A Ranch to Keep
Fairly boring and predictable, A Ranch to Keep follows the standard formula of a big city girl moving to a remote location and rediscovering life and love among nature’s beauty and a simpler way of life. It’s a formula that works well for me if the story has characters to love and watch grow throughout the storyline. This story fell short on that account and the result was a dull read that I had to force myself to finish.
When her grandmother passes away, Samantha Rylant inherits her ranch in the Sierra Nevadas. Samantha has been building her career in San Francisco, on the fast track to a promotion and having a relationship with her boss. She journeys to her grandmother’s ranch to check it out before putting it on the market and finds sexy cowboy Jack Baron, her neighbor and tenant.
Jack and Samantha are instantly attracted to one another, but Samantha does not want to get involved with Jack as she has no plans to settle at the ranch permanently. She has her career and boyfriend in the city, but the pull of the ranch keeps her coming back for weekends. Once her orderly life in San Francisco is shaken up, Samantha finds herself at a crossroads and must decide whether to pursue her exciting city life or settle in the mountains with handsome Jack.
Samantha is really not the kind of heroine I find enjoyable. The opening scene of the book shows her leaving her grandmother’s funeral during the service and just hopping in her car to drive to the ranch. This does not say “spontaneous and fun” to me, but rather “irresponsible and without social graces.” Secondly, she’s dating her boss, which is not only dumb but unethical. And finally she’s one of those heroines who is so determined to be self-reliant that she crosses the line into sheer idiocy. Nobody likes an utterly helpless heroine, but (and this is pure speculation on my part) readers do not like heroines who are so stubborn that they refuse to ask for assistance when confronted with a large problem. Like a tree across her driveway, which she attempts to hook her BMW to in order to move it and promptly rips the bumper off said bimmer. She just came across as pathetic.
Jack, for his part, was an okay hero. He’s good looking and smooth, but not city slicker smooth, even though he’s really an investment banker from New York. He is a bit protective and bossy, but also respectful and not overbearing. His calm was a nice contrast to Samantha’s flightiness.
Even though I disliked the heroine immensely – and do not even get me started on the cliché of the evil land developer – I really liked the setting of the story and how the author described the mountains and pastoral landscape. The story had a strong sense of place, whether the scenes were with Samantha in San Francisco or Samantha and Jack in the mountains.
I might have been more on board with the book had I liked Samantha better, or at all for that matter, and had it not been one romance stereotype after another wrapped up in multiple clichés. The setting was nice and the writing quite smooth, but given the irritating qualities of the heroine and the obvious plot (the book is titled A Ranch to Keep not A Ranch to Sell), it was a C read for me.