Big Sky Baby

Cowboy Courage

Hailey’s Hero


In Love With The Bronc Rider
by Judy Duarte
(Silh. Spec. Ed. # 1907, $4.99, PG)  ISBN 0-373-24907-1
In Love With the Bronc Rider is a tough book to review and rate because of a number of factors.  There are issues with the characters, the plotline and at times, the pacing. However, there is just something very likable about it.

Matt Clayton is one of three brothers who are related because they were adopted by a woman who had a ranch, a big heart and a need to feel better after the death of her husband.  Matt had been an orphan and was being raised by an alcoholic and at times, abusive uncle when he stumbled upon his new family.  Now grown, he is recovering from an auto accident that left him with broken legs and his fiancée and her son dead.  He has not forgiven himself for the accident, even though it was technically not his fault.

Tori McKenzie is hiding away, figuratively speaking, at the Rocking C ranch serving as the new maid and part-time cook.  She was an ER nurse in another town in Texas, when her brother decided to steal drugs and create a scandal that she couldn’t recover from.  At about the same time, Tori found her sister kissing her fiancé, an intern at the hospital.  Feeling angry and dejected, she left the job she loved and is nursing her wounds in relative isolation (no pun intended).

Tori and Matt are leery at first, but as they warm up to each other, they realize they share an attraction. As they come to know each other, they see that they can help each other.  Tori is determined to help Matt realize that just because he can’t ride broncs anymore and is missing his fiancée, he can’t give up on living. Matt, meanwhile, decides that Tori will need to give her brother a second chance if she is to get over his deception.  They can each see the other’s way to living, but not their own.

Matt and Tori have chemistry and there are times that it shines.  They have some great foreplay interactions and bantering that makes the reader smile.  However, there is a lot to believe and muddle through to get to the happy ending.

First, Tori is portrayed as the caretaker for her brother and sister, almost the enabler for the family to have survived the deaths of her parents. Yet, she just up and abandons them, including her elderly grandmother.  She turns her back on nursing. She is worried that she won’t get a good reference. However she makes it plain that she resigned following a stern reprimand.  I struggled to understand how that would translate into a poor reference.

Second, Matt is in a wheelchair. At first, it seems like he has to be in the chair and this has destroyed his chance at bronc riding.  But as the story goes on, we discover that Matt just needs to go to physical therapy and he can walk again.  My feelings jump from sympathetic about his outcome to annoyance at his self-pitying attitude.  His prognosis is full recovery, but his bones will be too weak to ride. There are plenty of other choices for him. I struggled with this side of him for a good portion of the book.

Sometimes when reviewing romance stories, it is important to remember why a reader picks up a book. Often it is for escapism and always it is for a feel-good sensation.  If some passionate interludes occur, that is good.  If there is a deep and abiding plotline that stays with you, that is even better. A combination of all is often great. So the bottom line is: does the story make me feel good and is it enjoyable to read? 

In Love With the Bronc Rider is one of those stories that requires the reviewer to go back to those roots. It is not deep and there are a lot of coincidences and barely believable plot elements that made me cringe at times.  The ending came quickly and some of the actions by both the main characters left me scratching my head. But at the end of the day, despite the misgivings, I did feel good when I had finished it. That has to count for something. 

--Shirley Lyons

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