Reviewed by Helyce
Caleb Stone has always put his family first. When he was barely an adult himself, he took on running the family’s ranch and the raising of his siblings. He later married, had his two daughters and when his wife up and left him, he once again re-arranged his priorities to make sure his daughters knew they were loved. But the job of running a ranch is huge and when his sister decides to leave the ranch to pursue her dreams at the same time his sister Dare moves out to be with the man she loves, he is forced to bring on someone to help with not only taking care of the girls, but running the household.
Tamara lost her job as a nurse when she did something that was against the rules, though it was done with the best of intentions. She’s not sorry for what she did because she feels it was the right thing to do, but the hospital had no choice but to make an example of her. Unable to continue nursing, she jumps at the chance to move to Heart Falls. It’s exactly the kind of fresh start that she needs.
Though she may have bitten off more than she’s prepared to chew. Caleb Stone’s young daughters don’t make it easy for her to do her job. Sasha and Emma are still dealing with their feelings and the fact that their mother left them. Too young to understand they are in no way to blame, they are leary of anyone, especially a woman, coming into their home as they are so afraid of getting left behind…again.
It doesn’t help that Tamara and Caleb have chemistry, and while they don’t exactly deny it, they realize that acting on it could cause a whole new set of problems.
As a long time fan of Ms. Arend, I was thrilled to learn that she was continuing to write about her handsome cowboys and their families. Spinning off from her last book in the Six Pack Ranch series featuring the Coleman clan, we see Tamara Coleman of the Whiskey Creek Coleman’s venture away from home to take a job as a nanny with the Stone Family. We see some brief interaction between Caleb and Tamara in Rocky Mountain Home (Six Pack Ranch #11) and it’s clear that there is some serious chemistry going on there.
I really liked Tamara. Her big personality and the fact that she is not afraid to speak her mind made her exactly the kind of woman Caleb needed on the ranch. Since Caleb hires Tamara solely based on the recommendation of his sister Dare, he really only had Dare’s word that Tamara would be a good fit. Tamara’s take charge attitude was exactly what Caleb needed-he didn’t have time to hold her hand and walk her through anything and he appreciated that. Of course Tamara meets with some resistance where his daughter’s are concerned.
Caleb’s daughters Sasha and Emily are portrayed quite realistically throughout the story. Sasha is older and is very protective of her younger sister Emily. Emily stopped speaking when her mother left and often allows Sasha to speak for her. She does speak, of course, but only to her father and sister and always in very quiet or whispered tones. The reason for this is revealed in the story and it was an emotional punch to the gut to learn. I really like how Arend chose to handle Emma’s character. The issue of her not speaking is always present, but not dwelled upon. I loved how Tamara handled the situation when she learns the reasons why Emma stopped speaking and that when Emma does begin to speak, it showed her acceptance of Tamara as someone she could love and trust.
I liked how Tamara slowly moves in and doesn’t try to take over. She is observant and picks up on little things that the family does and follows along. She’s careful and works hard to fit in so that the transition is easy for everyone, especially Sasha and Emma. As she gets comfortable, though, we do see her take charge personality come through and all of it is positive and helpful to Caleb.
The romance was really slow. The reader knows of the attraction but Caleb and Tamara do not act on it at all. There is flirting disguised as bickering and some verbal innuendo, but for the most part, there is no action until the last third of the book. I understand the need for this-Caleb’s daughters needed to be first and their feelings and emotions needed to be considered. But for me, the wait to allow Caleb and Tamara’s true feelings to come forth seemed rushed and crammed into the last 30%.
Arend became a favorite author of mine because not only does she write about sexy cowboys, she gives us families who love and take care of each other. Even when the young men are out sowing their oats and making conquests, their true character and strong family connections help to tether them and help them do the right thing. Her portrayal of ranch life also rings true. The difficulties and hardships occur and feel realistically portrayed, so much so that as a reader I can honestly admit to wishing I lived on a ranch!
That continues in this new series as we get to know the Stone family. Arend does a great job of giving us a clear picture of each and every one of Caleb’s brothers with some not too subtle hints of their possible love interests. I really do look forward to watching the Stone brothers fall in love.