Monday, July 21, 2008

Her Reluctant Rancher by Anne Marie Novark

TITLE: Her Reluctant Rancher
AUTHOR: Anne Marie Novark
PUBLISHER: Wild Rose Press
LENGTH: Novel (roughly 64k)
GENRE: Contemporary romance
COST: $6.00

When the grandfather who never thought he was good enough dies and leaves him the family ranch, Trevor Callahan has no choice but to return to Texas to settle affairs. All he wants is to put the past behind him, which in his book means selling the ranch and never coming back. He doesn’t expect to discover single mom Beth Evans living at the ranch with her five-year-old daughter, nor does he believe that the man she describes is the same grandfather he left behind twenty years earlier. But that’s not going to change his plans, even if Beth is the most surprising – and sexy – woman he’s met in a very long time…

Sometimes, sweet does the trick. I’m not usually a fan of will stories, the ones where the deceased puts a clause in the will that requires the hero and heroine to be together in some way (usually marriage), but this one looked different enough that it might work for it. Beth is a librarian, the local bookmobile driver, and she’s been promised a million dollars for her library fund – something the town sorely needs and frankly is her primary driving need to fulfill – if she can keep Trevor from selling the ranch. There’s nothing about marrying to keep the ranch in the family, or bearing a child in order to inherit, and yeah, I’ll admit, hooking the requirement to satisfy a need for books in town makes this booklover’s heart swell. It’s a refreshing change, and works very well in helping the story along.

The story is also well serviced by two likeable leads. I preferred Trevor’s solid, no-nonsense attitude to Beth’s must-help-everybody, beloved-by-all personality, though to her credit, Beth is never grating. The hardest one for me to actually stomach is Maggie, the five-year-old daughter. We’re told from the start she’s smart for her age, which is supposed to explain dialogue that never feels like it’s coming out of a child’s mouth. But between that and her precocious behavior, by the end of the story I found myself cringing whenever she entered the scene. She’s meant to be the key to softening the shell around Trevor’s heart, but I’d honestly wished the author had picked a different mechanism for that trick by the time I finished. The sweetness that prevails through most of the story goes saccharine for the final few chapters, and combining that with Maggie was too much for me.

Technically, there is very mild headhopping throughout the story, but it’s done sparingly and not at short, jarring levels. The sexual tension is stretched and paced very nicely; I completely believed Trevor and Beth breaking when they did. There might not be anything hugely original in the romance, but at the same time, there’s nothing really wrong with it either. In the end, it’s a sweet, simple story about two likeable people who discover that love doesn’t have to hurt after all. Sometimes, that’s all you need.


8/10 – Minor headhopping, but there’s a sweet charm to this that prevails in spite of that.


7/10 – Solid with just enough angst to make me care


6/10 – Borders on too good to be true most of the time

Entertainment value

7/10 – A sweet diversion, with characters just likeable enough to make me care

World building

6/10 – Nothing spectacular, though there’s just enough detail to keep me rooted in the story



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