The Rancher's Spittin' Image
A Rancher’s Spittin’ Image is a big book in a small package. It has the character and plot development of a longer, single-title release, and manages to do both of these things quite well within the shorter length of a series romance.
Jesse Barrister and Mandy McCloud are young lovers whose world is torn apart one night when her father (complete with shotgun) hunts them to ground while they are otherwise occupied at their favorite trysting spot. Their idyll ends with Jesse leaving town with a bullet wound in his shoulder and thinking that Mandy has chosen her father over him. Mandy, who went with her father in order to save Jesse’s life, is shipped-off in disgrace to have their son. After his birth, she returns home and, after her father’s death, takes over running the family ranch. Jesse returns to town several years later, discovers he has a son (aka A Rancher’s Spittin’ Image), and Jesse and Mandy rediscover their love for one another.
Jesse and Mandy are both well-developed characters complete with idiosyncrasies that make them endearing. Their son, Jaime, and Mandy’s two sisters, Sam and Merideth, are all good secondary characters who pull their weight and round-out the story nicely.
One of the biggest obstacles a series romance has to overcome is to be able to tell a story without seeming too shallow, too slick, or too predictable. Every time it seemed this book was about to sink to any one of these levels, it pulled itself up admirably with an unexpected plot or character twist. The tension between Jesse and Mandy was always there, even after it seemed it should be played-out.
A Rancher’s Spittin’ Image is the first in Peggy Moreland’s Texas Brides series. Mandy’s two sisters, Sam and Merideth, are waiting in the wings to have their stories told. Sam’s story, The Restless Virgin, is next in the series and is an August, 1998 release. Ms. Moreland proves to be a dab hand with this romance. It would be interesting to see what she could do with a longer book.