cover image The Cowboy Next Door: Montana Strong, Book 2

The Cowboy Next Door: Montana Strong, Book 2

R.C. Ryan. Forever, $7.99 mass market (464p) ISBN 978-1-5387-1117-0

The wide-open spaces of Montana ranch country provide the setting for Ryan’s satisfying second Montana Strong contemporary (after Cowboy on My Mind). Rancher Mackenzie Monroe’s habit of rescuing strays led to the adoption of Sam and his older and younger brothers when they were children, with Sam falling in love with the ranch lifestyle. Nearly 20 years later, Mackenzie “adopts” a down-on-her-luck teacher, Penny Cash, offering her a housekeeping job at the ranch. Here, the old chestnut rings true: a man’s heart is through his stomach, and Ryan lovingly describes many of Penny’s dishes being served to an appreciative family. Initially wary of mingling too much with the Monroe clan, Penny thaws as she supports the roundup and spends more time with Sam. A minor subplot involving Penny’s brother, a pool shark, and a bookie barely creates a ripple in the romance. The extended Monroe family are fully realized characters whom readers will enjoy getting to know. This sweetly domestic story should win Ryan many new fans. Agent: Susan Ginsburg, Writers House. (Mar.)