In the course of reading this book, I put it down several times. I kept expecting it to get better, liven up a little, but it never did – it’s just flat-out boring. And, since this is the third book in the series, if you haven’t read the preceding two stories, Jake and Ward, parts of Buck are not going to have much meaning.
Our hero is Buck Hobson, a likeable enough young feller, smart, hard-working, easy on the eyes. But Buck has a heart of stone, or thinks he does. He has returned to Utopia, Texas to the Tumbling T, the ranch owned by the man who bought, starved, beat, and nearly worked to death the seventeen-year-old Buck, until his escape. Now, six years later, Buck has returned to exact his revenge: Take the ranch away from his persecutor and ruin him. Problem is, Old Man Grossek is dead now and the only thing Buck can do is basically steal the ranch out from under the dead man’s widow and daughter. He can do it; his hate runs deep enough.
Pretty Hannah Grossek remembers Buck. The boy had intervened years ago when Hannah’s cruel father had taken to beating her. To protect Buck, she avoided him after that, for any attention the young girl might have given him would have brought more pain down on them both. But her hated father is dead now, and Hannah intends never to be under any man’s control again. She’ll learn to run the ranch by herself and live solely with her mother, free from cruelty for the rest of her days.
While Buck and Hannah are drawn to each other, neither of them understands the love of family. Hannah was beaten and forced to live in isolation, while Buck was abandoned by his mother and sold into a workhouse by his gambler father. Both are tentative when it comes to trusting their hearts to another. When Jake Maxwell and his wife Isabelle – the people that rescued and adopted Buck and ten other orphans six years ago – come to Buck’s aid, he begins to realize he might have a family after all. And Hannah sees that love doesn’t have to hurt. When Hannah watches how lovingly Jake looks at and treats his wife, she begins to realize that her parents’ marriage was the exception rather than the rule.
Now, a couple of problems. Style: I had trouble with virtually page-after-page of straight dialogue. No tone of voice, no physical movement, no facial expressions or elaboration. Very annoying. Tepid passion at best; in fact, all strong emotions seem diluted due to lack of details. The reader has to fill in a lot of the blanks.
One of Buck’s adopted brothers, Zeke, accompanies Buck to the Tumbling T. While Zeke certainly has reason to hate everything and everyone, I found his constant and unrelenting complaints, scowls, and criticisms annoying. He never has one line of dialogue that isn’t some stereotypical hate phrase.
For a Romance, there’s not a whole lot going on. A few kisses and two very, very brief encounters do not a Romance make, and what was there was pretty flat and even silly: “Instinctively opening her body to receive him, she was startled by a tiny, sharp, stabbing pain. ‘It’s over,’ he said. ‘I won’t ever hurt you again.'” And that was it. A “tiny, sharp, stabbing pain?” I know Romances are fantasies, but I’d rather not have a a love scene at all than to have the heroine experience an eensy-weensy bit of discomfort, then go on to an orgasmic release of cosmic proportions. And what does this say about Buck’s physical attributes? I think it was the word “tiny” that really did me in – it was the best laugh I’d had all day.
Sad to say, there’s not much going on to recommend Buck; you might want to just skip it.