Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Life Lessons Aren't Always Easy -- "The Wrangler" by Lindsay Mckenna

Can a city boy make good in the Wild West? After Wall Street collapses, investment banker Griff McPherson trades in his suits and ties for Stetsons and cowboy boots. He returns to the Wyoming ranch he co-owns with his brother, but it's not exactly a happy homecoming. So to prove to everyone, including himself, that he belongs back in Jackson Hole, he takes a post as a wrangler on another ranch. Air force lieutenant Val Hunter has just returned to the Bar H ranch to help her ailing grandmother run the property. While it is full of unhappy memories, Val is determined to do right by her home. Her new hire is easy on the eyes and a tough wrangler to boot, yet her instincts make it hard for her to trust him. When a nefarious neighbor endangers her land, Val is forced to accept Griff's help-but will she finally be able to open her heart?

It is no surprise that contemporary romance writers take their cues from all that is going on in today's world and with the significant down-turn of the world economy, there are stories galore to be told. But there is also another truism that surfaces often in romance fiction and that is the fact that one can never really "go home."  The hometown is different--even when it seems to have not changed--and people are different.  Every new person who comes to town changes that community just a little.  Nothing is ever quite the same.  In the case of this hero, there is absolutely no welcome mate put out for him.   Griff hoped and planned on being welcomed by his brother, but no place awaited him.  He had ignored his brother in the fat-cat days of his financial successes, he had even turned down his brother's plea for financial help to save their family's ranch, and now he is picking up the pieces of his own life.  He's barely holding it together--working a low-paying job, looking for odd jobs on the side, hoping for a better ranch job to come along so he can at least keep body and soul together.

The heroine of this story is another unwilling returnee to Jackson Hole--an air force pilot of note whose family obligations have now intruded on her personal life path and she is back on the ole homestead.  She really loves her grandmother, but this isn't quite the future she had planned.  The real heroine of this story is, in my opinion, the grandmother.  Now she certainly isn't involved in the romance part of the story--an elderly rancher who is as sharp as a tack, who knows the ranching business forward and backward and also knows how to invest wisely.  She's now been hampered by a bad hip and resulting surgery, and yet that doesn't mean that she is ready to pack it in.

This is a story of redemption and recovering one's perspective in life.  It is teaching three people the wisdom of backing up, taking a long look at the "big picture" and coming to some different conclusions.  It is also about finding ways to rebuild bridges of relationship that have been seriously damaged and finding that in the middle of hard times and personal chaos, there still lives honor and integrity within good people.

I have read one of the previous novels in this series and found it to be so good that I was excited to move on to this next story.  I happen to like cowboy romance a lot anyway, but the story of the two brothers, their anger and disconnect, their need to find their way back to each other is an important part of both these stories.  This story is especially compelling in teaching the lesson that circumstances don't shape character;  they reveal character, and it is the important lesson that Griff has to learn about himself and those around him.  He also finds out that all those Wall Street skills he thought had no part of his life anymore really were just sitting there waiting to become vital once again, even if the setting is hundreds of miles West of New York City.

Good writing, good plot, good characters and when they are all put together they come out as a compelling and entertaining novel that cowboy romance lovers will enjoy.  It's worth the time to read and I even think readers may want to go back and read some of the novels that appeared earlier in this series.  I know that will be true for me.  I give this a rating of 4 out of 5.

This novel is published by HQN Books and is being released in June, 2012.

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