It’s been a long time since Colt Stafford shrugged off his cowboy legacy for shiny Manhattan loafers and a promising career on Wall Street. But when stock market manipulations leave him financially strapped, the oldest son of legendary rancher Sam Stafford decides to return to the sprawling Double S ranch in Gray’s Glen, Washington. He’s broke, but not broken, and it’s time to check in with his ailing father, and get his legs back under him by climbing into the saddle again.
He doesn’t expect to come home to a stranger pointing a loaded gun at his chest— a tough yet beautiful woman that Sam hired as the house manager. Colt senses there’s more to Angelina Morales than meets the eye and he’s determined to find out what she’s hiding…and why.
Colt’s return brings new challenges. Younger brother Nick has been Sam’s right-hand man at the ranch for years and isn’t thrilled at having Colt insert himself into Double S affairs. And the ranch’s contentious relationship with the citizens of Gray’s Glen asks all the Stafford men to examine their hearts about what it truly means to be a neighbor. And as Wall Street recovers, will Colt succumb to the call of the financial district’s wealth and power—or finally the courage to stay in the saddle for good?
“And how often did you grace the churches of Lower Manhattan with your presence?” Angelina asked smoothly, but with enough bite to make Colt take notice. “There are churches of all kinds there, I believe?”
“And you went to . . .?”
“Not a one.” He half smirked because taking time out of his busy week for church had never occurred to him. Despite his mother’s sweet assurances about God when he was a child, Colt had figured things out pretty quick and pretty early. You got one chance at life, one go around the big wheel of fortune, and whatever you did, you did.
Nick’s expression should have warned him off, but it was too late. Angelina moved toward him, and when she narrowed her eyes, he was amazed and not a little scared at how quickly the transformation took place.
“You brag about this?” She took another menacing step, encroaching on his space. He looked to Nick for help, but Nick seemed to be enjoying the turning tide. “As if turning your back on the One, the Only, the Most High is something of note, a source of pride?” She uttered something quick and sharp under her breath in Spanish, then stopped suddenly. Held up her hands. Dusted them together as if he wasn’t worth the bother it took to ream him out.
She looked up, met him eye to eye. Her cold, hard stare made it clear that any gains he’d made since their first face-to-shotgun meeting were now long gone. She shook her head, and her voice took on a different, flat tone. “If for any reason the generator does not kick in when we lose electricity, there are candles in your room and bath.”
He started to say thank you, but her swift retreat showed no interest in his gratitude. He watched her leave, heard the firm click of her door, and turned toward Nick. “Is she always like that?”
“Tough, strong, kind, antagonistic, and brutally honest? Yes. And every time I think I’m right about something, it turns out I’m wrong. I’ve learned to shut up and let her take charge.”
Colt wasn’t any too happy as he tended the stove. It was an odd state of affairs when an outsider – and a woman at that – was taking charge around the Double S.
“And don’t make the mistake of thinking you can best her just because you’re a man.”
Colt swung back toward Nick. “This is our ranch. Our house. Our home. I might have been gone a long while, but I’m still a Stafford. And Staffords don’t take guff from the hired help.”
Nick clapped him on the back. “You’re in for a rude awakening, Colt. But then you never did want to learn things the easy way.”
This was my first novel by Ruth Logan Herne, and I have to confess it didn’t do much for me. The opening scene was great and led me to expect that the rest of the book would be of the same calibre (and if you’ve read the first scene, there’s no pun intended here!) but it quickly fizzled away into ho-hum.
The biggest disappointment for me was that we never got to see Colt and Angelina spending time getting to know one another. Yes, they had scenes together, and they thought about or noticed each other a lot, but there was nothing in any of this that developed or deepened a friendship between them. Without that emotional attachment to one another, their romantic interactions felt like out of place clichés; a bit over-the-top and even cheesy at times. As far as romances go, this was of the sweet variety, but it definitely had an artificial flavour about it.
The conflict in the romance wasn’t very compelling either, being expressed mainly in the characters’ heads (for example, reminding themselves not to form an attachment to the other, despite their attraction) and often arising from their lack of communication with each other. Despite Colt’s oft-repeated assertions (to himself) that he would return to New York, I never really believed he would. In fact, beyond the first scene, I had trouble believing that he had ever been that person at all. Obviously he had the financial knowledge, but in terms of his character, I think it would have been more convincing if we had seen that character gradually transform into the person he was by the end of the novel. Instead, I felt as though he had merely been paying lip-service (or thought-service) to the character he was supposed to have been.
Beyond this, the writing itself involved a lot more telling than showing, and the author didn’t seem to trust the reader to understand things unless they were explained to them (sometimes quite thoroughly). I don’t need to know a character’s backstory straight away, nor do I want them to continually interpret another character’s actions or the subtext in a conversation. If the writing is showing, I can see it for myself.
All up, there was the potential here for a good story, but it fell flat for me. Nick’s story will be next in the series, and as much of the ground work for his situation is laid in this novel I may still read it so that I can see how things resolve for him. Otherwise, I’m not particularly inspired to continue with the series.
I received a complimentary copy of this novel through Blogging For Books in exchange for my honest review.
Release date: 15 March 2016
Author’s website: http://ruthloganherne.com/index.html