Judy Christenberry has written a satisfactory entry in the “Brides for Brothers” series, this time set at Christmas and involving a healing love. It stands alone, but will probably be more enjoyable to those following the series, as there are many characters from past stories making appearances.
Russ Randall is just plodding along in his life, hiding away from emotion following the death of his wife and expected child. His family despairs that he will never come out of his depression and truly live his life again. In Rawhide, Wyoming, Russ is surrounded by family, yet has not been to the home ranch for 18 months.
He happens upon a car stranded on the road in the beginning of a blizzard. A young woman gets in his car with a newborn baby. With no choice but to take her to his apartment, he discovers the woman is ill with a high fever. He cares for her and her baby while the blizzard rages. Little baby Angela (called Angel by her mother) captures his heart. Little does Russ realize that the mother will soon do the same.
Isabella Paloni has left her family’s home following the death of her husband, a man she did not love or respect. She is also running from her father, a harsh man only concerned about his son and heir. Rich and powerful, he thinks he can tell Isabella what to do. She has had enough. She decides to run to a little-known aunt in Rawhide. Upon her arrival, and after her recuperation, she discovers her aunt has died and left her controlling interest in her father’s company. With a little bit of convoluted logic, she and Russ decide to marry - a modern day marriage of convenience. Russ gets to be the daddy of Angel and Izzy gets someone to protect Angel from her father.
There are many plot twists and turns to lead to the final outcome, including manipulations by Izzy’s father to get control of the stock, a chance for Izzy to grow to love the Randall clan and a chance for Russ to fall in love again.
Although generally a heartwarming story, there are a few plot movements that seem stilted and unrealistic. The fact that this family openly embraces a stranger as their son’s savior seems a little farfetched, even for small town America. The whole feud between Izzy and her father opens many more questions than it answers. And the majority of the reason for Russ’ angst comes from what is apparently covered in a previous book. This leaves a little hole, but one that can be overcome.
Luckily, Izzy is a strong woman who doesn’t let Russ push her around. She truly loves her daughter and acts to protect her. Her lack of self-esteem in relationships is annoying at first, but more easily understood as her full story unfolds.
Russ is a bull-headed male who acts macho, but also has a softer side. His family brings that side out and his willingness to love a child not his own is endearing, yet presents the biggest difficulty. He made a very abrupt turnaround - from a sullen son who won’t attend family gatherings to a devoted father of a stranger’s child. Ultimately, the strengths of his character won out over this seeming dichotomy.
As someone who has not read the series before, the characters vast array was daunting to keep straight. There are brothers, aunts, uncles and cousins that all blended together at times. Since all these people have apparently had their own stories, others may not find this a problem.
With all that said, I still enjoyed the romance and was hoping Izzy and Russ could work things out. For a generally charming holiday romance, especially if you have been following the series, give Randall Wedding a try.