Wild West Games, ranch country setting, bruised characters with pasts? Count me in. It wasn’t long into the story that I decided that I made a good decision. Things get off to a feverish start as far as combustible attraction. The two in question are leery of starting anything up, but then in the excitement of sabotage to her restaurant, the Wild West games, a dangerous opponent who doesn’t want them to win, and growing reliance on each other makes Elam and PD think hard and fast about what they really want when the competition is over and they have to go back to real life. A sizzling, exciting start set in Northern Utah ranch country promising a rugged, wild Taggart brother with each new release.
PD Raines otherwise known as Prairie Dawn Raines thanks to her weed-smoking hippie parents has finally put down roots after all the years of endless drifting with her parents. Bliss is home with a solid house and furnishings, a restaurant that is her life, and friends that treat her as one of them. Now she’s in a jam when her friend Bodey Taggart can’t compete as her partner in the Wild West Games with a prize that would help her with the next phase of her restaurant. He tells her he has a solution and soon she is filled with dread that Bodey’s solution is to corner his reclusive oldest brother, Elam to take his place. Elam is spoken about in whispers- lost his parents and little sister in a car accident that left his youngest brother with brain damage, lost his wife while he was on a tour of duty in Afghanistan and then sent home injured with dark issues that nobody including his brothers know how to deal with. Yeah, Elam was not going to jump at this opportunity. But he inexplicably does agree and then she has the rush of resisting her heated attraction, pushing away her feelings of inadequacy, and knowledge that Elam could only love once and never someone like her.
Elam has been going through the motions for three years as he builds the dream cabin home that he was to share with his wife while he avoids the people in town and also his family not wanting to feel the stares or hear the whispers. His brothers have kept their distance hoping he would heal, but now Bodey comes to him with a need. Elam can’t believe he said yes to partnering a woman in a contest of historic western skills for four days. PD is very different from his wife and at first he feels guilty noticing her finer qualities, but somewhere along the way of helping her with the restaurant fire, training her for the contest, spending time with his brothers and partnering PD for the contest, he comes alive. However, as things get real, he is terrified. Loving and losing someone has already crushed him and he doesn’t want to take that chance again.
This one got off quickly in some ways and slowly in others just like it was parts slow-paced cozy and parts exciting action and passion. Basically it was doing the job of establishing the foundation for the series while also telling the story of individuals. I thought the author did a pretty good job of it. It took the time to tease out the characters and their romance. Daily life, time with the Taggarts as family, and the description of the small ranching community along with preparations for the contest were well over half the book. Then things got exciting as the contest began particularly with the danger element and the unleashed heat of their attraction.
I laughed when I first started reading this book and I’m pretty sure it wasn’t meant to be humorous. I found Elam and PD the horniest pair that I’ve encountered in a while because it was instant for both of them. Whoa, Nelly! They were hot and squirmy for each other. I’m not a fan of insta-lust driving the romance between new people particularly when they have issues like these two have going, but this one settled into something else when Elam put the brakes on while he was dealing with his past even as they both figured out what they were to each other in the present.
Elam seems like the tough one who needs to heal, but PD has her own inner demons from the neglect of her childhood and the unsettled lifestyle that just compounded her issues. She is absolutely convinced that she is inferior and unworthy which was sad because the evidence of her achievements shows the opposite. Loved seeing Elam heal so that he could prove that he thought she was beautiful and special.
On a side note, I was tickled to death to discover that the fictional settings were based on the real area of the rural country around Logan, UT since I spend ever summer just south of there with family. I didn’t have to imagine the scenes or the feel of the community as I’ve seen it and that was so neat.
All in all, I had a good time with this one with its engaging characters, well-drawn backdrop, satisfying romance and interesting plot. I would recommend it to those who enjoy contemporary western and small town romance.
My thanks to Penguin Group for the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review.
Romance Roundabout #205 CR
New to Me #104 author/series
Cliché Klatch #120 ‘Predestined for failure’
Curvy Woman #12
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