Back in the days of the cattle drives when men were carving out empires for themselves in the vast Texas lands, there were some English gentlemen who showed up on the plains. They were of two types – one was a gentlemen of means who saw in the cattle industry an opportunity to make money. The other was a black-sheep son of a noble family who had been sent west to get him out of the way. Charles Worthington, Lord Silsbee, the hero of Nobility Ranch, is not a black sheep son (although he is the son of an earl), but that was the only original touch in this otherwise very by-the-numbers romance.
Charles’s father, bought the Two Crowns ranch in Texas as an investment and sent his oldest son to oversee it. One does not say no to the formidable earl, and Charles left for the United States without expecting much, but to his surprise, he has grown to love Texas and the ranching lifestyle. Here, Charles is free of his father’s supervision and is his own man. The town respects him, not because he is a nobleman, but because he is a good worker. But the earl now wants Charles to honor his betrothal to Lady Cecily Thorndale and come back to England to take up his duties. Charles is not ready for marriage and wants to stay in Texas, so he writes Lady Cecily a letter postponing the wedding.
Cecily is one of the feisty ones – she packs up, takes her maid and footman for chaperones and lights out across the ocean for Texas and Charles – it is obvious to her from his letter that he needs her. On the way, Cecily makes the acquantence of a Madame LaFleur and her two “girls.” When they get to the town, Cecily, her maid, Madame LaFleur and the girls are all arrested – the sheriff does not want any soiled doves in his town, but Cecily tells them to get Charles Worthington to come get her – she is his betrothed. When Charles comes to the jail to see what’s going on, he ends up taking Cecily, the maid, the madame and the prostitutes to his ranch.
The plot such as it is, is as thin as tissue. Basically it consists of Charles alternately wanting Cecily’s body, and wanting her to leave since commitment to her would mean assumption of his father’s responsibilites back in England. As for Cecily, she wants Charles very much, but she mostly just moons around and wishes he would say, “I love you.”
The townspeople all had potential, especially one young woman who wants to open a school for young people and adults who want to learn to read, but they were never fully developed as characters. There were a lot of them and all had very little time devoted to their stories. If there had been fewer supporting characters and more time allotted to them, a better story would have been the result.
Cecily and Charles were likable enough as characters, but I never felt like I got to know them. Just as things were getting interesting, one of the townspeople would show up and then Charles or Cecily would go running off. They simply were not together enough to suit me.
Nobility Ranch suffers from being neither fish nor fowl. If it had been done as a series romance and the relationship between Charles and Cecily had been at the forefront without so many sub-plots, I think it would have been much better. Conversely, had it been longer, and the townspeople had more space to tell their stories, and if we readers had time to spend with Cecily and Charles, that would have resulted in a much more interesting book.
If you don’t have a lot of time to spare, and are fond of short romances with a Western setting, Nobility Ranch may be just what you are looking for. As for me, I think I’ll stick to the full length ones.