Cattleman's Bride-to-Be

Cattleman's Courtship

The Cowboy Takes a Wife

 
Jessie’s Child by Lois Faye Dyer
(Silh. Sp. Ed. #1776, $4.99, PG) ISBN 0373-24776-1
***
Jessie McCloud had a good reason to hate the Kerrigan family - a long-standing feud between the McClouds and the Kerrigans from years past. When Jessie was only 12, Harlan and Lonnie Kerrigan lied about who was driving in a car accident that killed another boy. Jessie’s brother, Chase, was not the driver but because of the Kerrigans’ testimony, he was convicted of negligent manslaughter and sent to prison. Now, 15 years later, Jessie has returned to Wolf Creek Montana with a son, four-year-old Rowdy, and a law degree. The story she has passed around is that of a long affair and short marriage gone bad. The truth is she had a one-night stand with Zach Kerrigan, who is the cousin of Lonnie and nephew of Harlan, when he was home on leave and they ran into each other in Missoula. They were both in a coffee shop when a gunman came in to rob the place. Zach saved Jessie’s life and their emotions got carried away.

Jessie made the decision not to tell Zach she was pregnant, for reasons that seemed good to her at the time. Zach told her he was in the Special Forces and was always in danger. When they parted, they acknowledged they probably had no future due in part to the family feud. And Jessie was scared of Lonnie and Harlan, who still had power in Wolf Creek.

Just after Jessie returned to town, Zach returned from his duty in the service and agreed to take over the family ranch that was left to his mother, his sister Rachel and himself. Rachel is now married, to Luke McCloud, no less. While the feud still rages, at least these two have found happiness and a tenuous peace. Zach inadvertently meets Rowdy one day and guesses the truth.

The story proceeds and centers on Zach and Jessie’s relationship as well as how Zach will fit into Rowdy’s life. No one knows the truth about Rowdy’s parentage, and the family is surprised (at the least) and feeling betrayed (at the most). Zach is angry that Jessie lied and they never had a chance. Jessie needs to find out what Zach wants from her, and then try to work out a compromise that is acceptable to them both. Her father and brothers are mad at Zach, and Zach’s sister and mother are ecstatic about having a new addition to their family.

Jessie and Zach are still attracted and the more time they spend together, the greater the attraction grows. They also like each other beyond the sexual tension. Now the question is whether they can work through the hurt and get to a place where everyone can live happily with the situation.

This book is clearly part of a series. Rachel and Luke’s story has already been presented and their love has forged a path that Zach and Jessie can follow. But there are still obstacles. First, Jessie lied, not just to Zach but to her whole family. Only her mother knew that she had never been married, but Jessie had not told her the identity of the father. Macho men like Jessie’s father and brothers believe in protecting their women. Their first reaction is to beat Zach to a pulp. The feud just adds tension.

The next installment (about Chase) is set up when Lonnie and Harlan indicate their intentions to enter state politics and you know that Chase will play a role somehow in that tale. In this story, Chase is a bit withdrawn but definitely comes through for his sister when he needs to.

I enjoyed Zach and Jessie. Rowdy is a cute little boy and adds some humor to the story. My only issue is the feud itself. It seems odd that Jessie professes hate so strongly and yet, she jumps into bed with her sworn enemy. She even went to law school to fight injustice. Does no one have control over their libido? Zach seems less worried about the chasm between the families, because he hated his cousin Lonnie and Uncle Harlan all along. But he realizes the importance of the event 15 years ago and hopes to move past the pain inflicted. The accident itself was mentioned but not really explained very well. My guess it will play a major role in Chase’s story in order to explain his demeanor.

Jessie’s Child is a story that one can enjoy, even with some twinges. I am curious to see how Chase ends up, too.

--Shirley Lyons


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