Monday, June 18, 2012

Review: The Rebel Rancher

I tend to be the sort of reader that picks apart plots and characters.  "I was liking the hero until he did that and now the shine is off," or "Why did the author include that plot device about the drug smugglers?  It was totally unnecessary and detracted from the romance."  Then there are books where everything is perfect, for that particular story.  Where even if the author makes a choice that might annoy you, personally - you recognize that it's the "right thing to do" for that book.  That's how The Rebel Rancher by Donna Alward was for me.  The second book in a connected duet about cowboy cousins raised as brothers is really breathtaking in a lot of ways.  It's honest.  It's heart-felt.  And even if the author does make a choice during the latter half that normally drives me bonkers, it totally works.

Tyson "Ty" Diamond was adopted by his aunt and uncle after his junkie mother abandoned him on their doorstep.  Even though they raised him like their son, loved him, Ty and Uncle Virgil had a tendency to butt heads.  So Ty took off for the rodeo circuit and the estrangement has been hanging over the family ranch, Diamondback, ever since.  Ty doesn't know how to bridge the gap, and then his cousin (see The Last Real Cowboy) calls him home after Virgil has a stroke.

Clara Ferguson is Virgil's home nurse, and also the first resident of Butterfly House (again, see The Last Real Cowboy), a home that helps women leaving abusive relationships to get back on their feet.  Jackson did a real number on her, and two years later Clara is still picking up the pieces.  She's making strides, and then in waltzes Ty - who scares the hell out of her.  He's sexy.  He's charming.  He's the consummate flirt.  In other words, he's Trouble with a capital T.  But she can't seem to stay away from him, and in turn, Ty cannot stay away from her. 

What I loved about this book was the honesty of it.  Ty is an actor.  A guy hiding behind a playboy facade because it's easier than showing anyone, or dealing with, his pain.  Clara is still gun-shy, for good reason, and is working towards a life where she isn't afraid all the time.  While she knows she should stay away from Ty, she can't - and in turn he's drawn to Clara because she sees everything.  She takes one look at him and knows, deep down, he's not the man that he wants everyone to think he is.  He's kind, gentle, and in a lot of ways he's still that scared little boy whose mother dumped him off on her brother.  These two are so perfect for each other it's hard to think of one without the other.

Every choice the author makes in this story is just right.  There's sweetness mixed with sadness.  There's grief mixed with the joy.  Even a plot device that shows up during the later chapters, one that normally annoys the heck out of me (start spoiler/ One Night Of Passion And Whoopsie!  I'm Preggers! /end spoiler) totally works here.  Yes, it's there to get the characters to finally admit their feelings - but without it?  These two would have left things unsaid.  That's just the type of people they are.  Not stubborn so much as wounded and wanting to do what they think is the right thing.

Those final moments of the story where the characters have to admit to each other how they truly feel could have been a bit more drawn out for me, but that's most likely just me being selfish.  This was a really great story, emotionally charged with just the right amount of angst without being overblown.  It's a romance about two scared people who become less scared after finding each other.  It's a romance about a couple that fits, perfectly.  It's not possible to think of one of them without the other.  For that reason, I'm glad they found each other, and I'm glad they both stopped being scared.

Final Grade = A-


nath said...

Woohoo, an A!! That's great, Wendy! :)

Glad you enjoyed it and you're right, sometimes - put together with the right characters, it just works ;) Always happy to stumble across such a book :)

Wendy said...

Nath: Words cannot express how much that plot device normally annoys the heck out of me. But here, it worked. It just....did. Also, I think it helped considerably that it crops up very late in the book and the whole thing isn't dragged out for chapters on end :)

Handy Man, Crafty Woman said...

The first category I ever read was Honeymoon With the Rancher by Donna Alward. Very warm and sweet!

Wendy said...

Crafty: Oooh, that's the Argentina book! I really enjoyed that one :)

Kelly Anne said...

I read the first book in this series and I reallyreally wanted to like it, but Alward's writing style just drove me bonkers. I felt like she'd write herself into introspective knots and I realized I was scanning over whole pages of text. Your review really makes me want to check this one out, but I'm afraid it would be more of the same.

Wendy said...

Kelly: It's hard for me to gauge since Alward's style works for me - but given her love of writing angst? Yeah, there's more than a decent amount of introspection going on in this book too. It's been long enough since I've read it though, that it's hard for me to give you a definitive yay or nay. Maybe something to keep an eye out for if you're lucky enough to have a used bookstore in your neighborhood?