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Wendy the Super Librarian‘s review of Sleigh Ride With The Rancher (Holiday Miracles, Book 2) by Donna Alward
Contemporary Romance published by Harlequin Romance 30 Oct 12

It’s amazing how often inspiration strikes when romance authors get together in the same room at a conference.  That’s what happened at RWA Nationals one year when Fiona Harper, Shirley Jump, and Donna Alward had dinner.  All writers for Harlequin Romance, they concocted a continuity trilogy featuring three sisters who are now spread out across the globe.  Alward’s contribution was to tackle the oldest sister, Hope McKinnon.  A photographer living in Sydney, she was the sister who tried to keep the family together as her parents’ marriage disintegrated.  Needless to say, as a child herself, it didn’t work out very well.  Which leaves her estranged from her sisters, closed off emotionally, and hiding from having a life.  That is until her grandmother steps in.

A bonafide city girl, Hope finds herself traveling to the outer reaches of Alberta, Canada to do a favor for her grandmother.  Blake Nelson is a rancher who runs a therapeutic riding center for handicapped children.  He needs some professional photographs and a web site that isn’t a cookie-cutter template to showcase his business. Naturally, he couldn’t afford the services of a professional like Hope, but in exchange she gets a vacation in the country and a chance to unwind – something her grandmother desperately thinks she needs.

Of course, things get emotionally messy from the moment Hope meets Blake.  Blake survived a childhood accident that left him scarred.  Seeing his scars reminds Hope of a dear friend who recently passed away.  Then there is the small matter that Blake likes to “fix people,” even if he won’t admit it, and Hope has erected some serious emotional walls around herself.  Yes, she finds him attractive.  But getting close to people has never worked out well for her, and besides – her life is in Sydney.  Um, isn’t it?

What I like about Alward’s category romances is that they are very angst-driven.  Her characters tend to be emotionally screwed up and the turmoil is exhausting to read about on the page.  The author, the characters, and the readers all have to run the gauntlet to get to the happy ending, which can make for a very satisfying read.  This book is no exception, although Hope’s baggage is so heavy (seriously, it’s like she packed boulders in her luggage!) that after a while I wanted to shake her until her teeth rattled. She’s scared.  Scratch that, she’s very scared.  Taking any sort of chance is just not in her vocabulary.  On one hand I understood it, on the other there were moments I wanted to smack her into next week.

Blake is a genuinely nice guy with some wounded hero qualities added to the mix.  He survived a tragedy, he has experienced loss, but he hasn’t stopped living.  Or has he? He’s not all that different from Hope, and it takes her showing up, throwing that fact in his face, that gets him to reevaluate.

Even with all this emotional angst flying around, the author manages to get her characters (and the reader!) to the finish line, and does so in a way that is believable.  She doesn’t try to do too much with the happy ending, which is a very smart choice considering the issues Hope is dealing with aren’t going to magically vanish just because some guy tells her he loves her.  No rushed marriage proposal.  No “We’re Pregnant With Triplets!” epilogue.  Just a final closing chapter that shows two people willing to give their feelings for each other a chance.

Wendy TSLGrade: B


Stetsons and Snowflakes…

A week before Christmas, city girl Hope McKinnon finds herself snowbound with rugged rancher and all round do-gooder Blake Nelson. What is it about this handsome, generous man that has her blood boiling and her pulse racing?

Blake knows his ranch is the last place Hope wants to be, but somehow her presence feels so right! Hope is the first woman guarded Blake has wanted to be around in a long time. Her visit may be temporary, but he has one more night to convince her to stay…

Read an excerpt.

Other books in this series: