It was the cover! There I’ve admitted what grabbed me first, but then I saw an author I’ve been wanting to try and a keen blurb (though if you want to experience the first twist in the conflict fully, you won’t read the blurb). I was hooked. This story had lots of good stuff going for it- ranch backdrop, cowboys and horses, a tortured hero, a fighter for a heroine, and an intriguing mystery plot.
The story opens with things on the cusp of change. Everett Cavanaugh, the owner of the Triple C ranch, has just passed and now things are uncertain. The ranch’s future will be determined by the sons who have spent a decade away running fast from the place that brought so much misery. When their little sister was abducted, killed and her case closed with the murderer never found changed everything. The oldest, Deacon, has amassed a fortune and he makes no bones about the fact that he plans to level the ranch and sell off the property, the other brothers will probably follow his lead. He will finally get the revenge he needs to heal after the pain and abuse that came to his youthful self on the death of his sister that his parents dished out in their blame. For the foreman, Mac Byrd, and the others who have called the ranch home, this news is devastating. Mac lost her best friend when Cass was killed, she lost the man she always looked on as a father, and now it looks like she has a fight on her hands with the man she crushed on as a girl and couldn’t forget no matter how citified and cold he has become. The reading of the will changes everything. A fourth brother’s existence comes to light with the reading of the will. This revelation has huge repercussions naturally.
Deacon’s determination and plans are shaken when he encounters the capable all-woman that is now Mackenzie Byrd. He knew she had a crush on him when they were younger, but this is something else- something that he wants to investigate, but not allow to sidetrack him. He loves her fire and the determination she has to preserve what she loves and he is moved by the honesty in her eyes and her agreement to pursue their mutual attraction. It’s not until he sees the vulnerability and confusion that he is faced with the fact that his revenge might not taste as good as he thought when it might cost him someone who has become dear to him.
Mac has no idea what she is doing with Deacon Cavanaugh. He plans to destroy her very home and livelihood yet she still wants him. She tries to convince herself that it is enough, but that trip to the city and spending time with him is a game changer for her too bad he still plans to go through with his terrible decision if he can gain controlling interest in the ranch.
Overall, I really liked this story and the direction it’s taking as a series. I like what the author set in motion in this book that offers a nice backdrop with the ranch, the developing story and the romance. It was a wonderful beginning.
But- yes, there is a but.
Not sure where it came from completely, but while I enjoyed the story, there was a part of me that wasn’t completely engaged. Trying to put my finger on why I’ll try to put it into words.
First, I had the story pegged within the first few chapters. I knew exactly what moves everyone would make, what would become a conflict, what would cause the turning point, and what the final resolution would produce. It was like a good book that is re-read. The second time is a nice revisit, but it lost its edge because you knew the score. Possibly this was just me and others won’t even sense something like this.
The second thing was the romance that left me split on my feelings. I loved Mac and Deac together. They were good for each other. Scenes sparkled when they were in them together. However, it was a rush job. I’m not one that cares if it’s love at first sight, instalove, or slow build, or various other love tropes but I do care that I’m given something to make me believe it.
Mac gave in too quickly on the lust considering how fierce she seemed in the beginning and how much Deacon’s ruthless plan of destruction was hurting her. And the love thing was just suddenly there when I was still only feeling them giving in to passion. I let it go mostly because I really did want to be convinced. Deacon, the tortured hero, really engaged my sensibilities and there was a pivotal scene where he reveals the truth behind his motivation to do what he’s doing bringing the exact response from Mac that I had- righteous anger- which was what completely nullified the earlier disappointment I had in her. Plus Mac put it all out there in the end and she was what made all the difference in Deacon’s redemption.
The brothers were a highlight for me. I liked getting to know Deacon’s brothers a little and know that their stories are coming next. Each went a different direction when they left the ranch and they even grew estranged from each other. I liked seeing them all back together and the beginning of a reuniting of the brothers. The possibility of accepting the newly revealed brother is a nice expectation for me too (again, can’t believe they revealed this surprise in the blurb).
Then there is the ongoing mystery of Cass’ murder. I can’t wait to see where that last delicious teaser at the end takes them. And even though it is unacknowledged, I’m interested how the now deceased Everett Cavanaugh is turning into an enigma too.
So, all in all, it was engaging and I am totally on board with this new series. It’s hot and intriguing. Contemporary Romance lovers who like stories set on the ranch with cowboy heroes should grab this up.
My thanks to Penguin Group for the opportunity to read this book in exchange for my honest review.
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