Dr. Ellie Webster is the new vet in Salt River, Wyoming having purchased the practice of retiring vet Dr. Ben Webster. The town is amazed when Dr. Webster sold it to her rather than to his nephew Steve Nichols, the local vet.
But Ellie’s practice is floundering. She not only has a label of “California Girl” but she has introduced to the small town the concept of using acupuncture when other remedies fail. Her California experience had been centered on treating horses, and Matt Harte owns about the largest horse ranch in the area. Influential, he has made no secret of his opinions about the use of acupuncture and women handling large animals.
Matt and Ellie are each single parents of a fourth grade daughter. Matt’s daughter is shy and retiring and Ellie’s daughter is the antithesis, the classic extrovert. They have bonded as best friends and even Matt can see the improvement in Lucy. Dylan is responsible for hatching the plot to make them sisters, but finds in Lucy a willing accomplice.
In order to throw their parents together so “they can get to know each other and get married” they sign them up to co-chair the Valentine Carnival. The teacher, although suspicious, calls them in to discuss it. Blindsided by their children’s antics, they are easily blackmailed by guilt into agreeing to serve together.
Matt distrusts all urban women, since his wife had abandoned him and Lucy for city life. Ellie, a product of the foster care system will do what is necessary to maintain her independence and to give Dylan a normal life with a single parent. Neither is looking for a relationship, but the reader knows one will evolve.
In reality, Lucy and Dylan play huge roles in this book, and that is what makes a tired plot line work. Thayne appears to be equally at home creating complex children as well as complex adult characters and the story is greatly enriched for it. She captures the essence of small town living, equally at home again highlighting its prejudices as well as its many advantages.
Thayne leaves the reader with a real sense of Wyoming and an enjoyable insight into preteen girl’s minds, in addition to being treated to a steamy romance.