In full disclosure, I received an ARC from the author’s publisher in exchange for an honest review.
This is third in the Wind River Ranch series by Lindsey McKenna, each one telling the story of different characters who come to the Bar C Ranch in Wyoming and soon call it home. Each is a stand-alone book, however, there are numerous references to people from previous books.
Publisher’s blurb: Kira Duval was part of a Special Forces team that got caught in an ambush–leaving only two wounded survivors: herself and Weapons Sergeant Garret Fleming. Losing her team was traumatic, and in the chaotic aftermath, she lost Garret too. But she never lost her secret yearning for him.
Finally she gave up trying to find him back in the states. But as she settles in at the Bar C cattle ranch in Wyoming, a place where veterans can find a home and a place to heal, she’s introduced to her housemate: none other than Garret Fleming.
They’re a long way from Afghanistan–and a long way from the people they used to be before tragedy changed their lives. But as Kira earns her keep by care-taking for the ranch owner’s bedridden, alcoholic father–a task that sometimes feels more challenging than any black ops mission–she finds that even in peacetime, Garret still has her back, and that in this warm, welcoming place, the passion she resisted in the heat of battle may finally have a chance to flourish..
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There was much I enjoyed about this story, but before that, my two pet peeves. First, was the head-hopping of the two main characters–Kira and Garret–between paragraphs. Once upon a time I never used to notice that, until enough editors preached to me about it, so now it glares at me whenever I encounter POV in both characters heads in the same few lines of each other.
Second was the redundancy in the beginning between Kira and Garret’s secret feelings for each other. Clearly, while working in Afghanistan, and part of a team unit, they could not have shared nor demonstrated their true emotions or interest in each other beyond “just friends”. It is a common sense thing to me, however, it felt like the author was belaboring the point repetitively for more chapters than necessary.
Now, all the main characters that reside at the Bar C Ranch suffer some degree of PTSD as a result of their experiences in the military. The severity and complexity and everyday challenges were all well handled. I like how the author researched the various ways it can manifest and emphatically wrote the character’s experiences. I felt I could experience it right alongside them.
Around the middle of the book, the characters really started to shine. Garret’s protectiveness of Kira felt real and remarkable. I do wish they’d spent less page time internally dwelling on their true feelings now, instead of excusing to themselves why they still could not be honest with the other. They are ex-military now, no more reasons to hold back. I felt they should just take the chance, and be open and honest with each other much sooner. However, that can be a manifestation of the PTSD, so I chalk it up to that.
The situation between Kira and the ranch owner’s ailing father was also wonderfully done. It showcased PTSD in it’s most honest form, and I caught myself gritting my teeth and wincing right alongside Kira sometimes.
What I did love was the way Garret, and another soldier buddy, Reese, tenderly protected and looked after their lady loves. These are big, strong, warriors, yet Ms. McKenna wrote splendidly of their wonderful job in portraying their softer, gentler, nurturing personalities. It was lovely to read.
Other than a few minor typos and one case of a wrong name used, and the aforementioned issues, I thought this latest edition of the Wind River Valley saga was a very good read.
I will add this: the cover is a bit misleading, as is the title. Garret is not a cowboy, he does not handle horses in the story with the exception of two lines toward the ending. He spends his time working on ranch machinery, running an odd errand here and there, and spending most of his time with either Kira or the Ranch people, never the horses. He is never astride a horse. Also, the reason for the dog is a mystery as there is no dog mentioned anywhere in the story. Just a head’s up not to be looking for dusty cowhands who spend their time talking to their horse or the loyal dog. Perhaps in other Wind River stories, but not this one.