The Rancher and the Heiress
by Susan Meier
(Silh. Romance #1374, $3.50, PG) ISBN 0-373-19374-2
The Rancher and the Heiress is the third of the Texas Family Ties series. I haven't read the first two, but no secondary characters seem to be saying, "Don't you remember me? You met me in books one and/or two." There's no feeling of loose ends or missing backstory.

Alexis MacFarland hasn't seen her grandfather in eighteen years. When she finds out that he's deeded her half of his ranch, she's relieved. This inheritance may help to put her advertising agency back in the black. Her good luck changes when, not five miles from her grandfather's ranch, her rental car breaks down.

Caleb Wright, new owner of the other half of the MacFarland ranch, is on his way to a two-week vacation when he spots Alexis' broken rental car. Stopping to offer her some assistance, he's chagrined to find out that she now owns the other half. Working with a New Yorker is not his idea of a perfect partnership. He forgoes his vacation to satisfy his curiosity. What is going on?

As these two initially bristle and begin making compromises, the story fleshes out. We slowly find out why each of them has been given half a multimillion dollar ranch. While Mr. MacFarland has been estranged from his daughter and granddaughter for almost twenty years, he's been helping Cal's family, going so far as to adopt Cal's younger sister. He has love to spare.

Alexis and her mother have been wrong about the older man's motives. Mr. MacFarland is a sympathetic character who has been caught in an untenable situation and is resolving it to the best of his ability. Alexis' jealousy toward her grandfather and his 'other' family, while quite realistic, does mellow as she learns the truth about her seeming abandonment. The tangled web scenario, the reason for their separation and estrangement, is plausible, but the resolution happens too quickly, with the loose ends tied up so fast that it has a contrived feeling.

Alexis and Cal maintain a mild adversarial relationship for most of the story. She feels that Cal doesn't really care for her, while Cal thinks that this successful career woman from New York would never want to settle down in the 'wilds' of Texas.

Cal and Alexis have their moments filled with humor, joy and tenderness. Still, their hesitation, their unwillingness to admit to any deep feeling, had me wanting to shake them. Trust, inherent in a successful relationship, is a long time coming, too long to allow me to really enjoy this story.

The Rancher and the Heiress is an all right read, but there's nothing distinctive about it. Nothing's there to give it any oomph, nothing that would encourage me to go up to a stranger at a bookstore, pick up this book and try to interest them in it. With that mind set, this book couldn't be anything else but a three-heart rating.

--Linda Mowery

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