ABOUT THE BOOK:
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Once a Rancher by Linda Lael Miller
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Once a Rancher by Linda Lael Miller is a 2016 HQN Books publication.
I love this author, but I am always incessantly behind with her series, so when I saw this one and noticed it was the first one in a new series, I didn’t hesitate.
The ‘Carsons of Mustang Creek’ is centered around the Carson brothers on their Wyoming ranch. The oldest brother, Slater, is a historical documentary filmmaker, with a young daughter, named Daisy. He’s single, not really looking for love, but when he meets Grace, he finds he is missing something in his life, and didn’t know it until now.
Grace is a former cop, now in the hospitality business, and raising her teenage stepson, Ryder, despite being divorced from his father. After the failure of her first marriage, Grace is not looking to make a repeat mistake. But, Slater Carson has her considering a second chance at love.
As with many ‘first in a series’ novels, I had a little trouble getting into the story at first. But, once all the characters were introduced, and the lay of the land was mapped out, the story picked up speed, which is a good thing, except it felt like we went from a slow trot to a full blown gallop, in nothing flat.
I did enjoy this story, though, and should explain that although this is pretty much a standard contemporary western romance, it also has some romantic suspense elements mixed in, as well.
When Grace catches an employee engaging in illegal activities, she must terminate him, but he's not leaving without a little payback, which awakens Slater's protective instincts.
I couldn’t help but laugh as poor Grace was literally swept off her feet, caught up a true whirlwind romance. Slater is a cool guy, not a game player, is honest, straightforward, and stable. He showed Grace how a real man behaves, and proved he is a good father, and will be a positive influence on Ryder, who really needed a steady male presence in his life.
Things do seem to happen very quickly between Slater and Grace, and although Grace fights against the inevitable, she runs out of steam pretty fast. It was so funny watching the Carsons help Slater wear her down, and put her fears to rest, too.
I loved the tight knit family atmosphere in this one and the way they all work together, and support each other. I really liked Slater, who is strong, has a dominant personality, but is not a jerk!! He may move at warp speed, but he treats Grace with respect and understands the challenges she faces and her reluctance to move too quickly, even though he hates cooling his heels or having to step back and let her handle things her way, in her own time.
By contrast, Grace is very special, especially towards Ryder. She doesn’t always like being nudged along by Slater or his family, but she grows to love them and accept them just the way they are, while still maintaining her strong independent personality.
Slater and Grace have a different approach to life’s curveballs, but, they complimented each other nicely.
Ryder’s story is sad, but he has found a nice landing spot, and is better off now than he ever could have thought possible, which really warmed my heart.
I think the Carson family series has gotten off to a pretty good start and Miller’s fans will probably like this one. I’m looking forward to Drake’s story in the upcoming ‘Always a Cowboy.”
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COMING IN AUGUST:
Drake Carson is the quintessential cowboy. In charge of the family ranch, he knows the realities of this life, its pleasures and heartbreaks. Lately, managing the wild stallions on his property is wearing him down. When an interfering so-called expert arrives and starts offering her opinion, Drake is wary, but he can't deny the longing—and the challenge—she stirs in him.
Luce Hale is researching how wild horses interact with ranch animals—and with ranchers. The Carson matriarch invites her to stay with the family, which guarantees frequent encounters with Drake, her ruggedly handsome and decidedly unwelcoming son. Luce and Drake are at odds from the very beginning, especially when it comes to the rogue stallion who's stealing the ranch mares. But when Drake believes Luce is in danger, that changes everything—for both of them.
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ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
The daughter of a town marshal, Linda grew up in Northport, WA, a community of 500 on the Columbia River, 120 miles north of Spokane. Her childhood remembrances include riding horses and playing cowgirl on her grandparents' nearby farm. Her grandparents' spread was so rustic that in the early days it lacked electricity and running water.
As delightful as this childhood was, Linda longed to see the world. After graduating as valedictorian of her high school class, she left to pursue her dream. Because of the success of her author career, Linda was able to live part-time in London for several years, spend time in Italy and travel to such far-off destinations as Russia, Hong Kong and Israel. Now, Linda says, the wanderlust is (mostly) out of her blood, and she's come full circle, back to the people and the places she knows and loves.
Before Linda begins her writing day, she takes her first cup of coffee while enjoying the scenic view of the wooded draw behind her new home. The first morning there, a snowfall blanketed the pine trees, something she had missed in the desert outside Scottsdale. Still enamored with the people she came to love in Arizona, she says she will still set books in that starkly beautiful area, and, of course, in other stories the action will take place in Washington.
Devoted to helping others pursue their dreams, the author will launch her sixth round of Linda Lael Miller Scholarships for Women in May of this year. A talented speaker, she donates all her speaking honoraria to her scholarship fund. The stipends are awarded to women who seek to better their lot in life through education.
It's no wonder the protagonists in Miller's novels are women her readers admire for their honor, courage, trustworthiness, valor and determination to succeed, despite overwhelming odds. 'These qualities make them excellent role models for young women,' Miller explains. 'The male leads possess equally noble traits that today's woman would be delighted to find in her life's mate.'
The author traces the birth of her writing career to the day when a Northport teacher told her that the stories she was writing were good, that she just might have a future in writing. Later, when she decided to write novels, she endured her share of rejection before she made her first sale.
Although Linda has written successfully in other genres, she is best known for stories set in the West'stories like McKETTRICK'S CHOICE (HQN Books March 2006 paperback); THE MAN FROM STONE CREEK (HQN, June 2006 hardcover) and that very first novel, FLETCHER'S WOMAN, which is being reissued in 2006. Her stories, set in yesterday's world, and today's, are historical romances, romantic thrillers, and other contemporary tales. They consistently score on prestigious national bestseller lists.
Linda has come a long way since leaving her sheltered life in Northport at age 18 to experience the world. 'Growing up in that time and place, in a family grounded in Western values, served me well,' she allows. 'And I'm happy to be back home.'