Review of THE RANCHER'S HEART by C. H. Admirand (see her website)
Five Star Publishing, February 2007
She waited for her husband's return--but he had vanished. After thirteen years, surely he was dead. In town after town, though, the respectable women had turned on Bridget O'Toole, assuming the worst--that she had never been married, that her son, Mick, was born without the benefit of wedlock. Raising a son alone, in 19th century Colorado Territory, was rough for a woman. Boys need so much food and single mothers had few respectable employment opportunities. Bridget has denied herself--and now she is starving.
When he catches would-be cattle rustlers, rancher James Ryan (Seamus Ryan Flaherty) believes that the 12-year-old Mick is not yet lost to a life of crime. Certainly Ryan is a believer in giving others a second chance--partly because he was once given a second chance. He opens his ranch to so many who had no place else to turn. Opening the ranch to Mick is the easy part, though. Opening the ranch to the lad's mother is rougher. Although she has starved herself, she remains full of pride--and convinced that if she stays on the ranch, she'll damage Ryan's reputation and his chances with a respectable woman from town.
Ryan has trusted women before--and sworn never to do so again. But Bridget is different. Or so he believes.
Even when the two yield to the desire that combusts whenever they're together, their pasts spring up to haunt them. A long-ago conviction in Texas means that Ryan can never really be secure. And the truth behind Bridget's marriage and the man who disappeared from her life is certain to spring up and haunt both her and the once-burned Ryan.
Author C. H. Admirand provides a thoughtful look at the small-town hypocrisy that haunted the west and remains all too common. After an emotional opening, the action really picks up in the second half when a band of criminals arrives in town. I would have liked to see the action scenes drawn out in more detail, and thought that Admirand's ultimate resolution was too quick to really let us savor the emotional release, but if you're looking for a highly readable and well written story of the American West, you won't go wrong with THE RANCHER'S HEART.
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