Thursday, September 8, 2016

Colton Cowboy Hideout - Carla Cassidy (HRS #1903 - July 2016)

Series: Coltons of Texas (Book 7)

After years in hiding, Josie Colton has her life back. But to settle a family promise, she must find an old clue buried at the Colton Valley Ranch. She enlists the help of ranch foreman Tanner Grange -- in exchange for working as his twin toddlers' new nanny. On their search, the single dad soon begins to lasso Josie's heart.

Tanner agrees to assist Josie and is alarmed by how the Colton beauty fits so perfectly into his life. He's got his hands full investigating the disappearance of his boss and caring for his little girls. When it's clear someone will kill to stop Josie from uncovering the clue, Tanner vows to protect her…for life!

Good book. At the end of the previous book, A Baby for Agent Colton, Josie's father had asked his kids to find a pocket watch that he had buried on his cousin's property near Dallas. Josie has taken on this project herself, and shows up at Colton Valley Ranch to fulfill her promise. She arrives just in time to discover that his cousin Eldridge has mysteriously disappeared and she's stuck on the ranch while the investigation goes on. Ranch foreman Tanner has been assigned to help her. When his nanny quits without notice, Josie volunteers to take care of his girls while she's there.

I liked Josie. She's had a rough life, but has come out of it pretty well. Her father murdered her mother, so Josie and her six siblings ended up in foster care, but not together. She was moved around some. Then when she was twelve she witnessed a murder, but the killer threatened her family if she told anyone. When she was seventeen she finally had the courage to go to the police, and was put into Witness Protection to save her life. She only left WP a month earlier and has been reconnecting with her family since then. She's been at a bit of a loss about what to do with her life now. She is determined to find the watch and bring closure to that part of her life. She didn't expect to be so drawn to Tanner and his girls.

I liked Tanner, too. Tanner is the single father of twin girls. He is the ranch foreman and really likes his boss, Eldridge Colton, though he's not so fond of the rest of the family. He and his ex-wife had split up right before her death, leaving Tanner with sole custody of his kids. He has no intention of getting involved with anyone, as his last experience wasn't so great. He blames himself for not knowing how unhappy his wife was with the isolated life on a ranch, and thinks that he's unsuited for marriage. He's attracted to Josie, but doesn't want to do anything with it.

I liked the development of their relationship. The attraction is strong from the beginning. One of the things that really draws them together is Josie's care for his daughters. I loved seeing how quickly she connected with them. Besides her attraction to Tanner, Josie loves how wonderful Tanner is with the girls. Each evening after the girls go to bed, Tanner and Josie sit and talk and discover how much they have in common. Josie quickly falls for Tanner, even though she won't be staying. It was interesting to see how quickly she began to daydream of a future with Tanner. As much as she loves her siblings, she really dreams of a family of her own, and starts to see Tanner, Lily and Leigh as that family. When she and Tanner share an explosive kiss, those dreams skyrocket. Tanner is equally drawn to Josie, but is far more resistant. He sees Josie as very young and without the experience yet to know what she really wants. He thinks she would soon regret tying herself to such an isolated life and doesn't want to risk his heart again. 

My heart ached for both, as Josie really put her heart on the line by confessing her feelings. She knows her heart and that her feelings are real, but she can't get Tanner to see it. I wanted to shake Tanner for painting Josie with the same brush as his ex-wife when they are nothing alike. It was heartbreaking to see Tanner reject Josie's feelings, even though he shares them. When the mystery is solved, he lets her go home without saying anything. I loved his big moment at the end, as he finally allows himself to believe in their love.

The book has two separate mysteries running through it. The first is the search for Matthew Colton's watch, which is solved by the end of the book. The second is the disappearance of Eldridge Colton. This one is not solved, and I expect with continue through the rest of the series. Josie had arrived at the ranch fairly confident that she could find it quickly and get home. Unfortunately, when she and Tanner went to the location where it was supposed to be, they were attacked by a man with a gun, who also wants the watch. Tanner insists that Josie not go looking on her own, and that they wait a few days before they try again. A few days later, her room is searched, making them realize that the man isn't going to give up. After Josie has her big confrontation with Tanner, she makes the boneheaded move of looking on her own so that she can leave right away, and gets into trouble with the man with the gun. Tanner arrives to save the day, and Josie's brother Trevor arrives the next morning. Opening the box brings an unexpected surprise, but brings closure to that part of Josie's life.

The ongoing mystery of Eldridge's disappearance will be quite interesting. There are any number of possible suspects, from his kids, stepkids and current wife, to staff members and business rivals. We do get to briefly meet the members of this branch of the Colton family, and I must say that I wasn't impressed. It will be interesting to see how this one plays out.

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