Sunday, February 28, 2010

Runaway Ranch by Cynthia Sterling

Runaway Ranch: Titled Texans Runaway Ranch: Titled Texans by Cynthia Sterling

My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Runaway Ranch was one of those books that I had no trouble reading and enjoying at all. I started it, and I got sucked right in. There's nothing particularly standout about this story. But it succeeded in being an enjoyable read when I needed one. I especially love the British Hero in the Wild West theme. And Camden is definitely that, but also a clergyman. I liked that he had a sense of honor that caused him to accept responsibility for something that he was not at all guilty of. He could have walked away from pregnant with no husband in sight Caroline, and felt not a moment's remorse. Instead, he allowed her father to think he was the father, and married her. Marrying Caroline ended up being a complication that this young vicar didn't need. He had basically been sent away from England in disgrace because of his involvement in a miner and landowner dispute, and the landowner happened to be his patron. His father, the Earl of Devonshire, was less than impressed with him, and gaining an appointment as a clergyman in Houston was his chance to redeem himself. Instead, he ended married to a pregnant girl, and working for free as a cowpuncher. But the best blessings come in disguise. Unfortunately, he will find himself in another sticky situation when tensions arise between the cowboys and the landowners. Cam was a good guy. He really wanted to do the right thing, but he also had human needs and desires. Caroline chose very wisely when she picked him as her husband.

Caroline didn't speak up when her father assumed the man who was sleeping in his barn was her baby's father, nor when he forces the very attractive young Englishman to marry her at gunpoint. But she couldn't. She had messed up big time, and something inside of her urged her to take hold of this man, as a chance to make things right. Despite these large errors in judgment, and that of chasing after and getting pregnant by an outlaw, Caroline was very likeable. In fact, her flaws made her relatable and human. She really did want what was best for Cam, and felt bad for putting a wrench in his plans. She knew that an earl's son was way too high above her reach, and was ready to let him go, until she fell in love with him. But when it's clear that she's really not the ideal bride for Cam, is she willing to let him go? She shows that she is more than willing to make a sacrifice of love, both for Cam, and her baby.

Runaway Ranch reminds me of my love of westerns. I love the setting, the plot elements, and the conventions of a western historical romance. I think there's a cowgirl living inside of me somewhere, despite growing up in the suburbs. And this book rekindles that excitement to read books in this setting. And the icing on the cake is the Englishman in the Old West. This makes a very pleasant read for me.

I loved the secondary love story between Caroline's uncle Bill, and the new schoolteacher, Estelle, who's hiding a scarlet past. This part really touched me because of the plight that this woman faced in her past, and how she tried to put it behind her, but some people are not eager to forget such things. I liked that Bill loved her for who she was, and she felt the same way for him. Love is accepting a person for who they are, and not holding their past against them.

This story has characters that I got involved with, and cared about. Not only that, it has a good message. We all make mistakes, but we can take measures to make better decisions in the future. Also, our mistakes serve a purpose. We grow from them, and they open doors to opportunities that we never considered that we might have in our lives.

I'm quite sure that the stickler will raise an eyebrow or two at the title errors that were made. Camden, who is the third son of an Earl, is called Lord Worthington. His proper form of address would be Lord Camden Worthington. As his wife, Caroline would be called Lady Camden. But that's nothing to throw the book across the room for, in my opinion. Also, the suspense plot is somewhat embryonic, involving a mentally unstable character from back East, who has designs on Carolyn's baby. But I liked the relationship between Cam and Caroline, and the side love story so much, this didn't really bother me.

For the enjoyable hours I spent reading this book, and the gems of wisdom it provided, I'd give it four stars. I'd recommend it, if you want a very readable western romance with an adorable hero and a sweet heroine.

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