This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.
Genres: Western Romance
Published by Sourcebooks Casablanca
Released on February 3, 2015
Rough Rider lives up to its title. This story is one rough ride for the hero and heroine in this stolen moments-missed opportunities and regrets type of gripping and red-hot passion-filled story. Even though this is the second book in the series if will work fine as a standalone or out of order. Some of it follows a parallel path to the first story crossing plot paths a few times, but still separate for all that.
Janice has lived her life in the shadows and working hard carrying a flame for a bull rider who barely knows she exists. She watches him and his high school sweetie together and wishes she could be the pretty rich, rodeo queen like Rachel instead of the girl working the chutes and covered in the scents and dirt of the pens. But then one night, Dirk Knowles, surprises everyone when he throws off the lead ropes that Rachel and her rich dad have put on him and Rachel tries to use his brother to make him jealous. Janice seizes her chance knowing that he’ll be back with Rachel in the morning.
Dirk doesn’t know what in the world he is doing when it comes to his life that had been plotted out for him with the perfect girl and the perfect future. He feels restless and he is young. He doesn’t want to be tied down with a wife and responsibilities, but Rachel keeps pushing even after he asks for time. She always plays head games with him so the night he finds himself sans girlfriend and her plans for his future, he accepts the offer that Janice makes. It was supposed to be just the one time, but afterward, he knows that it meant something. Unfortunately, before he can figure out his feelings and what he wants to do about them, Janice has given up waiting and moved on and he is well aware she is making a huge mistake taking the shiftless womanizer Grady.
Years later, after so much life has happened, the two find themselves back in their home town carrying a lot of internal baggage and wearing the mileage life has taken out of them. Dirk is determined to save his family ranch and Janice is determined for a fresh start for her and her son. Can something come of this reunion or are they too damaged and too long apart to try again?
As I said, this one is rough, but it’s the sort of rough that needs to be there for the story to have some depth. Dirk is not an easy hero. He has wanderlust as a young guy and he doesn’t know how to juxtapose that with his responsibilities. He also doesn’t know what to do with his conflicted feelings for two very different women. He needs time to process, but life wouldn’t stop and wait for him so he makes snap judgments. He is flawed and hard, but there was something about him that made me want to see him pull through and succeed with his dream and break free of his bitter anger. Janice, by the same token, isn’t an easy heroine. Much of the early story, she is just passive and reactionary. The few solid choices she makes are bad ones and she also has life changes that are out of her control that complicate things. But then when the second half begins, she shows there is a backbone inside her. Dirk doesn’t make things easy and she won’t make it easy on him either. They do tend to be like tender and matches combusting into hot passion, but the physical attraction is only part of it. I liked how the story developed pace-wise to match these two and their issues. They don’t make it easy and Dirk has a positive gift for spouting hurtful things, but it was worth it when they sort it all out.
One of the side stories is a bit of a wrap-up for the unresolved stuff between Dirk and his brother, Wade. The details and much of their conflict takes place in the first book with just being skated over in this one, but the resolve for their issues does resolve in this one and I was happy to see it. It was one of the things about the first book that disappointed me so I was glad to see it addressed in this story.
And finally, I really enjoyed that epilogue. It was just a sweet family scene that was light and fun. It struck the right chord after the turmoil and trouble of the earlier story.
Wrapping up, I felt this was a stronger story that offers good conflict along with some hot and spicy passion. I loved it even if it was hard to read about Dirk and Janice having a few near misses and heartaches before they got their chance at happiness. The plot, character development, passionate romance, and incredibly well described backdrop all worked and I whole-heartedly recommend it to Western Contemporary Romance fans.
My thanks to Sourcebooks Casablanca and Net Galley for the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review.
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