If you’ve read Linda Howard’s Duncan’s Bride, the setup of this book may remind you of it. Both books have as a hero a rancher who doubts the heroine is right for the job, not to mention the hero’s past includes a woman who was completely unsuitable for ranch life. In this case, Montana rancher Reed Brunswick needs a private investigator to find out who’s been stealing his cattle, but he is more than dismayed to realize that the P.I. he is about to hire, J.D. Martin, is a woman. J.D., a former New York City cop, is determined to prove that she can do the job as well as any man and gets herself hired to pose as a cook at the ranch, where she can observe the men who work there and figure out who’s behind the thefts.
Aside from their official collaboration, Reed and J.D. are drawn to each other from the beginning, but Reed remembers well the last woman in his life who hated ranch life, and J.D. is still grieving the death of her former partner and lover. She manages to integrate herself fairly well to ranch life, although she does attract the unwanted attention of Reed’s stepbrother Brad, and Reed’s stepmother Cynthia, who are both odious and predisposed to making insinuating remarks about J.D. and Reed every chance they get.
J.D. is probably not the best P.I. I’ve ever read about, nor the best cook, which is unfortunate, since that’s her cover at the ranch, but she is certainly determined. What does reflect badly on her and Reed is that the baddies are not drawn with any subtlety; even when you think J.D. and Reed have figured out that these are not people to be trusted, they let their guard down. The relationship between J.D. and Reed moves quickly, but it made sense to me that these two people, who have been stagnating with past memories, would finally let go with each other as a catalyst. I also enjoyed the ranch setting as an integral part of the book, the author thankfully didn’t make it a wallpaper-type “lite” setting nor did it become overwhelming.
My biggest problem with J.D.’s Rustler, however, is that the book is just screaming out for a descent, I mean, a decent editor. There are misspelled words (“descent” being one I noticed several times) and bad punctuation from beginning to end, to the point that I kept checking to see if the book was indeed a ready-to-sell product or an Advance Review Copy in the editing stages, but I found no sign of it being an ARC.
If you’ve been meaning to read a western romance lately, you could certainly try J.D.’s Rustler. I found it a pleasant afternoon’s reading, and you might, too. Or, you might try to pick up a copy of either of Elizabeth Butler’s two historical western romances. This is a self-published author to watch.