Desert Isle Keeper
One Tough Texan
I had no problems with One Tough Texan. Where Sweet Memories was slow, Jan Freed’s story zips along. It features cowboy/rancher Matt Granger, a former rodeo champ who is trying to make a go of his own ranch and horse-training business. When his wild-living sister dies in California, leaving a niece he never knew about, he travels to California to collect her from the sister’s roommate, Abbey Parker. He ends up bringing both of them back to his ranch, and the attraction between Matt and Abbey develops into a deeper passion and love.
Matt and Abbey are larger than life but are also people with whom the reader can identify. Both are deeply scarred by bad upbringings, and both have fled in different directions – Matt into overconfident cockiness that leads to a string of shallow relationships; Abbey into primness and emotional and physical rootlessness. After the dull seriousness of Sweet Memories, the characters’ snappy dialogue and humorous interactions with secondary characters were especially enjoyable.
Freed works a series of potential cliches – the cute child, the female rival, the overcoming of old traumas – into such a compelling story that, unlike Sweet Memories, I had a hard time putting it down. She packs more action and character development into far fewer words than Spencer, and left me far more satisfied. She gets brownie points in particular for averting a “big misunderstanding” situation in the “heroine freaks out and runs away after a near sexual encounter” scene. Instead of deciding that Abbey is a bitch and a tease, Matt figures out what is actually wrong. I was ready to marry him myself at that point!
On its own, One Tough Texan would be an unqualified recommendation as a Desert Isle Keeper. However, you’ll have to decide if you want to spend $6.99 instead of $3.50 to obtain it. The Spencer story is mildly interesting as a historic artifact, but it is Freed’s novel that makes it worth owning.