Cimarron Rose

Hallieís Hero

Jake's Angel

Sawyerís Special Delivery

 
The Rancherís Second Chance
by Nicole Foster
(Silh. Spec. Ed. # 1841, $4.99, PG) ISBN 0-373-24841-5
**
If you can buy that two people could grow up and be together since they were kids, only to separate when it was time to go to college, and then for thirteen years they donít see or hear about the other, only to reunite and still be in love, then you can believe this story and probably will enjoy it. Of course, you have to like a hero who is often morose and is more than just a little reticent to show his feelings. And you have to like heroines who keep coming back for more, despite the pain associated with the rejections. The Rancherís Second Chance wonít be for everyone.

Julene Santiago is the daughter of the veterinarian in Luna Hermosa and she expected to follow in his footsteps. But she was in love with Rafe Garrett, the half-Native American adopted son of Jed Garrett, who owns the largest spread in the area. Rafeís parents died in an accident and Jed adopted the son of his ranch foreman. But neither of their parents approved of the match (why is never quite explained) and after one night of making love when they were 18, they went their separate ways with lots of hurt feelings. Jule went to school and started her career. She never really dated and never really had any type of relationship in all those years. Rafe stayed at the ranch, pretty much shutting himself off from most people, including his three half-brothers. He too, had no real relationships and still loves Jule, although he will never admit it.

Now she is back to take over for her father, who has a broken hip. One of his primary patients is Rafe and his herd of bison, who have been plagued by some type of sickness. Jule and Rafe work to save the herd, while trying to ignore their still tender feelings for the other. There are complications galore, including Rafeís American Indian family, his love/hate relationship with Jed and his brothers, Juleís parental disapproval of her relationship with Rafe and Rafeís feeling of thinking he is never good enough for Jule.

That is a lot of baggage to shuffle through and at times, the struggle seems forced. Rafe pushes Jule away for no real reason other than a sense of stubborn pride. Jule just keeps coming back for more. There are plenty of stops and starts in their feelings and they are not always kind to each other. There is backstory that seems missing, including the whole unhealthy relationship Jed has with all his sons and the history of how Rafe and his brothers became so estranged. This may have been covered in a previous installment, but it definitely leaves lots of questions here. Because there is a missing element, some of the more poignant moments of reconciliation lose their power.

Jule is hard to figure out. One minute she is a strong personality that garners admiration for all that she has accomplished. Then she is a wimp, almost begging Rafe to let her into his life. This unevenness in her character made it difficult to fully embrace her as a likeable heroine.

Rafe is a really tortured hero, but again, the why is missing in a lot of this. His whole relationship with his adopted father is paramount to why he feels about himself the way he does, and yet, it is very cursorily explored with any detail. It is like the authors (who share a pseudonym) forgot to give the reader some of the pertinent history. This lack makes Rafe almost cruel at times and it is hard to really like him, even when circumstances make one empathetic.

The Rancherís Second Chance is a mixed bag. There are parts of the story that are engaging, but the majority feels as if I had missed the first half of the melodrama.

--Shirley Lyons


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