Reviewed by Helyce
Caleb Graham didn’t want to be a rancher. Not after he’d met Brody Armstrong, the Texas Ranger assigned to the case when his parents were killed and his youngest brother Benjamin was kidnapped. Now, five years later, that’s exactly what he is, a Texas Ranger. He rarely gets home to the Circle Eight. Though he misses his family, all they do is grumble about how he never comes home even when he does. So he keeps to himself, preferring the often solitary life of a Ranger. When he’s assigned the task of removing a squatter on some land that the Republic of Texas has seized, he was in no way prepared for the woman he would meet and everything that followed that meeting.
Aurora “Rory” Foster is a blacksmith and she is talented and damn good in the forge. An only child, her father saw nothing wrong with teaching her his trade when she showed a talent in it. When her parents died, Rory and her husband took over the homestead and Rory took over the forge. Nobody cared that she was a woman doing a man’s job. So much so, that when her own husband died, she continued on just as she always had.
When Caleb shows up to remove Rory Foster from the now government owned land he is shocked to find that Rory Foster is a woman; a stubborn woman who is not going to give up her home and everything she owns just because he says so. She’s prepared to fight and fight she does. When Rory gets hurt and Caleb is forced to find a doctor, he could never imagine the series of events that would follow.
Caleb is book three in this series that follows the lives of the eight Graham children who struggle to manage their ranch after the horrific death of their parents and the kidnapping of their youngest brother Benjamin. It is about five years later, and Caleb has become the Ranger that he wanted to be after meeting Brody Armstrong, the man who would become his sister Olivia’s husband. He’d always looked up to Brody and when he realized he wanted to be a Ranger, he left the farm and his family to do just that. When he’s sent to remove Rory Foster, her injury begins a chain of events that he had never imagined.
This one started off a bit slow for me, but that changed very quickly once Caleb arrives at Rory’s homestead. Rory was a complete surprise and I loved her immediately. She’s only in her early 20’s but her own life tragedies-losing her parents and her husband-have made her a very strong and self sufficient woman. When Caleb arrives to tell her that the government has seized her property because women cannot inherit land, she’s furious. She has no intention of leaving her forge, her only way of making money and supporting herself. She puts up a great fight, and when she’s injured Caleb takes her to the only doctor in town.
This is where the story really takes off! In getting Rory help, Caleb inadvertently stumbles upon his missing brother Benjamin and his once simple task of removing a squatter becomes a rescue mission. Trying to figure out how to escape with Benjamin and an injured Rory is a daunting task, but he refuses to leave her behind because he knows what Garza will do to her if he does.
Caleb, Rory and Benjamin make their escape, but they are in no way out of the woods. They will all deal with so many obstacles along the way, the least of which is Caleb and Rory’s blossoming attraction to each other. They are 200 miles from the safety of the Circle 8 ranch but they are determined to get there.
The original story arc of Benjamin’s kidnapping is tied up nicely in here and I was so glad that he was found this early in the series and that the author didn’t drag it out making it the source of constant pain for the family over the course of several years. As it is, he’s 10 or 11 now, so he’d been missing for five years. What does not come out is what he actually went through over that time. He’s mute when Caleb finds him and doesn’t start speaking again till much later in the story and even then he doesn’t say much. I assume at some point, we’ll learn what he’s been through and at this point I’d rather not speculate.
I loved that the author paired Caleb with a woman like Rory. From the outside, she looks like a tomboy-short hair, trousers, and she’s stick thin without any curves-but she’s tough and from the moment they meet Caleb sees her as a woman even when she’s doing her worst. Caleb, of course, is the hot gorgeous muscular cowboy and those attributes do not escape Rory’s notice. But no matter what is thrown at her, Rory perseveres. It’s a fight for them to find that place where they can be a couple because Rory is so not a typical woman of this time. She’s lived like a man for years and I really enjoyed watching Caleb fall for her as she is and not try to change her.
This installment is filled with much more action and adventure than the previous books and the ride is fast paced and enjoyable once we get going. Finding Benjamin will go a long way in helping this family heal from their loss and I really look forward to watching the remaining siblings grow up and to see where the author plans to go.