Review: Taming the Brooding Cattleman by Marion Lennox

 

Title: Taming the Brooding Cattleman

Author: Marion Lennox

May Contain Spoilers

From Amazon:

Alexandra Patterson swaps city chic for the dusty outback when she arrives at Werrara Stud Ranch. As the new vet, she may be more used to pampered puppies than prized stallions, but Alex is determined to show that she can cut it.…

Brooding rancher Jack Connor is in for a shock—the women in his life have only ever caused him pain and anguish…and Alexandra was supposed to be Alexander. Instead, the person before him is a petite blonde with a pink suitcase and is distractingly, infuriatingly attractive!


Review:

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.

Grade: B

Review copy purchased from Amazon

Review: Wish by Kelly Hunter

 

Title: Wish (Novella)

Author: Kelly Hunter

Publisher: Kelly Hunter

ISBN: B00600ZZ86

 

May Contain Spoilers

From Amazon:

All single mother Billie Temple wants for Christmas is to trade her hectic Sydney lifestyle for simple country living and a place to call home.

All widowed cattleman Adam Kincaid wants is for Billie and her son to go away.
Santa’s got a problem.

Review:

I loved Kelly Hunter’s The Man She Loves to Hate, so I was exciting to learn that she self-published a novella.  I didn’t even sample it before I plunked down my hard earned $1.50, either, which I never do when I am buying books for my Kindle.  I love the ability to preview a story before I commit myself to buying it, but because I loved the author’s Harlequin so much, I skipped the exploratory stage.  I was going into this story with both guns locked and loaded!  I was happy with the results.

Billie Temple has tried to make a happy life for her son Cal, and when she is given the opportunity to move away from Sydney to the country, she jumps at the chance.  She doesn’t like having Cal live above the bar she manages in the city, so when she is offered a chance to manage a bar in safer surroundings, it’s like the answer to her prayers.  Until she meets Adam Kincaid, the gruff rancher who owns the small house she’s renting.  Adam thought that Billie was a man, and he’s not happy to learn that she’s a woman, and that she’s got a young boy in tow.  It’s not safe in country.  There are snakes, storms, and frequent power outages.  Too bad for Adam that Billie is every bit as stubborn as he is, and she refuses to be chased away from her new home.

I liked this short, compelling romance about two people finding a second chance at love.  Both Adam and Billie have had to deal with the death of their partners, and neither one of them is looking for another relationship.  Billie has Cal to deal with, and Adam is still fighting the ghosts of his late wife and child.  Second chances at finding happiness is one of my favorite romance tropes, and I thought this one was done well enough that my not so favorite romance trope – friends with benefits- didn’t bother me all that much.  I didn’t totally buy into Billie going along with that, either, because she has been so cautious with her child-rearing. She has done everything in her power to keep Cal shielded from the more unpleasant and more unsavory aspects of life, so it didn’t ring entirely true that she would risk so much by having no-strings attached sex with Adam.  Even if he is as sexy as sin.

One thing that I did find occasionally distracting was the use of Australian slang.  I mentioned on GoodReads that I had no idea what a chook was until I read Wish, and I don’t commonly hear trucks being referred to as utes.  There were several sentences that drew me up short, because the language sounded so strange to my American ears.  Since I don’t read many books that haven’t already had a once over by US editors, I found this interesting, though sometimes it slowed my reading because I had to re-read a passage here and there to understand the odd to my ears language.

Wish is a short, sexy read, and I’m looking forward to reading more of Kelly Hunter’s books.  She’s an auto-buy now, whether the book is self-pubbed or not.  This was a fun experiment for me, because it proved again that novellas, which I have previously dismissed, can offer a compelling, well-developed reading experience.

Grade: B

Review copy purchased from Amazon

The BLI Holiday Reading Challenge