To provide stability for his two young children, retired rodeo rider Josh Dempsey returns home to his family's Arizona ranch, part of which is used as a mustang sanctuary run by Cara Alverez.
Working with horses helps Cara deal with a tragic loss. When Josh asks her for parenting help in return for his support with the sanctuary, Cara is torn. She is captivated by his adorable toddler son and baby daughter but isn't sure she can survive another blow to the heart. Unless a cowboy looking for his own second chance can show her how to love again.
Enjoy a special bonus short story from #1 New York Times bestselling author Debbie Macomber, MY FUNNY VALENTINE
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Twice every year, Cara Alverez fell apart. First, on the day of her sweet little boy's birthday. Second, on the anniversary of his death. Today happened to be the latter.
Crying constantly since early morning and not fit company for anyone, she had kept to herself, shunning well-meaning, but ineffectual platitudes. After seven hours of hard work on one task or another, her chores were done. One problem remained. Her watch read 2:17 p.m. Far too much time left in the day to fill and survive.
Dabbing at her damp eyes with a wadded-up tissue, Cara wandered to the horse stable. Yesterday, in preparation for this moment, she'd moved Hurry Up from the mustang sanctuary to a stall for the night.
The small gelding, with his mousy brown coat, Roman nose and stubby legs, was perhaps the homeliest horse Cara had ever seen. He was also the slowest, hence the name. But all that mattered little because Hurry Up had the disposition of a kitten and an eagerness to please. Of the over two hundred head of abandoned and rescued mustangs residing at the sanctuary, Hurry Up displayed the most potential for an excellent child's mount.
Had Cara's son, Javier, lived, he'd have been four, almost five. The perfect age for his first horse.
Fresh tears threatened to flow, but Cara kept them at bay. Barely. Removing a halter from the row hanging outside the tack room, she walked to the stall where Hurry Up waited. Patiently, of course, as was his nature.
"Hola, chiquito. Ready for a workout?"
The gelding nuzzled her affectionately while she buckled the halter.
"Wait, wait," she said, pretending to scold him. "We'll get there."
"There," in this case, was a small corral adjacent to the round pen where Cara planned to exercise Hurry Up and maybe reinforce a lesson or two.
Dos Estrellas was a cattle ranch currently running over two thousand cows, calves and young steer. The mustang sanctuary occupied sections six and seven of the ranch, about five hundred acres. The late owner, August Dempsey, had bequeathed the land to Cara for her exclusive use.
August had been under no obligation to name Cara in his will, though he'd loved her like a daughter and she him like a father. But he had named her. The sanctuary, with its neglected and sometimes abused mustangs, was what gave Cara a reason to rise every morning and step outside her room when she'd rather remain buried beneath the covers.
Saddled and bridled, Hurry Up looked a little less ugly. He waited stoically at the gate for her to open it, then stood while she mounted. After several laps at a leisurely walk, she nudged the horse into a trot and circled the corral. Eventually, they practiced reining. Hurry Up executed perfect figure eights and zigzags.
"Come on, chiquito." Cara attempted to coax the horse into a lope, to no avail. Hurry Up had exactly three speeds: slow, slower and slowest.
On the plus side, there was never any danger of him running away or bucking. The only way a rider could fall off this plug was to misjudge the distance while dismounting.
Her son, Javier, had been fearless and wouldn't have thought twice about leaping from a horse's back. Had he been a tiny bit more timid, he might not have have climbed up the shelving unit and
Cara promptly burst into tears. This time, there was no stopping them.
A cold January breeze, originating in the nearby McDowell Mountains, chased through Mustang Valley and across Dos Estrellas, drying Cara's cheeks almost the moment they were wet. Hurry Up stumbledprobably because he was getting mixed signals from his riderthen quit moving altogether.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Very good and highly emotional book. It opens with Cara desperately trying to deal with her grief on the anniversary of her son's death. The last thing she wants to do is face Josh, single father and part owner of the ranch that houses her mustang sanctuary. There's been tension between them since he and his brother tried to get her to give up her claim to part of the ranch in Her Holiday Rancher. But she won't give up the one thing that gives purpose to her life as it now is. Though Josh hadn't been happy with the terms of his estranged father's will at the beginning, it has turned out to be a good thing. He needed a stable home to bring his children to after retiring from the rodeo and gaining custody from his drug addicted ex-wife. But now that he has them, he's feeling overwhelmed by everything he doesn't know about parenting. So he offers Cara a bargain: he will help her with her mustang rescue operation if she will help him learn how to care for his kids. I hurt for Cara as she was so weighed down by the grief and guilt over her son's death. She blames herself for what happened to him rather than seeing it as a tragic accident. It affects her to the point where she isn't sure that she should be trusted around Josh's kids. But his belief in her combined with the time she spends with the kids, the easier it gets. There is also a definite attraction between the two of them, something that Cara fights just as hard as she can. Josh is far more willing to pursue it and see where it might go. Though his marriage hadn't been a good one, and his parents' had been even worse, he hasn't given up on the idea for himself. I loved his patience in waiting for Cara to be ready, though he certainly had no problem with pushing the limits a little bit here and there. I also loved his support of her and her mustang sanctuary. She doesn't have an easy time accepting help and tries to keep him at a distance at the beginning. But Josh has more than his fair share of charm and humor to go along with his good looks and he has no trouble using them to get his way. There are some really sweet moments when his care and patience take precedence over his own feelings. And when the strength of her growing feelings cause her to panic and pull away, he overcomes his own hurt to show her the depth of his feelings and what they can have together. Also running through this book is a continuation of the struggle to bring the ranch back to financial health. More debt is discovered, making their position even more precarious. Cara feels especially bad because of the additional strain of the mustang sanctuary. I loved seeing them all work together to run a successful fundraiser to help it become self-sufficient. I especially loved the big part that Josh played in it and the sweet surprise he and his young helper provided. There was also a fantastic development that came out of that surprise that made things even better. I'm really looking forward to Cole's story and hopefully a happy resolution for the ranch.
“Truck drivers and cowboys simply aren’t to be trusted.” But damn do they make for a good story! Both McDavid & Macomber are emotional authors. The tales in this duo are sweet and filled with real romance. Honest individuals come together in ways that warm your heart. At the same time, both stories have moments that brought me to tears, and to laugher. The emotionally hard hitting aspects of McDavid’s tale were balanced nicely by the comical pricelessness of Macomber’s. Not only did the plots of both stories capture my heart, but he characters were fetching and unforgettable. McDavid’s insightful, well rounded character development brought her characters to life on and off the pages for me. Macomber created fun individuals that I truly enjoyed getting to know so well. Both of these ladies are go-to authors for me in their respective sub-genres. Together, they’re an unstoppable duo. This is a set of stories that I’d highly recommend to all romance lovers. Please note that I received a complimentary copy of this work in exchange for an honest review.
While the story is rather realistic, and down to earth, it has plenty of swoon worthy moments, moments that make you just sigh. Cara's pain from losing her child is devastating, as one can only imagine. Her guilt, regret, and loss are ten fold on the anniversary of the death. She says she is broken, she doesn't deserve any new happiness, or joy in her life, and definitely will never be ready for a new romance after the way her ex betrayed her trust. Josh, a single father of two little ones, after a tough court battle with her addict ex, is over his head with his kids, work, and the new life at the ranch. The attraction he feels towards Cara might be the last thing he needs right now, but he feels the connection, and is willing to wait for Cara to be ready, he's willing to fight for a chance of happiness again. I loved how patient, kind, and good man Josh is, with his kids, with Cara, just in general. No matter how much Cara struggles with her past, the pain and hurt from her loss, and previous marriage, he stands by her. Even though this is easily to be read as a stand alone, it is a part of the series, and the financial struggles on the ranch continues, even though the new ownership by the brothers seems to be going better now, they are finding some common ground, and learning to work as a team. Can't wait for Cole's story later in the spring. A sweet, clean, refreshingly realistic love story, about second chances in life, with lots of adorable moments, cute kids, and wild horses ~ Four Spoons