Taking the Reins
by Kat Murray
(Brava, $9.95, PG-13) ISBN 978-07582-8104-3
****
Kat Murrayís debut story is the start of a trilogy about the Muldoon family. While their parentage was nothing to write home about, their inheritance is the M-Star ranch. Oldest brother Trace is a rodeo rider and hasnít been home since he hit eighteen. Little sister Beatrice is now a TV soap opera star and she not only hasnít been seen near the ranch, she hasnít even responded to calls. That leaves Peyton, middle girl child to run the ranch. And Peyton couldnít be happier. She grew up learning about riding and ranching. Her degree did nothing but whet her appetite. She was there when her mother was running it into the ground and now, at her death, she is determined to build their reputation back up.

First order of business is to fire the trainer, a man who only had the job because her mother was sleeping with him. He was also skimming money, but Peyton decided to let that go if he just would leave quietly. She had enough to contend with without the bad press the publicity would bring. She decides to hire a trainer renowned for his charm and most importantly, his horse sense. But she doesnít have to like it.

Redford Callahan, known as Red, is the best. He has made his living moving from place to place, helping and putting in training techniques and procedures that will make a ranch work better because the cowboys are handling the stock better. His theory is simple, treat the animal right; get to know the animal and adjust to it, rather than making the horse adjust to the rider, and you will have success. Red is attracted to Peyton, and tried to convince himself that this is not a job he should take. But there is a pull he cannot deny and it might even convince him to set down some roots. Peyton dislikes him due to some partial conversation she overheard but she needs him. He finally agrees to take on her work and soon knows they can make a good team.

The tale is well written, moving through their relationship building. There are some unforeseen issues that pop up Ė a twist in the will for the ranch, Redís no-good father showing up to cause hassles and some mysterious break-ins. These and the time needed to develop their relationship and introduce the cast of characters for the three books, take up some of the space. At times, this causes the pace to slow. Some of the interactions seem redundant, but in the end, sets the stage nicely for both Trace and Beaís stories.

What carries the tale is the chemistry between Peyton and Red. Both are strong-willed, yet gentle people, who have had to work for what they have. Both recognize that you make of your life what you will by making the right choices. Now they just have to convince the other that they are a choice in the right direction. I enjoyed their journey and look forward to reading the other two stories. That is enough to recommend Taking the Reins and this talented new author.

--Shirley Lyons


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