Sophie Edwards is doing just fine, until a strange-yet oddly familiar-man rides into her life, insisting on rescuing her and her four daughters. Can she find a way to love a headstrong mountain man? When Clay McClellan discovers his brother has been murdered, he's bent on finding the killers and seeing them properly hung. But first his Christian duty demands that he marry his sister-in-law. After all, Sophie needs someone to protect her - right? Faith and love help unruly wed newlyweds find common ground and a chance at love on the Texas frontier.
This story starts out with a bang...as in non-stop action. I had to laugh at the girls fighting all the time and poor Clay not knowing how to handle all the woman "stuff" because he'd never been around them much. Ironically that primitive mentality made him all that more attractive as a hero. He's a real man's man and as such, the very tomboyish girls and his new wife go out of their way to perpetuate that belief...by acting incompetent when they are just as good with a gun and lasso as any man on the frontier. Many of the scenes made me smile. Connealy is very witty and her caveman humor is to-die-for funny! Plus, she has the dialogue down to a science...even had me thinking like a western yokel. :) And the man-thoughts were superbly done. Just like a man! Hilarious!
A lot of times romantic tension in novels feels contrived and the animosity forced. Not so in this one. Sophie had every reason to want to chokehold the man and kiss him senseless all in the same breath. Wow. I loved that. She's feisty and lovable without feeling forced by the author. Did I mention that I love marriages of convenience stories? The only thing in this one that made me snicker is the hero kisses her breathless a few times and later on she's feeling faint! I had no idea they'd consummated their relationship. Made me go back and search for what I was missing. Must've been that warm snuggling Clay referenced in his thoughts that got her "in the family way." I know, you're snickering, too. Maybe it was the publisher's idea to skip that, but it made me smile regardless. :)
The most satisfying of all was the culmination at the end. Without giving away the details I'll just say that it reminded me a lot of the Home Alone movies. One exciting event after another. Tough girls who know how to survive and a momma who taught them well. In the end I felt just as proud of them all as if I'd been there myself. I'd totally bought into the plot and my heart was with the couple through to the last page. Tender and sweet, tough and calculating, adventurous and passionate...this story has it all. It's now at the top of my list of favorite historical westerns. It's the best one I've ever read, bar none.
Petticoat Ranch was published by Barbour and will be released February 1, 2007.