I was looking for a cozy Christmas read and I was so pleased to find this one. It combines the holiday themed read with a contemporary Western romance which are a great pairing in my book. Oh, and did I mention this is an opposites attract love story?
Caroline is a big time news anchor for the national news out of Washington DC, but she has small town roots. For Christmas, she returns to the home ranch in Wyoming where her only remaining relation, her grandmother, still lives and operates the small family ranch. When she gets there, she discovers a surprise- and a nasty one at first.
Caroline finds one of the Coyote men who are descended from the local Crow tribe, Andy, and his daughter living and working on the ranch. Her hackles rise the instant she learns this because everyone knows the Coyotes are bad news. This one was reputed to have raped a girl in high school and probably had a rap sheet a mile long. Caroline never did believe that gossip about the rape, but she is hard on Andy the instant she sets eyes on him.
But as a big snowstorm comes in, Caroline gets to see Andy in action as he works hard helping her get the cattle down out of a high pasture to the areas nearer the ranch house where they can be cared for and fed. She sees evidence in the fixed up house and barn that he’s a conscientious man who works hard and then the way he interacts with his daughter shows that he is a loving father. By the time they return to the ranch, Caroline gives Andy her apology and starts seeing him in a different light.
Andy has his own prejudices too. He thinks Caroline is a rich snob who pre-judges people. He is terrified that she will make trouble for him and find an excuse to get him fired. This job as ranch foreman is his last chance and he needs it to provide for his daughter.
Caroline and Andy worked together to keep things going through the big snow storms hitting the area and things are going well until Andy’s little girl has a fever seizure which is followed shortly after by Andy’s arrest for theft. In fact all the Coyote brothers are brought in and nobody cares to get past reputation to establish guilt or innocence- nobody except Caroline. But adding on cattle rustling and a fight with the whole town including a despondent Andy who doesn’t believe he stands a chance, just gets Caroline’s fighting spirits up. She has a huge Christmas to-do list if everyone is to have a merry Christmas.
The plot was really good with all that is going on in the story. The story breaks were a bit rough, but didn’t disrupt the storyline too badly. It seemed that the scenes were a string of loosely tied together vignettes that swap back and forth between narrators. The ambiance of Christmas is there, but it takes a back seat to the love story and other issues plaguing the family.
Caroline was a good heroine. She was sensible in how she looked beneath the surface of Andy’s family reputation to give him a chance, how she was a hard worker who might be a big time DC news anchor, but she wasn’t afraid to get a bit of dirt under her nails to help on the ranch, how she was passionate and patient in first her attraction and then love for Andy, and how she was a true heroine in how she fought to establish Andy’s innocence and make him see his own worth.
Andy was an interesting hero. He is one of those rare characters known as a beta hero. Everyone loves the alphas, as do I, but I also find a beta hero provides a nice change when handled well. Andy Coyote endures under an unearned bad reputation, he thinks little of himself because he has a learning disability and because he made mistakes leaving him with one child he never sees and another one who he just got custody over because the mother abandoned little Sarah. He feels he is inferior to the woman he loves because she is successful and has money. During the story, it is obvious that he is a man of quiet strength because he doesn’t go down the same road as the rest of his family and he sticks by his principles by how he handles his feelings for Caroline and how he works hard to be a good father.
I can recommend this for those who enjoy holiday romances, western contemporary romances or those who like sweet romances with just a hint of passion.