Another book that settled down deep in my soul from this touching series about the cowboys of the J-Bar ranch. A war-ravaged soldier comes home after the tragic death of his younger brother to take care of his fragile mother and avoid the demon in prison who sired him. Unfortunately, the sins of the father are being rained down on the son and he has to reach down deep to prove to everyone including the angry, attractive cowboy that hates him for the pain his dad caused the man’s family. Coming home isn’t easy, but nothing worthwhile ever is.
This is the third book in the series and the second one I have read. I’m getting the idea that though there is a connectedness to the series that each story can function as a standalone if it must. Now, not to say that it wouldn’t work better reading them in order since the previous couples are present and continuing through the series.
The story opens when Calvin ‘Tripp’ Tripplehorn, Jr. returns home after eight years in the military when he learns of his younger brother’s death. Tripp never thought to come back after he broke away, but his mama needs him and the jerk who sired him is safely put away behind bars where he belongs. Or are they safe from him…
While Tripp picks up the neglected pieces of things around home, he learns that his mom has let it all go and his brother was into drugs and other shady stuff. A job at the nearby J-Bar ranch is a possibility if he can prove that despite his family name that he’s a worthy man and a hard worker. Things don’t look promising when the injured cowboy he is replacing hates him and wants nothing to do with him as soon as he learns Tripp’s name. Lucho’s family were victims of Calvin Tripplehorn, Sr and his bigoted group of cronies.
Tripp is determined to fix everything including what he can of the damage his dad did, but he has it rough as his mom lives in her own little dream world of denial, the family lawyer is right at home in their house, and his dad is still making threats and demands from prison. Lucho’s injury is serious, but he wants nothing to do with Tripp trying to be kind which doesn’t deter him one iota from his attraction to Lucho. Tripp has to learn Lucho’s job fast because its calving season and the ranch needs everyone to step up and he also has to gentle a wild horse on the side because he wants to make friends with that horse because he likes the animal, but because in the process maybe he can gentle the guy who cares for the horses too.
The story is all told from Tripp’s point of view. Tripp is a man of parts. He’s damaged from the abuse he took living under his dad’s roof and damaged from fighting a hard war, but he’s also a guy who loves people and animals and will do most anything to help and be liked. Not that he’s a doormat or bland, but just that he has some sun shining in there with all that darkness. His life has been one long string of unfairness and he struggles hard to not succumb to all that. He was a lovely flawed man who I eagerly watched as he discovered more inner strength that he didn’t realize he had and the capacity of love and hope that kept him going. At home, things are tough as he battles his weak mom’s issues, the shady lawyer, his dad’s hate-filled and selfish schemes while at work he revels with all he gets to do on the ranch. The guy is even happy to shovel dung just to be working on the ranch which was always his dream. His determination to have Lucho was enjoyable too. Lucho doesn’t make it easy on him, but Tripp is patient and just keeps trying and then when he needs him, Lucho is there for him.
It was fun to check in with Malloy and Crispin as well as Jimmy and Eddie. There is such a camaraderie about these cowboys and I loved the scenes where they were all working, laughing and loving like a family.
To wrap it up, this was another powerful hit and strong installment of a great series. Those who enjoy m/m contemporary western romance with a lot of heart should give this a try.
My thanks to Penguin Group and Net Galley for the opportunity to read this one in exchange for an honest review.
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