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Monday, January 4, 2010

The Rebel Rancher by Mary Eason

The Rebel Rancher by Mary Eason
Publisher: Whiskey Creek Press
Genre: Contemporary
Length: Full (186 pages)
Heat: Sweet
Rating: 3.5 Books
Reviewed by Mimosa

Alec Standing’s cousin Drake Everette is obsessed with becoming the next governor of Texas and accomplishing what his father couldn’t, but Alec isn’t prepared to let Drake sacrifice everything, including the woman he professes to love, in the process. So when Drake comes up with a sure-fire plan to win the election using Grace Richmond, the daughter of one of Texas’ most politically strong families and Drake’s long time friends, Alec decides its time to put an end to his cousin’s little scheme before it gets way out of hand and someone—namely Grace—gets hurt.

In The Rebel Rancher, Mary Eason weaves a tapestry depicting the selfishness of political ambition; the loneliness of a man who has never known love as he approaches mid-life; the vulnerability of a young woman who faces a future of uncertainty; and the fear and anger of a woman who believes she is about to lose the love of her life -- all done Texas-style and on a grand Texas scale.

Handsome and ambitious Drake Everette has a problem and he's called his cousin, Alec Standing, for help. As a candidate for governor of Texas, Drake has been convinced by his handlers that his bachelorhood will cost him votes, perhaps enough to lose the election. At the same time, he believes he cannot marry his girlfriend, Jackie Rodriguez, whom he has loved for years, before the election, as her family history can only be considered a political liability.

Drake's solution is to carry on a pretend-engagement until he is safely ensconced in the governor's mansion; then he'll find a "nice, discreet way" to break off the fake engagement and marry Jackie. He believes that once he has proven himself with the voters, they will accept her.

Alec disapproves of Drake's plan, and is appalled when he discovers that the identity of Drake's fake fiance is Grace Richmond, the daughter of recently deceased philanthropists who were friends with Drake's parents. Alec is even more appalled when he learns that Drake has summoned Grace to Texas without apprising her of his plans.

With grave misgivings he agrees to meet Grace at the airport and drive her to the hotel; but starting with the moment he sees the lovely, vulnerable twenty-something, he increasingly finds himself embroiled in an untenable situation, torn between his desire to protect her from his cousin's callous plans and his need to protect his own heart.

Eason has given us complex characters that step beyond stereotypes and evoke a spectrum of emotions in the reader. I found myself impatient with both the shortsighted, thoughtless Drake and the emotionally hot-and-cold Alec, but for very different reasons. Grace's journey from uncertainty after the death of her parents to a woman learning to make her own way is inspiring. My favorite character, though, was the fiery Jackie and I found myself wondering what she saw in the shallow politician, Drake.

The story presented a few minor problems for me, such as the age gap between Alec and Grace and the physical liberties he takes with her when they're virtual strangers. There was a little bit too much telling. And while the dialog was authentic and believable, the characters' inner monologues were not quite as natural.

Moreover, I would like to have known a little more about why Alec had never fallen in love, and why Drake and Jackie had not married in early adulthood, since their relationship went back to their teen years. But these small flaws are not insurmountable to readers who enjoy sweet romances with a hint of sensual tension, and who love Texas locations, characters and color.