Jake Maxwell has just returned from the Civil War to find his family’s land stolen and his cattle scattered all over Texas. While Jake was off fighting for what he believed in, mean-spirited and greedy farmers have destroyed what he had set out to build. Now they want Jake to pay reparations for the damage his cattle have done to their crops. They’d all be happier if Jake were to pack it in and leave Texas. But, if he were to turn up dead, that would be okay, too.
Southern belle Isabelle Davenport is doing her best to give eight orphan boys a second chance at life. The boys range in age from about eight to sixteen, have all come from rough backgrounds and don’t much like Isabelle, let alone each other. The very same farmers who have been giving Jake so much trouble are willing to take on the homeless boys in return for help on the farms. So, Isabelle has brought the boys to Texas in the hopes of finding them good and loving homes. What Isabelle doesn’t realize is, the boys are destined to be no more than prisoners, shackled and worked until they drop. If they die, no problem – there are plenty more orphan boys where these came from.
When Isabelle stops at what’s left of Jake’s ranch before taking the boys on to the farms, an undeniable spark of attraction flares between the two. But Jake doesn’t want a wife, especially not a genteel lady who he thinks will break at the first sign of hardship, like his mother had done. And Isabelle finds Jake far too rough and uncompromising to ever live with and be happy. Never mind that they can’t see straight or think of anything else but each other day and night.
On her way to deliver the orphans, Isabelle comes across Buck Hobson who has just escaped the farming community. The horror stories the boy tells cause Isabelle to gather all nine orphans under her wing, and return to Jake’s. He didn’t want the first eight boys, now what’s he going to do with nine? Well, ten. Not long after his arrival, Buck sneaks back one night to free his friend, former slave Zeke, who is chained up and near death from the same horrific conditions to which Buck had been subjected.
Jake needs help gathering his herd and getting it to market. What better solution than to have Isabelle’s boys become the cowhands Jake so badly needs? On the way to Santa Fe, the group comes across Ward Dillon, a former doctor with a history of his own, and another orphan, whom Ward had rescued from a decimated wagon train. They too join the cattle drive. Okay, now Jake’s responsible for a delicate lady, a former surgeon, eleven orphans, and several thousand head of cattle.
Although Jake was jam-packed with characters, author Greenwood gave each one a distinct personality that remained consistent throughout the story. The boys behaved like boys, for good or ill, and each was likable. This was a fun book to read what with a cattle drive, bad guys, the relationships between the boys, and the growing (in-spite-of-themselves) love between Jake and Isabelle.
I was a fan of Greenwood’s Seven Brides for Seven Brothers series, but found that Jake is lacking what I also found lacking in those books – they are romances which are too stingy in the romance department. The few-and-far-between kisses and (one-and-a-half!) love scenes are too few and too tepid for me. If the romance between Jake and Isabelle had been revved up a bit, Jake would have been an even better read. If these books are to be classified as Romances, then that’s where the focus should be. All in all, though, I think you’ll like Jake, and I recommend it.
|Review Date:||April 8, 1998|
|Book Type:||American Historical Romance | Frontier/Western Hist Romance|
|Review Tags:||Frontier Romance | Frontier/Western Historical Romance | Texas | The Cowboys series | Western romance|