Through Better & Worse: a Montana Love Story by C.J. "Country" James
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
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Recommended 4-1/2 Stars Rounded Up (that's a pun) to 5.
Not many books are perfect, but this one's darned close for the genre: Contemporary western romance. The details of cattle ranching and division of property I know to be accurate, however, it might be a bit more information than the non-country reader would like. I can just hear the romance fans yelling, "Get on with the kissing!" Nevertheless, I very much appreciate a book that doesn't slide by the setting and circumstances with no more than a how-do-you-do along the way. Readers who like technical details will be pleased.
This is not your bare-chested, sexy cowboy romance (though Jake ain't bad). Those western-romance-lite books are mere cotton candy representations of real ranch life and real ranch people. Author, C.J. "Country" James, knows the people she writes about far better than most. She's taken a pen name for the Country series, of which this book is the first.
Not only does the pseudonymous James write truly and honestly about the modern west, but is also an artist and has recorded her own audio versions of the book. With a woman that talented, you can't go wrong reading or listening to her books.
The first encounter between Dree Blake and Jake Jarvis couldn't have been worse. Jake has a teenage mind inside a man's body. Driving his fancy pickup too fast, he wants to get around the old clunker pulling a horse trailer. But there isn't room to pass. Narrowly missing Dree's horse trailer by a hair, he yells insults at the girl driving the rig. Neither one has any desire to see the other. Ever.
But the Fates are fond of creating coincidental meetings. Dree is heading to the Jarvis ranch to help teach the hands a new, more humane, method of castrating bull calves. After a demo, Dree and the two men from the Montana Department of Agriculture are asked to stay around for the upcoming roundup of the calves. Just as she's putting her mule, Cougar, into the stable, who should come driving in all la-di-da except the man who nearly drove her off the road.
Jake figures Dree is at the ranch to rat on him. He waits nervously for the blow up from his grandfather, Franklin. But nothing happens. Relieved, Jake is grateful the blocky little lady has kept her peace about the encounter.
Dree recognizes Jake all right, and figures out he's the heir to the Jarvis Ranch. It wouldn't be in her best interests to cause a ruckus. Besides, Dree does not like confrontation...at all. An incident from her childhood, violent beyond measure, gives her horrible anxiety attacks. The result is Dree is too quiet and too easily dismissed.
With this inauspicious beginning, Jake and Dree are forced to learn more about each other. They each find the other isn't quite as horrible as they first thought.
As the story progresses, a lot happens, but that'd all be spoiler material. However, this is a big R Romance, so you have an idea of how it turns out. What will surprise the hell out of you is how.