cover image Once a Rancher

Once a Rancher

Linda Lael Miller. HQN, $7.99 mass market (384p) ISBN 978-0-373-77968-0

Readers are transported to Mustang Creek, Wyo., in this marvelous contemporary western trilogy launch, loosely connected to several of Miller’s previous books. Filmmaker Slater Carson is one of the three Carson boys, regarded as something like royalty in the small town. He’s barely finished shooting his latest documentary when Grace Emery comes storming into town with her teen stepson, Ryder, in tow. Grace made the move from Seattle to Mustang Creek in an attempt to build a new life for herself after a divorce. Even though she’s no longer with Ryder’s father, she still loves Ryder like he’s her own. Grace and Slater’s paths don’t so much cross as spectacularly collide, and the typical getting-to-know you dance is fraught with amazing chemistry. Current hot-topic issues such as blended families and nontraditional parenting are integrated seamlessly with a well-told romance. Faces familiar from Miller’s Bliss County series provide a warm counterpoint to the sizzling attraction and hint of mystery that draw the protagonists together. A dash of storytelling magic keeps the pages turning even as the way is paved for the next two books. Agent: Irene Goodman, Irene Goodman Literary. (Apr.)