Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Cowboy Under Fire - Carla Cassidy (HRS #1880 - Jan 2016)

Series: Cowboys of Holiday Ranch (Book 3)

Forensic pathologist Patience Forbes is a whiz with the dead--it's flesh-and-blood men who wreck her equilibrium. And cowboy Forest Stevens isn't fooled by the guarded beauty's icy facade. So when she's attacked, he appoints himself her personal bodyguard. Her "very" personal bodyguard...

Patience is determined to investigate mysterious bones on the Holiday Ranch--not fall into bed with her sexy protector. But Forest is too masculine, too willing to lay down his life for hers...and too set on living a different life from the one she's built. With danger closing in, can Forest tame the shrew before it's too late?

Good book, as the mystery of the bones under the shed continues. Patience is the forensic pathologist assigned to finding out whatever the bones can reveal. She is determined and focused on her job, to the exclusion of everything else. Forest is one of the cowboys who works the ranch. He is fascinated by Patience and wants to get to know her better, in spite of her hands off attitude.

Patience has the reputation around the ranch as a dragon lady. She appears to be constantly angry at those around her, especially anyone who tries to interfere with her work. She is very fact oriented and doesn't believe in emotions like love. She attributes her reaction to Forest to hormones and is determined to ignore them, but finds herself unable to resist his gentle but persistent insertion into her life. 

Forest is one of the former street kids brought to the ranch as a teenager. When his beloved parents died when he was seventeen he took to the streets rather than go into foster care. With his memories of how much they loved each other and him, Forest wants nothing more than to find the right woman to settle down with and make a family of his own. He's not sure why he finds Patience so fascinating. He knows that she's not the one for him, but he can't stop trying to get to know her.

I loved the development of their relationship. Forest is gentle, but persistent, and insists on getting Patience out of her self-imposed isolation. I loved his "barn dance" date with her. When she is attacked and needs looking after, Forest is the one who steps up to do it. Patience has never had anyone care for or about her like that and has no idea what to do with her reaction to it. Forest is convinced that she is in danger and appoints himself her bodyguard. It was really sweet to see the way he used that as an excuse to spend more time with her. I ached for him because he knew he was falling for her and that she would pack up and leave as soon as her job was done. He knew he was in for heartbreak, but couldn't stop caring about her. I loved seeing Patience start to come alive under Forest's attentions. Seeing the fun and friendship the cowboys have with each other, she began to see what is missing in her life. She fought what she was feeling for him, trying to convince herself that it was just chemistry not anything more. She is a bit disturbed by some of the things that Forest says to her, finding it hard to believe that he so easily understands what makes her tick. His protectiveness makes her feel cared for as she never has before. The ending was really sweet as she faces her fears to give she and Forest the future they both long for.

The suspense of the story was good. There is the ongoing mystery of who the bones belong to and how they got there. Patience and her assistant are meticulous in their efforts to extract every bit of information they can. As more information is uncovered, strange things begin to happen, including an attack on Patience. Is the killer still around and worried that she might uncover clues to his identity? As the attacks escalate, Patience is in even greater danger. A final confrontation yields an unexpected twist, but answers the question of who is behind the attacks and why. Meanwhile, the local police chief is becoming more and more frustrated by the lack of answers.

I loved the closeness of the cowboys who work the ranch. They have all been together for a long time and have built up great relationships. I really liked their inherent trust of each other, in spite of how bad things occasionally look, though the lack of progress is starting to wear on them also. I really enjoyed seeing how they all welcomed Patience when Forest got her to join them. 

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