confused about his child’s gender. Perhaps Jack would be adamantly against hiring a woman, given the primitive conditions. Jack inherited the horse breeding operation from his grandfather, a harsh man he grew to despise, and he hasn’t been back to the farm in years. He was too busy trying to take care of his younger sister, who suffered from deep and overwhelming depression. After her death, he left the big city to get away from any possibility of human entanglement. At the ranch, he is dismayed to see how run down it has become. The overseer was stealing from him, the house is in ruins, and entire place needs a ton of TLC. At least the horses were well cared for, but this is obviously no place for a woman.
When Jack is confronted with Alex for the first time, he rails against her for lying about her gender. Quick to take the defensive, she argues that she never said she was a man. When Jack tells her that her father pitched the skills of his “son” Alex is aghast. Then she’s infuriated. What difference does it make, whether she’s a woman or a man? All she wants is the opportunity to prove herself. While I had a few issues buying into the idea of Alex’s mistaken gender, I did like Alex and how she quickly put Jack in his place. I loved how she pushed him out of his comfort zone for the entire book. He’s cold and determined to stay detached from his feelings. Alex isn’t about to let him do that. Even if it means overcoming her distaste for the scary outhouse behind the house. The plumbing in the house needs serious attention, and for someone used to much more luxurious surroundings, the lack of indoor plumbing is almost a deal breaker. More so than Jack’s unwelcoming attitude. After recently suffering from a lack of running water when our well went out, I could completely sympathize with Alex. No flush toilet would be more of a challenge than a rude, dismissive employer for me, too!
Alex quickly proves that she is worth her weight in gold by saving a mare and her foal. Alex shows Jack that she is a competent vet, and against his better judgment, he agrees that she can stay the six months. He will even have the plumbing repaired. Yay! I thought, the question of her worth was quickly answered. But then the demons in Jack’s past pop up, challenging him with every encounter with Alex. She dares him to care for the unhappy boy who lives with his step-mom on Jack’s land. She dares him to re-establish emotional bonds with the people around him. Like a skittish colt, he constantly pushes back, unwilling to be hurt again. I found Alex’s willingness to put her own heart on the line admirable, and I grew impatient with Jack. For every attempted outreach she made, he stubbornly rejected her. He’s not nice about it, either, but Alex takes his rejections in stride and never gives up on him. Bravo!
While certain aspects of the story did not work for me, I found the characters so engaging that I overlooked my skepticism. I wonder what is next for the Larkville Legacy crew?
Be sure to read my interview with Marion Lennox here.
Review copy purchased from Amazon