Review: The Rancher and The Vet by Julie Benson

The Rancher and the Vet (Fatherhood)

May Contain Spoilers


My favorite trope!  Second chance at love!  The heroine is a vet, which also piqued my interest.  I think the title is misleading, though, because the hero, Reed, runs an electronics company, and he is not a rancher.  Instead, he’s filling in for his brother, Colt, who has been deployed overseas.  Since Colt’s mother-in-law broke her hip, she can’t look after his 14 year old daughter, so it’s Reed to the rescue.  Only Reed doesn’t want to be a hero, and he certainly doesn’t want to be responsible for Jess.  He agrees to look after Jess, but only until other arrangements can be made.

I could certainly understand Reed’s reluctance to take responsibility for his young niece.  He’s at a critical stage in the launch of a new product that can put his company permanently in the black, and taking care of all the executive tasks virtually will be difficult.  Doable, but difficult.  Some of his clients are needy, and he has to constantly soothe away their worries.  His biggest concern, though, is messing Jess up for the rest of her life.  He had a terrible childhood, with an alcoholic father who used his fists more than his words.   What kind of example of fatherhood was that?  Reed is terrified his own anger will rage out of control, and that he will hurt his niece. 

Reed is also reluctant to face the townsfolk of his small home town.  So many people were aware of how badly his father treated him and Colt, but they didn’t learn of it until the night Reed snapped and almost beat his dad to death.  That moment still lives with him, and he refuses to lose control of himself again.  He ditched home as soon as he was accepted into Stanford, leaving his high school sweetheart behind.  He even broke up with her by email.  What?!  Then he ignored all of Avery’s attempts to contact him, because he didn’t want to pull her into the dismal abyss he found himself in.  Every effort became putting his past in the past, where it couldn’t hurt him anymore.  Avery represented all of his fears, and he was too frightened of what he could become to face any of them.  He didn’t think he could be a loving, committed husband or father, so he swiftly put any kind of meaningful relationship behind him. 

When Avery sees Reed again after eight years apart, she realizes how strong her feelings still are.  He was the love of her life, and she was devastated when he dumped her in an email and refused to return her calls.  Together with him again, strictly as friends, she’s determined to never let him hurt her again.  I was struck by how well these characters fit together.  They are like parts of a puzzle.  If Reed hadn’t spooked and run, I know that Avery would have been able to help him work through his fears.  Instead, he made up excuses for why they didn’t stand of chance of having a long-term relationship, then or now.  Even after his father’s death, Reed can’t separate himself from him.  He is terrified of turning into his father, so he always makes sure to remain emotionally detached.  Children of his own?  Never gonna happen because he’ll just hurt them.  Marriage to Avery? Nope!  They have totally different life goals.  She wants kids and wants to stay in Colorado, and he wants to be as far away from his old home as he can get.

As Reed struggles to earn Jess’s trust and respect, he also struggles to earn Avery’s.  He hasn’t proven himself to be trustworthy, after all.  He acts like a class A jerk on several occasions, putting his business above everything else.  After Jess is caught vandalizing Avery’s animal shelter, she works Reed to get her back on track.  She treats both of them with so much patience, which is sometimes not warranted.  She worked so hard to help both of them, but Reed rarely made it easy for her.  He is like a stubborn goat, always butting his head against everything.  When the light bulb finally clicks on, and he realizes how little of true value he really has, it’s almost too late.  His fear of commitment almost cost him the love of both Avery and Jess, but, just in the nick of time, he is able to salvage all of the damage he had caused.

While I was occasionally annoyed with Reed, I enjoyed The Rancher and  the Vet, and I’m looking forward to reading more by this new to me author.

Grade:  B-

Review copy provided by my local library  

From Amazon:

Cowboy, Come Home

Leaving his Colorado hometown was the second hardest thing Reed Montgomery ever did—the first was breaking up with Avery McAlister, his high school sweetheart. Now his Western roots are calling the citified CEO back to his family ranch to be surrogate dad to his niece, Jess. Of course, he can’t help being pulled back into Avery’s world.

Keeping her financially strapped animal shelter open is Avery’s first priority—her second turns out to be helping Reed with his parenting skills. They may be bonding, but her former flame still has some serious explaining to do about the secret that drove him away.

The ghosts of the past and a rekindled desire bring Reed and Avery ever closer together. But will Reed embrace his future…as a cowboy, a father and as the man for Avery?