The Christmas Cowboy by Shanna Hatfield ~ Review

The Christmas Cowboy by Shanna Hatfield

Christmas Cowboy pic

If you are looking for a sweet and clean romance, slightly fluffy, but with no crudeness or sex, then this is the read for you. It is one of my favorite romances, with a western flavor, and Christmas related to boot.

Tate Morgan grew up on a ranch; it’s his way of life. On top of that, he is a talented bronc rider taking awards on the rodeo circuit. As you read this story, you are either going to think to yourself, “Is this guy real? He’s too good to be true” or “Ok, what’s his game?” But it turns out that he’s a genuinely nice guy who loves life and people. He’s surrounded by women fans. Sometimes they get on his nerves because of their aggressiveness. He would rather do the chasing when it comes to finding one that would fit into his life. So far, he hasn’t found one he can picture living with and having a family with. Then he meets Kenzie Beckett.

one gift is life altering

Kenzie Beckett is a little shy when it comes to cowboys. She’s had some bad experiences. But secretly she really likes Tate Morgan once she gets to know him. The problem is she believes all cowboys are players. So when she thinks she sees evidence of that in Tate, she runs. The best part of the story is how they resolved this issue.

There’s a lot of great humor in this story. That’s one of my favorite parts of this book. I enjoy laughing, and the give and take Tate and Kenzie share is wonderful. And Tate’s friends are great guys too. That’s good writing on the part of the author.

Christmas manger

From time to time I enjoy an uncomplicated plot, especially around the holidays. I find it enjoyable to read a more simple story between larger novels with complex plots and scenes, and non-fiction books. This fits very well in that category. If you enjoy a great, clean story with a feel good romance, a clear cut hero and heroine, a happily after, (and yeah, it’s formulaic) then I recommend this book for you.

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Plots and Pans by Kelly Eileen Hake ~ Review ~

Plots and Pans by Kelly Eileen Hake

Plots and Pans

Jessalyn was bold and independent enough to take risks, such as the risk of breaking her neck climbing down stealthily out of dorm room windows to rendezvous with her horse Morning Glory in early mornings or afternoons. She was bold and rebellious enough to eschew four different boarding schools in seven years, and brash and daring enough to board a ship crossing the ocean to America hrom an English port–alone. She was bold and foolish enough to take a train and eventually a stagecoach, alone, to Texas and the Bar None ranch, her home. To top it off, she was bold and skilled enough on her horse, dressed in split skirts that looked like chaps, a Stetson and common duster and a scarf over her face to approach the ranch and pass for an itinerant hand, given a job, a bunk and a meal by the ranch boss, Tucker Carmichael.

Jessalyn Culpepper was certainly resourceful and inventive, but it was 1879 and bucking convention could bring with it heartache, so once she was established at the ranch under the care of her Aunt Desta, spunky Jess worked hard to fit in.

Tucker Carmichael was not only the foreman for Carson Culpepper’s Bar None ranch, he was part owner. Before his death, Carson charged his son Ed, and Tucker with Jess’s care. Tucker took that job to heart, perhaps a bit too much, especially after he had seen her. What happens when spunk and impulsive meets responsible, stubborn and controlling?

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Jess’s objection to Tucker’s watchfulness was fueled by a strong need to belong and an underlying anger at being abandoned by her father just when she needed him most. She viewed Tucker’s protection as a lack of respect for her as an individual, restricting her freedom to become a part of the ranch operations. Tucker saw Jess as his responsibility, keeping her safe from harm as he promised her father. But his overbearing control was also a knee-jerk reaction to what he perceived as his failure to protect her seven years earlier. The event that led to her removal from the ranch had serious repercussions for years to come. The two locked horns frequently.

Their conflicts came to a head when Tucker was forced to include the two women on the ranch’s cattle drive north to market, after they’d lost their original camp cook. For the first time, Jess and Tucker had to work together toward a common goal.

I loved the author’s attention to detail, especially in her description of the round-up, the preparations the women had to make for the drive, and the meals cooked for these events. I could easily picture all of it in my mind from her detailed accounts. It gave this book a unique point of view, from the cook’s perspective.

Another thing I appreciated about this story is the relationship between Aunt Desta and Jess that developed in the short span of time this book covers. The author skillfully conveys the warmth of understanding between the more mature woman and young Jess, who needs Desta for spiritual guidance as well as her friendship and the sense of family she was deprived of for so many years. It was Desta who ferreted out that under her bold and brash exterior Jess was insecure and in need of stability and a sense of belonging. And it was Desta who realized that Jess’s attitude toward God reflected her feelings of anger and abandonment from her father because he sent her away to school. Through the hardships of the cattle drive, Desta played an important role in helping Jess resolve these issues.

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Thirdly, I enjoyed see the evolving relationship between Jess and Tucker. Both needed to dig deeply inside themselves to find compromises they could live with. Their journey toward a romance was filled with potholes, but endearing nevertheless. I enjoyed how the author used humor to help iron out some of those wrinkles. Overall, this was a fun book to read and I can heartily recommend it.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received a complimentary review copy of this book from NetGalley on behalf of Barbour Publishing, Inc. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

 

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Stuck Together (Trouble in Texas Bk 3) by Mary Connealy ~ Review ~

Stuck Together (Trouble in Texas Bk.3) by Mary Connealy

Stuck Together

Although this book is the third one of a series, it reads independently very well. By the time I finished Stuck Together, I knew enough about the back story of the supporting characters to realize I wanted to read their stories too. This author is new to me, but I enjoy her writing style enough that I look forward to finding the first two books in this series to catch up.

The reader opens up chapter one and jumps in with both feet into a hilarious account of a skirmish outside the town’s saloon. The account may just make you reminisce about a Laurel and Hardy comedy routine. And to think it was all started by the diminutive Tina as she picketed outside the bar in protest of the liquor sold there.

From that point on, the pace does not slacken as we read about the little town of Broken Wheel, Texas. Just a few years after the Civil War, four men who had fought together and suffered together as prisoners of war settled in the dusty desert town located deep in Indian Territory where they didn’t belong. But they were tolerated by the local Kiowa tribe. Their adventures and efforts to settle the area encompasses the scope of The Trouble in Texas series.

Vince Yates, known among his buddies as Invincible Vince during the war, was the town’s lawyer and sheriff. Ever since his friend Jonas’ sister arrived to stay, he had been fighting his attraction to her. He was hesitant to marry because of his family background. He believed he had the potential for the cruel rage he experienced from his father’s hand as a young boy. Even worse, there was the possibility of inheriting a trait from his mother’s side of the family: dementia. That would make him a burden to a family, and he was dead set against doing that to anyone.

Tina Cahill may be tiny in stature, but is definitely mighty in spirit. She had been raised by her maiden aunt after her parents’ death. The aunt was not thrilled but she performed her duty readily though not lovingly. Tina did not know what it was like to be loved. But she was feisty and determined to do what she considered her mission in life, hence the protests outside the saloon doors. There in the tiny town, she discovered the love of family through acceptance of Jonas’ friends. She was especially drawn to the sheriff. When circumstances kept throwing Vince and Tina together, both silently fought their demons to keep an emotional distance. But it seemed God had other plans for them.

Stuck Together Quote1

I thoroughly enjoyed the humorous undertones all throughout the book. The author used it to bring balance to some of the serious issues Vince and Tina had to deal with. One moment we are laughing over some witty conversation, while the next Vince is feeling the pain of a mother who had forgotten who he was.

Besides the humor, there are other things I liked about this story. First, I enjoy a good historical fiction that’s set in the old west. It affords the reader a good adventure tale, with plenty of action, conflict and resolution. The author uses these conflicts to demonstrate character traits that the reader can appreciate, such as courage, initiative, intelligence, problem solving, kindness, and determination. And the circumstances also serve to improve a person’s inner character as they work their way through their problems. This is true in Vince’s case, since he needed to resolve within himself just who he was in God’s eyes.

In addition to adventure and action, this is a good clean romance without the foul language we sometimes see in romances today. The men are rugged but decent. The women are hard working individuals who are not shy about pitching in, yet refined enough to be feminine. The few children in the story were not holy terrors. As unrealistic as some may think this is, it is written well and feels just right. I highly recommend this book.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received a complimentary review copy of this book from Bethany House Publisher’s review program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

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Caught in the Middle (Ladies of Caldwell County Book #3) by Regina Jennings ~Review~

Caught in the Middle by Regina Jennings

Caught in the Middle

Annie Oakley, move over to make room for Dead-Eye Anne. In this historical western, Anne grew up in the woods of Ohio without a mother, with a father who at best paid little attention to his daughter besides providing her a roof over her head. After a short abusive marriage, she’s shunned any suspicious attention from men, working in Indian Territory as a buffalo hunter and wearing the rough clothing of a man to disguise her figure. She has trusted no one but herself; she’s callous, tough, hard as nails, and vulnerable.

When the hunt group’s cook ran away, Anne was sent to Garber to bring her back or hire another cook. One of the train’s male passengers attempted a foolish rescue of one of the young ladies during a hold-up and got a gun aimed at his head for his efforts. When the leader ordered him killed, Anne had no choice but to rescue him using her considerable sharp-shooting skills. Nicholas Lovelace was in her debt.

In a series of wacky turn of events, the cook Anne sought ran off leaving her baby for Anne to take care of. No one could have been more ill-suited for that task than she. Anne knew the baby’s father and set out to track him down and make him take responsibility for the baby himself. But that was easier said than done.

Nicholas Lovelace lived in Garber, TX as transportation expert. He supplied the lumber to the local railroad magnate. Nick was not who Anne expected. Even though she knew of him in the past through her friendship with his sister, Molly, Anne had him pegged as a dandy and pencil pusher. But his heroism during the train robbery surprised her. And he kept surprising her the more she was around him. Once Tessa, the baby’s mom, disappeared, Nick helped Anne find a suitable place to stay in Garber and provided her with employment to pay for her lodging.

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I have to admit that this is one of the most unusual westerns I have ever read. The author keeps the reader guessing just how this story could possibly end, especially when Anne becomes attached to little Sammy. Nick and Anne make an odd couple, even when they are working together to take care of the baby. In the end, however, the author makes it all work out. The two adults are like iron against iron, and they grow as individuals, even in their relationship to God. I enjoyed reading this story. If you like non-stop action, western historical fiction and light romance, then you’ll enjoy this book.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received a complimentary review copy of this book from The Book Club Network on behalf of Bethany House Publishers. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

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Journey to Riverbend: A Novel by Henry McLaughlin ~ Review ~

Journey to Riverbend: A Novel by Henry McLaughlin

Journey to Riverbend

Journey to Riverbend is one of those books that is a stand alone, yet with potential for much more. This first time author writes such magnetic characters with unique living and breathing voices that I have had the desire to move to Riverbend to get to know its people better. Even the unsavory residents add to the town’s charm and vitality. The action is so driving that I couldn’t put the book down once I started reading.

The opening scene is the hanging of a gangly young man whom the main character, Michael Archer, is convinced is innocent. Young Ben’s final request was to ask Michael to visit his estranged father, Sam Carstairs, to deliver some letters, an item Ben cherished of his mother’s, and attempt a postmortem reconciliation of some sort.

Michael Archer brought along a letter of recommendation from his friend Sheriff Gideon Parsons to take to Riverbend’s Sheriff to elicit his assistance in his efforts. Sheriff Caleb Davis was as good as Parsons in reading character, and this lean and tough young man didn’t appear to be the typical kind for ministerial duties. It made him curious to know Michael’s life story. He knew this task would be difficult because although Sam Carstairs was the town’s benefactor, he was ruthless and hard as nails.

In the meantime, Sam Carstairs had traveled to San Francisco for business, an annual event. On the return trip, he received two disturbing threatening notes. Then in the last leg of his journey he was abducted. As soon as news of the kidnapping reached Riverbend, Sheriff Davis organized a search posse and included Michael Archer.

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This is one of the best books I have read set in the Old Wild West. The author’s descriptive language is powerful. The setting as well as the characters came alive as we follow Michael along his personal, spiritual, and physical journey. The reader realizes that the title of the book is multi-dimensional as the story picks up on Sam Carstairs own harrowing experiences and the baffling behavior of his abductors.

The book is full of the gritty elements of life in the Old Wild West. Evil is honestly portrayed for what it is and well written in contrast to the good seen in the lives of several of the members of the posse and village. Michael is a strong Christian with a mission in mind, but even he has his demons to deal with. I would rate this book at PG13 because of the multiple incidences where evil triumphs momentarily. Yet while this is true, the Gospel message is strong without being preachy. The author manages to balance the two contrasting characteristics in such a manner that neither is overwhelming. If the author were to write 100 more of this type of book, I would read and recommend all.

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However, I can’t emphasize enough to parents of teens and pre-teens to exercise caution. There is nothing in the book to compromise the Judeo-Christian values, yet some incidences may be upsetting to those sensitive to brutality. This is a book written for adults, not for children.

There are several supporting characters in this book just begging for a story of their own, or at least for a bit more resolution. This includes the love interest of the main character, Rachel Stone. I sincerely hope this means the author intends to write more.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received a copy of this book from Tyndale House Publishers. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

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