The Rancher Takes a Wife
Despite massive anachronisms, a potty-mouthed heroine, an intractable hero, and a Big Misassumption that runs the entire length of the story, The Rancher Takes a Wife grew on me and by the end, I found I grudgingly liked it. Not exactly a glowing recommendation, but there you have it.
Rose Severin is a medium (not a small or an extra-large … sorry). Actually, Rose is a fake medium. As Madame Desirée, she claims she can speak to the dead through séances. Of course she can’t, but it’s a living. Abandoned in the middle of nowhere at 18 by her philandering father, Rose was left to her own devices. Rather than become a soiled dove, she and her mother’s former slave, Isaiah, began traveling through Texas, gently bilking those willing to pay a small fee to rest assured their lost loved ones are safe and happy on The Other Side. The trouble begins when Eugenia Burnett asks Madame Desirée to locate her long-lost son, Tanner.
The problem is, Eugenia’s eldest son, Travis, believes Rose is a fake who is only trying to cheat his mother, and has her thrown in jail by his brother Tucker, the town marshal. Travis also believes Rose is a whore and a thief, and cannot understand why he feels such a strong attraction for such a female.
Eugenia is tired of having three sons (one of whom went missing after the Civil War), but no grand-children. When she meets Rose, Eugenia hatches a plot to get her together with Travis. It is this plot that bothered me and went on and on and on and just about ruined the book. Eugenia tells Travis that Rose has stolen her wedding ring in order to get Travis to focus his attention on Rose. Eugenia is certain her son will fall in love with Rose if only he gives himself half a chance.
Basically, the rest of the story involves Travis insisting Rose is a liar, a thief, and a whore, while Rose insists she is none of those things. Travis kidnaps Rose when she tries to move on, and takes her to his ranch where he keeps her hostage with Eugenia’s blessing. While Travis browbeats Rose, Eugenia stands by, knowing the young woman is innocent. Some future mother-in-law, eh?
There is a lot of sexual tension in The Rancher Takes a Wife and the love scenes are passionate. Travis’ unrelenting accusations got old really fast, but the author somehow managed to make me care about the characters in spite of this. Secondary character Isaiah is nicely done, and not the stereotype he could have been. Travis’ brother, Tucker, is set up to sizzle in his own story, as Travis bristles when Tucker shows a healthy sexual interest in Rose before Travis admits to himself he cares for her.
When I mentioned anachronisms and potty-mouth earlier, I wasn’t kidding. Rose speaks French, but it’s all cuss-words. I’ve never heard a hero, let alone a heroine, call someone an “asshole,” especially not in a historical, especially since the word was not coined until 1930. Rose utters merde at every turn, which I found offensive – and unnecessary. Fortunately, these epithets ease off by then middle of the book.
Note to authors: The next time you write about a man placing a woman in front of him in his saddle, please take a look at a real saddle. Two adult humans cannot fit in a standard Western saddle. They are built for one butt, and one butt only. Romance novels are famous for this device, but it’s ridiculous. The woman would have the saddle horn in a very uncomfortable spot, no matter how closely the hero held her to him. As romantic as it sounds, two-in-a-saddle is just not physically possible.
Even with all its faults, this book held my interest. It’s a simple, quick read, and as such, it might be worth reading if you have the time.