When Ash unintentionally injures Juliana, he feels that it’s his responsibility to look after the hoity-toity redheaded workaholic. He pushes her to reexamine her perfectionist lifestyle, but it’s hard for Juliana because she’s used to doing things her way. Can she learn to relax and let him lead?
Unlike the other novels so far in this "Divine Creek Ranch" series, this is not a menage romance but rather about two characters that are as different as night and day. Ash is a man who is Texas cowboy through and through, a long-time friend of the owners of the Divine Creek Ranch, and a character that has shown up in previous novels. He knows ranching from start to finish, is comfortable in his skin, and knows what he wants in a woman he wants in his life. He has no doubt that the citified and overworked Juliana is "his" from the moment he lays his eyes on her. But convincing her of that may take some doing.
Juliana Meyers is determined to be the best retail manager this part of Texas has ever seen. She knows nothing of Texas politics or ranching, but she is determined that she will make her department store function like a well-oiled machine, even if it takes over her life--which it has! She think she is content with her life, but even as she is enjoying an infrequent social occasion at the Divine Creek Ranch Christmas gathering, her "boyfriend" of five years calls to break up with her over the phone and confesses he has been cheating on her for some time. Ash is present when this call comes through and even though he is willing to help her sort of deal with the shock, she wants nothing from him, then or in the future, to hear her tell it. Ash is nowhere willing to accept that from her. He knows that somehow she has to re-order her priorities, if not for any future she might have with him, but simply because her obsession with her work is hurting her physically and mentally. He is just that kind of caring man.
Caring for her after an accidental injury which occurs while packing up Teresa in preparation for her wedding to Angel & Joaquin has thrown Ash and Juliana together. The attraction that began at that fateful Christmas gathering continues to escalate, and they begin their affair. For Ash, it is a "forever" kind of thing. Juliana is hesitant--she is afraid he wants to control her life. How they work out the dynamics of their growing relationship is a major part of the story. Juliana's insecurities and a major miscommunication almost torpedo what could be a wonderful future for these two. How this all works out is fun and a marvelous ending to the novel.
As always, Ms Rainier has succeeded in telling a wonderful story, developed the characters of Ash and Juliana in such a way that the reader feels that they are real people, living just a bit down the road. Their struggles to re-configure their lives--to make some way of reconciling Ash's life as a ranch foreman with Juliana's drive to succeed in a non-ranching occupation, to come to some kind of acceptance that she needs to live unobsessed is the core of the tale that flows beneath all the action and the narrative. As in the other novels in this series, their romance is very erotic and these are two characters who are lively and passionate, who both want to experience a love that can withstand the challenges of any life situation. Set within the context of other characters that have been introduced in previous novels, Ash and Juliana's love story not only stands on its own merits but is a part of this community of people who are connected to the Divine Creek Ranch. And as Heather herself says in one of her interviews, these characters have lives and hearts that are as big as the country they live in. All her characters demonstrate that none of us lives apart from the people who exercise their influence and presence in our lives. And even though this couple are the focus of this book, their love is celebrated as a part of the wider community.
One of the on-going scenes in all Heather's novels is the fact that all these women love to dance. Gathering at the Ethan Grant's club, The Dancing Pony, Grace, Rachel, Rosemary, Teresa, and Juliana all love to get out on the dance floor and let the moves loose. Their men love to watch them, too. It is one of the grace-filled moments in these novels that I enjoy as much as any others. It just seems that Heather has filled this and all her novels with men who truly love and appreciate their women, who protect them and surround them with a kind of love that is empowering and heartwarming. This novel is no exception. I am really looking forward to reading the next novel in this series and am curious about the characters whose story will be highlighted--I am sure we have already met them somewhere. And they will, as do all the heroes and heroines, delight and entertain. Don't miss this really wonderful novel!