At Wolf Ranch
Romantic suspense is hit or miss with me – I’ll be the first to admit I tend to judge it pretty harshly. Mystery-focused? Well, where’s the romance? Where’s the relationship? And if it’s romance-focused? There’s not enough suspense or plot to keep things moving. I’m sometimes hard to please in this particular genre. Which is part of the reason I was pleasantly surprised by At Wolf Ranch – enough mystery to keep things moving (for the most part), and plenty of romance, which is what I was looking for in the first place.
Since her parents’ deaths years ago, Ella Wolf has only had her twin sister Lela to rely on. All that changes when Ella comes home to their New York apartment one day and witnesses her uncle, who had taken over the family business after her father’s death, brutally murdering Lela. Running for her life, Ella goes to the last place Lela visited – Wolf Ranch in Montana, their family’s old home. There she meets Gabe Bowden, neighboring rancher and the man who believes he has purchased Wolf Ranch. But Ella’s uncle has swindled him as well as her family’s company, so while Ella searches for proof, Gabe vows to keep her safe. And the more time they spend in each other’s company, the more personal this all gets.
And that’s pretty much it. I mean, there are a few other spoiler-y plot points, but that’s the basic story right there.
The romance takes a bit to get into – Gabe and Ella don’t meet until about 40 pages in, while the suspense starts from the very first page, with Lela confronting their uncle. The thing is, the suspense is surprisingly more of a background for the romance than anything else – it’s the way to get these two in the same place, and give a reason for them to spend a lot of time together. That’s not to say it isn’t well-done or interesting, but it was a nice change to see something that is not primarily a mystery with a little side-story of love.
Ella and Gabe’s relationship did move really fast, which was a little disconcerting to me – it seemed to be more based on the stress of the situation combined with physical attraction than anything else. The love part of the love story got better as time went by, but we still had this odd “I must test you to see what you really want” moment at the end that kinda ruined it for me. And while Gabe’s character is pretty steady (including his faults), Ella’s is all over the place. At first I chalked that up to the trauma of witnessing her sister’s murder, but through the course of the story, she never really evens out.
Ella deals with her grief by trying to discover what her twin had found in order to avenge her death, and then when she gets angry (dealing with the aftermath of the entire situation), Ella gets really angry. Everyone who was even threatened into doing what they did was mercilessly fired, including those who probably had no idea what was going on. I mean, I kinda get it, but Ella goes from wanting nothing more than to solve the problem to brutally taking it out on everyone, and running more than a bit rough-shod over Gabe to do it. Not a fan.
Overall, though, the balance of the story was perfect, the setting was great, and I definitely want to read more of the Montana Men stories.