Everything about this book had appeal for me: Cowboy horse wrangler, genteel English lady, horses, horse racing and a desperate plotting father. Oh and hey, a kilted highlander or two tossed in for good measure. This story by a new to me author and the second in a series was engaging from cover to cover.
As to the fact that it was a second book, I had no trouble reading it out of order. That being said, I am definitely going back for the other story of this series and the series it is a spin-off from.
Josephine Cathcart, disgraced daughter of a commoner who made his former wealth in the mines, is now faced with hard choices as her father pushes her to take a rich husband even as he desperately schemes, gambles and sells everything off to clear his debts after his coal mines played out. Josephine is reluctant for her own part, but even more so for her illegitimate son, Jamie. Her father’s trip to America to get some American investors in his latest scheme and attempts to find a rich husband for her didn’t work, but on the trip back a wealthy Scottish earl shows an interest in their stables and will send his wrangler along to check out all the horses including her most loved Pembroke’s Pride a fine stallion who was injured in his only race.
Rafe Jessup is starting over after recovering from the wounds he received as a US Marshall on a case gone bad. A chance encounter with Ash, Lord Kirkwell, and his desire to set up a horse ranch in Colorado, takes Rafe, the Cheyenne Dog Soldier, Thomas Redstone, and the Earl and his Countess across the sea to England where Rafe encounters the lovely Miss Cathcart and her scheming father. At Rafe’s recommendation, the Earl buys many of Cathcart’s stable of horses and leaves Rafe at the Cathcart’s estate while he goes on to Scotland to deal with affairs on his own estate. Rafe grows close to Josephine and her son, but he knows he doesn’t stand a chance with such a fine lady who has been raised to wealthy living on a fine English estate. He has nothing to offer, but the fate of Josey, Jamie, and a horse named Pems leads him to take his courage in hand and go for it all in the face of Cathcart and the Baron set on having Josey from him.
I loved the juxtaposition of Wild West meets English gentry this story offered. Rafe’s presence along with Thomas brought the frontier to England as they worked with the horses and though they were out of their element neither tried to conform to fit in. The story line of Rafe working with Pems and the excitement of the cross country race was wonderful and thrilling. Josephine’s sad situation of being caught between a rock and a hard place kept the tension up too though I will admit there was a bit of drag in the middle of the story while it was setting this situation up.
The romance was slow to build as Rafe and Josey became friends and then wanted something more and then finally became lovers. I enjoyed how they worked through the barriers even down to the differences in how they reasoned. Rafe was stalwart and understanding, he was tough and confident, but he was still vulnerable where Josey was concerned because it was important to him that he be a good provider. He didn’t realize that his reticence about his prospects or that he didn’t verbalize his feelings made Josey think that he didn’t want her enough. Josephine is the opposite of Rafe in ways though she is stronger than she thinks. She is vulnerable on the outside because of her past mistakes and the trouble her father’s failed schemes and gambling gets her into. She is conflicted about the sure thing of marrying for money and a chance at legitimacy and a title for Jamie or following her heart into the unknown particularly when Rafe first tells her to go for the sure thing even though he makes it clear that he cares for her and Jamie.
All in all, I enjoyed the situations of the characters, the settings, the romance and that great plot build to the cross country race. Historical Romance lovers should definitely give this a try if they enjoy both American West and English Countryside settings with a slightly spicy slow build romance.
My thanks to Penguin Group and to Net Galley for the opportunity to read this one in exchange for my honest review.