After finishing Code Name: Cowboy, I discovered that it's book two in the Mustang, Montana miniseries. Mustang, Montana is "a lively little town filled with secrets, scandal, gossip – and unexpected romance at every turn (of the page)!" This story does stand alone. For purists who read a series in order, book one is Her Counterfeit Husband SIM #885.
Alice Burwell, needs a job badly. Almost out of money and sleeping in her car, she applies with Cameron Gallagher to be his housekeeper on his ranch. Although he can't articulate his reasons, he doesn't want her for the job. He notices the circles under her eyes and her defeated demeanor, but is unswayed.
What does catch his attention is that,
instead of leaving, she goes to a large tree in his front yard. Investigating, he meets Alice's six-year-old daughter Rebecca, happily ensconced in a tree house. When she announces to her mother that the tree house could be their new home, Cameron realizes that he's got to give this woman a chance.
Alice, whose real name is Alicia Randle, is in a fix that romance readers will recognize. She's widowed and her dastardly, super wealthy in-laws think that she's an unfit mother. Of course they've threatened to take the child, in this case the irrepressible Rebecca and of course, our heroine has fled. Surely the distance from Dallas to Mustang will keep her and Rebecca safe.
What gives this story is conflict is a two-prong approach. Cameron is one of those love-scarred heroes who's been hurt so badly that he's made the obligatory vow never to get involved again. His best friend/partner double-crossed him and took his gal, too. Cameron will never trust man nor woman again. Rebecca is getting to him, though. He senses that Alice is keeping secrets, but he's keeping his distance and won't pry. So we've got Cameron's vow of noninvolvement and Alice's need to keep her distance in
case she has to run, should the dastardly in-laws find her.
An improbability is Cameron's former occupation. If the story were running true to form, he would be a policeman. Not this time. Cameron is a retired bounty hunter. Imagine Alice's distress when she thinks that he may be willing to work for the highest bidder.
The truth finally comes out, voluntarily, when a man is seen in town, asking questions. Cameron reveals his tragic past, telling Alice about his double-crossing partner, just released from prison and vowing revenge. Alice explains her past, too. What happens next is a surprise, a deviation from the standard course that this plot was following.
Cameron and Alice are characters we've met before, the emotionally scarred hero and the fragile, on-the-run heroine, afraid to trust. The plot is one we've read before, done better and done worse. Rebecca is a cutie, but I can't really recommend a story on the strength of a six-year-old. As I've said in past reviews, this one is your call.