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The Wrangler
by Lindsay McKenna
(HQN, $7.99, PG-13) 978-0-373-77689-4
Val Hunter has returned home to Wyoming after spending six years in the Air Force. Her grandmother, known to everyone as Gus, takes care of the family ranch, which is currently in disarray. With her age and recent hip injury, she needs help with the Bar H Ranch so Val has returned to the place she didn’t think she would ever come back to after suffering an abusive childhood.

Griff McPherson is from Wall Street and lost everything in the crash. He returns to Wyoming, hoping the twin brother he was separated from, as a child will take him in. When that situation goes amiss (occurs in a previous book, but is briefly described in this one) Griff is left to find his own way. So he’s working at a local feed store and renting a room in town.

Val and Gus know that the first step in bringing back the Bar H Ranch is to hire a wrangler. Val visits the local Horse Emporium to see what her options are and the owner introduces her to Griff. There is an instant attraction there, but Val knows that nothing good comes out of relationships. While she tries to concentrate on the task at hand and not look like a shy schoolgirl, Val knows that Griff is the best option on short notice, so she hires him for the job. The real test will come sharing a house with Griff since the bunkhouse was previously destroyed.

Western / Cowboy romances are one of my favorites. I had high hopes for The Wrangler, but am unfortunately disappointed. The narrative goes around in circles with the same background and summary of the situation repeated unnecessarily several times throughout. That would not normally ruin a story for me, but the FBI / drug trafficking plot was a “jump the shark” moment that lost me. It takes away from the characters and their relationship, which is the best part of romance novels.

Reader’s more familiar with Lindsay McKenna’s work may disagree, but unfortunately, I cannot recommend The Wrangler.

--Nichole Howell

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