Friday, June 24, 2011

Who Says I Need A Man? "Chantilly's Cowboy" by Debra Kayn

All Chantilly McDougal wants is to run her daddy's ranch. The only one of five sisters content to stay on the McDougal spread, Chantilly loves the land and knows the workings of the ranch better than anyone. So when Stuart McDougal hires Jack Grady as his new foreman without even consulting her, Chantilly is furious. She doesn't need the help of any cowboy, no matter what feelings the man arouses in her!

Jack Grady can understand Tilly's frustrations over working with him, but he needs the job to put his nephew through law school. Besides, he's made a promise to Stuart, and everyone knows a cowboy never goes back on his word. But when he finds himself falling for the boss's daughter, Jack is torn between being honest with Tilly, and keeping her father's secret.

The world of ranching seems to be one of the areas of American life that lags behind other enterprises--it's more a man's world than most, and women seem to have to strive twice as hard to be taken seriously. There are myriads of stories about women being left to run a ranch alone, and in some it takes the All-American Cowboy to ride in on his mustang and save the day. Thankfully there are stories that give truth to the fact that a woman can pull off just about anything because what they lack in brawn they more than make up for in brain.

Chantilly MacDougal has a problem that doesn't face too many families: her dad was blessed with no sons, and of his five daughters, only his youngest now has exhibited any substantive interest or made any long-term investment in their family ranch in terms of time and hard work. She knows that it is time for her dad to acknowledge her love for their ranch, to give credence to her leadership abilities that have been demonstrated for years, and to let her try her hand at being the guiding force behind this enterprise. While her dad gifts her with his verbal praise, unbeknownst to her he has hired a "foreman," a man with a more than adequate knowledge of ranching, but a choice that was essentially taken out of her hands. Chantilly is angry and that anger certainly makes itself known in the early days when she and Jack Grady have to find a way to work together. That they were attracted to one another doesn't help any, either. That her dad has a habit of leaving the ranch for hours at a time almost every day, is another quirky reality that begins to get under Chantilly's skin and one that ultimately is a great family mystery for her and her sisters.

Jack is a genuine nice guy. He is a man who has taken on the care and raising of a young boy and one who is now enrolled in law school, who really needs this job for obvious reasons, and who wants to be associated with a ranching operation of this magnitude. That Chantilly comes with the package is not a problem either, except she is angry that he is there and resistant to working with him. He can understand her upset, but he has given his word to her dad to keep the underlying reason for Jack's hiring.

All the people in this story are really very nice, the kind of people most of us would have no problem calling "friends." My biggest problem with this story was indeed the underlying reason for Jack's presence: to provide a husband and "head of the household" for Chantilly, as if she would not be able to order her life or run the ranch well otherwise. Still that old male chauvanistic belief that women just can't quite pull it off without a man in the picture. There were some other factors that come out of the story that certainly give positive credence to her dad's decision to hire Jack, and that is all to the good. I know her dad wanted Chantilly to be happy, but how like an overbearing man to think that a man is necessary for her happiness. I was bothered that such a determination was not left up to Chantilly.

All in all it was a very pleasant read, but my primary problem was the length--I just don't think the characters and the premise of the story were given sufficient length for adequate development. That's probably me more than anything, since I really don't like short stories, novellas, or too short novels very well. I liked all the characters in this story and perhaps that is why I was disappointed in its short length. Yet, in the final analysis, I like the story and am looking forward to reading the stories of the other four sisters. This is the first work by this author that I have read and I felt that the writing style and use of language was very well done. Just not enough of it. Once again, that is probably reflective of my own prejudice. I think this would be a very nice read for a summer evening, some time by the pool, or just indulging in a nice time with some good people. I give this novel a rating of 3.5 out of 5.

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