When Rider Magrane was a teenager, he and some friends decided to rustle some cattle, just for kicks. As a result, one of Rider’s friends was shot and killed, and he and the others spent five years in prison. Now released, Rider has returned to his hometown of Drover, Kansas, to try to make amends to Dave Warner, the man whose cattle he stole.
When he goes to the Warner farm he finds that Warner has run off, and his lovely sister Jane is trying to run the farm and raise Warner’s two small sons by herself. Jane is worn to the bone and afraid of what might happen to the children if she takes sick, so she’s looking for a good man to help her run the place.
You can pretty much fill in the rest of the details for yourself: the slow growth of intimacy, the practical marriage for the sake of the children, the fact that Rider keeps his past a secret from Jane until it comes out in the worst possible way. There aren’t many surprises in Family Man, but in spite of this, the love story between Rider and Jane is sweet and moving.
This is mostly due to Carson’s solid writing. She effortlessly characterizes her two protagonists so that we quickly come to know and care about them. Jane is a vulnerable woman, trying to be practical and keep her sense of humor in spite of the heavy burden that her brother handed her. Rider is charming, a former wild kid who’s payed his debt and changed his ways; he makes an earnest effort to do right, in spite of his lack of practical experience at adult life. Their story follows a comfortably well-worn path, one that I enjoyed.
Family Man is not an exciting novel, but it left me with a happy glow. The romance is poignant, the humor is funny, the kids are cute. There’s also a very entertaining secondary romance here between Jane’s persnickety sister and her neighbor. I’d like to see Carol Carson do something a little more daring for her next book, but if Family Man is anything to judge by, it’ll be worth reading even if she doesn’t.