Can the brother left behind and a woman without hope work together for the good of two precious children?
Nick Stafford stayed in central Washington, working his family’s large ranch after his brothers left to pursue other passions—but his toughest job is being a single dad. As a child he watched his father fail at marriage and parenting, so Nick was determined to show him up. He’d be a better husband, father, and ranch manager than Sam Stafford ever was. Despite that commitment, three years after Nick’s wife left him, he has a daughter in trouble at school and both of his girls are facing issues that force him to rethink his stubborn plans.
For Dr. Elsa Andreas, life fell apart when tragedy caused her to abandon her family therapy practice and retreat to the backwoods of Gray’s Glen. Her school principal sister believes Elsa can guide the Stafford girls and that working with kids will draw Elsa out of her protective bubble.
Summer on the Double S teems with life and adventure. Amid the bounty of God and land, will Nick and Elsa find the courage to build futures based on faith rather than fear?
About the Author
Ruth Logan Herne has more than a million books in print, including eighteen Love Inspired contemporary novels and Back in the Saddle, Book 1 in the Double S Ranch series. Ruth is a founding member of Seekerville, a popular writing-collective blog. A country girl who loves the big city, Ruth and her husband live on a farm in upstate New York.
Read an Excerpt
Nick Stafford stared at the half-buried, round-roofed dwelling and realized he couldn’t go through with the elementary school principal’s edict. Not if it meant meeting with a hermit who lived in a toadstool shack tucked so deep in the forest that woodland mice couldn’t find it.
A hobbit house. No way on God’s green earth was Nick Stafford about to risk his daughters’ mental health by having them counseled by a recluse who lived halfway to a mole hole. No matter what the girls’ principal said.
What was next? A hollow tree?
He did an about-face, ready to stride away, and came face to face with a dryad.
Cool gray-green eyes appraised him from beneath a hooded cloak, Celtic friendly, except they weren’t in the lush green hills of Ireland. They were in the forestland of central Washington, and the thin spring leaves did little to protect him from today’s chill drizzle. Which made her hooded wrap more sensible than his bare head.
A dark dog moved their way, darting furtively through the shadowed edges of the small, rounded property.
The dog paused, peering at them through the dense undergrowth edging the rain-soaked clearing.
The rain and shadows shifted. An oblique ray of sun made quivering raindrops sparkle along the mostly bare branches framing her. The quick change to filtered light forced his pupils to adjust.
He thought she winced when he said her name, but maybe it was the dance of light. With the shadows bobbing and weaving, he couldn’t be sure, and when the sun broke through, brighter and stronger, nothing but a mild, placid expression stared back at him. “Elsa, please. And you are Nicholas Stafford?”
“Yes. Mrs. Willingham recommended you, and just so we start on the same page, I’m not here by choice.”
She didn’t blink, didn’t move, and for a moment he was caught up, staring into Monet-like watercolor eyes, absolutely gorgeous if you liked whimsical characters in a fairy-tale setting.
He’d tried for a fairy-tale ending once. But he’d crashed and burned because no matter what he did to make his princess wife happy, Whitney Stafford hadn’t been ready to take the role of queen seriously. She ended their marriage after abdicating the throne to run off with the court jester, a.k.a. one of the ranch’s rodeo-riding hired hands. She’d abandoned her husband, her vows, and, worst of all, two beautiful daughters to become a rodeo cowboy–chasing buckle bunny.
But he couldn’t possibly have heard correctly. Did the wood nymph just tell him to go? What kind of therapist did that?
She moved toward the door, reached out, and twisted the handle. The door opened easily, no key needed. Of course if you were this far off the grid, maybe no key was ever needed. He started to follow her, but she turned, effectively blocking the entrance. “You’re still here.”
“We had an appointment.” He stretched out the last word, miffed by her mandate, his life, his lack of choices, and pretty much everything known to man, and despite what his older brother, Colt, said, he was not one bit depressed. He was simply mad about everything, and that was his God-given right.
“Mr. Stafford — ”
“Nick is fine.”
“Mr. Stafford,” she continued in a cool, clear voice. “I don’t want to be here either. Which means our sessions are doomed, so why waste time? You have a life, dysfunctional, of course”— an easy shrug and her matter-of-fact expression said that was a given— “but you haven’t done irreparable harm, so you’re free as a bird. I have a life as well, and I appreciate my privacy more than most these days, so let me save us both from a dead-end path we needn’t take. Go home. And if things continue to spiral downward and out of control, take my sister’s advice and find a therapist you do want to see. I’m closed.”
She took one step back and shut the door in his face.
She couldn’t do that, could she? They had an appointment. He’d even set up a reminder on his phone! He’d scheduled time to see her, against his will, and he’d followed through.
You followed through because Angelina and your brother hounded you until you walked out the door. Left on your own, you’ d have conveniently forgotten the whole thing. Do you want to make the same mistakes your father made thirty years ago? Or try to fix things for the girls by expending some kind of sincere effort? Cheyenne nearly got killed earlier this spring because you refused to compromise. But of course—the voice of reason paused as if resigned to being brushed off—the choice is yours. Again.
Well, he was here. He’d shown up as promised, and finding her little hut in the woods hadn’t exactly been a cakewalk.
He glared at the door and lifted his hand to knock.
A long, low growl from behind him said the dog wasn’t all that enamored by his presence either.
Nick was pretty sure this couldn’t get worse, but then a brightly colored bird winged its way to the tree alongside the house, squawked, flapped its wings, and screeched, “You’re a jerk! You’re a jerk! You’re a jerk!”
The dog sank back on his haunches and barked twice in agreement.
Nick conceded defeat. The bird was right. He dropped his hand and started to back away from the door, hoping to escape before the dog attacked while the bird pecked his face off. Where was his trusty Remington long barrel when he needed it? Sixty feet away, in the rack behind the seat of his extended-cab ranch pickup truck.
The dog barked again, but this bark didn’t sound threatening. It sounded sad, if such a thing was possible, and the croon in the bark said the mutt was either looking forward to hand-to-paw combat or he wanted someone to pet him.
Nick crouched and tapped the path beneath him. The dog ambled over. He sank onto the stones and flipped to his back, waiting for a good scratch.
“You’re no watch dog, that’s for sure,” Nick said as he rubbed the dog’s belly. “As far as protection goes, you’re on the low end of the scale, my friend.”
“Dumb dog! Dumb dog! Dumb dog!”
Nick glared up at the raucous bird. “Listen you rude, loud pile of feathers. No one needs your guff, okay? And you’re so stinking ugly, no one more than twenty miles north or south of the equator would even use your feathers to decorate their hats. So there.”
“You’re arguing with a macaw.” He hadn’t heard the door open but was kind of glad it had.
“Just having my say,” he returned, not looking up. “The bird’s obnoxious and it poops when it roosts.” He shrugged a shoulder toward the offending pile to the dog’s left. “Reason enough to make pie out of it right there.”
He’d figured to tick her off, because she had animal-loving, tree-hugging, far-left liberal written all over her eccentric outfit, but she surprised him by laughing. Only her laugh sounded rusty, like his.
“I can’t deny I’ve been tempted.”
“Is there more to your menagerie?” He angled his gaze up while still petting the dog. “Stray monkeys and elephants, perhaps? A dinosaur or two? Jumanji inspired?”
Her smile deepened at the mention of the fantasy movie. “No, just these two. Why are you still here?”
He studied the dog, then her, assessing. “I’m not sure. Now that I know the dog’s not going to maul me, I could have simply walked to my truck, backed around, and left.”
“But you didn’t.”
“No.” He stared around and shrugged again. “I’m in a bind. I’ve got to do something to jump-start my oldest daughter, and the principal. . . your sister, right?”—he met her gaze and she nodded slightly— “gave me your card and threatened further action if I don’t get help for both my girls. So here I am, in the last place I ever expected to be.”
“In the woods, petting a dog?”
He frowned at her deliberate misinterpretation. “Hunting down a therapist to fix things that never should have been broken.”
“Ah.” She sank onto one of two garden benches, still damp from the quick rain shower. “Life has a way of doing that, doesn’t it?”
“You got that right.” He kept petting the dog, and when he paused, the hound pulled his head around and pushed it against Nick’s flank, a silent plea for more. “I’ve got two daughters. Cheyenne and Dakota.”
“Except they’re not,” he answered instantly, as if denying the girls’ ranch identity was important. And it was, to him, but that was part of the problem. “Well, they weren’t western girls, that is. Washington girls, sure, but not western, as in riding and roping. Is there something wrong with a father wanting what’s best for his children? And who has the right to question that?”
“Is it the questioning that’s hard or the fact that your definition of best is being criticized?”
“What do you know about it?” He sounded petulant, but he didn’t care because he was sick to death of people second-guessing his choices, his ideas, his deeds when it came to the girls and just about anything else these days. He shifted to face her. “Do you have kids?”
“Do you work with kids?”
“So what makes you an expert on them or me?”
She accepted his question with a nod, and between the hood and the curved chair made out of bent forest limbs, he felt like Luke Skywalker chatting with Yoda, only he actually liked the Star Wars character. “You search for understanding.”
Yup. Yoda, all right. He sighed.
“And yet, when others want to help, it has to be on your terms, your way.”
“Not always,” he shot back, indignant, and when she didn’t meet his gaze, he realized he was angry . . . again . . . because she’d hit the truth and he didn’t like it when people hit the truth. He sighed and stood with one last pat to the dog. “Listen, this probably won’t work.”
She nodded, quiet.
“And it’s silly to waste our time.”
She accepted that as well, still quiet.
“I—” He shrugged. A quick breeze shook the baby leaves above him, sprinkling him with fresh raindrops, chilling him despite the warming spring temperatures. “I’ll get on my way, and one way or another, we’ll muddle through. Families have been doing this a long time. I don’t expect we’re any different than most.”
“And that’s all right with you?”
Her voice didn’t change but her question hit home. “I—”
“To settle on chance rather than taking firm steps to set your children on the right path?”
Put that way, he sounded pretty stupid and self-centered, as if he knew what was best for the girls. If he’d known that, for real, they wouldn’t be in this hot mess of crazy right now. Cheyenne was about to fail her grade, and Dakota pretended acquiescence while she did what she pleased, a dangerous combination for a first grader.
“Sometimes people just need someone to talk to. Someone they’re not trying to protect. Someone who’ll listen to their complete thought without building instant brick walls of rebuttal.”
“You think I should bring them to see you.”
She lifted her eyes to his, and when she did, he recognized something he hadn’t seen when their gazes locked before.
Pain. And that realization inspired added caution. “I don’t know anything about you.”
“A valid point. The kind of thing a responsible parent would say. What would you like to know?”
“Why are you buried in the woods?”
She made a face at the stone drive leading up to her small home, then raised a brow to him. “You found me, which means I’m not buried.”
“You’re avoiding the question.”
She shook her head. “I said that I’m a private person.”
Nick had been raised between two brothers. His older brother, Colt, jumped headfirst into every situation, confident of his success, alwaysneeding to prove himself, while Trey, his adopted younger brother, found his paths made smoother by faith in God and humanity, but Nick knew both men. Their outward natures hid a lot of internal junk. Being stuck in the middle made him privy to a wide family spectrum. “And that answer says you’re either not capable or not comfortable living a normal life surrounded by everyday occurrences. So why should I trust my children with someone who has clearly shrugged off everyday existence?”
“Privacy equates to inability.” She mused the words with a measured look at him. “Interesting assessment.”
“Hey, fixing you isn’t on my agenda, and while I appreciate the way you’ve put together the setting”— he flicked his attention to the house, the dog, and the talking bird —“ this is all a little too surreal for me. Thanks for the time, Doc. Send me a bill and I’ll put a check in the mail. I’m going to guess you don’t do a whole lot of online banking out here.”
“No charge,” she answered smoothly as she rose from the bench. “I wish you well, Mr. Stafford. No offense taken.”
“None meant, ma’am.” He reached out to shake her hand and felt like a fool when she didn’t extend hers. “Well, then. Have a good day.” He did an about-face, strode back to his truck, climbed in, and backed it around before aiming the big V8 up the slope. He turned onto the main logger’s path, carved out over a decade before and kept clear by an avid group of hunters, and followed that to the county road.
He was right back where he started. The principal wouldn’t be happy, his family wouldn’t be happy, and hey, news flash! He wasn’t happy.
He stopped for gas, picked up a package of his favorite popcorn treat, Halfpops, then went for broke and bought two more and ate all three bags on the way back to the Double S. He stuffed the empty bags into one of the storage bins behind the seat so the girls wouldn’t see them. He was careful with their snacks when they were at home, more so because he knew Angelina would feed them anything she pleased at the ranch. Since he respected and possibly feared the former Seattle detective who had agreed to marry his know-it-all big brother, he held his tongue about it and the girls weren’t worse off.
Whitney would have a fit if she was here, and you know it.
He knew it and he didn’t want to care. But something about a woman leaving her husband and two beautiful little girls meant he must have done something drastically wrong. Otherwise, why would a woman turn her back and walk away from her children?
You tossed aside a chance to help two little kids? What are you thinking?
Elsa shoved the mental scolding aside and moved toward the house. She knew exactly what she was thinking. She didn’t dare let herself get drawn in by another anxious parent, even if the guy was a twelve on a “smokin’ hot cowboy” one-to-ten rating system. Sure, he needed help. She saw it in his eyes and heard it in his tone, even as his words refuted her sister’s directive.
You want to help him. No. Strike that. You’re intrigued about helping the girls, especially the older one. You’ve worked with kids like her before, and you’re good at what you do. Isn’t it time to move on? Especially if it can help this child? And if you help the big sister, the younger one benefits as well. Are you willing to let Will Belvedere’s depraved choices steal more of your life?
“You’re a jerk! You’re a jerk! You’re a jerk!”
Elsa didn’t need the bird’s ill-timed reminder. It was there in the mirror’s reflection, in the set of a stubborn man’s shoulders, the understandable question in his eyes. Who in their right mind would bring their precious children to a therapist with her mental health record? No one. Not if they knew her history.
He was right to run hard and fast, and she was just as right to let him.
The phone rang as she finished laying out food for Hoyl in the parrot cage. She raised the phone, read her sister’s number, and clicked End, but Rachel wasn’t fooled by that. She called right back, knowing Elsa couldn’t resist two tries in a row, just in case something serious had happened. She answered the phone as she opened the front door for the bird to return to his cage for the night. “Hey, Rach. What’s up?”
“Stop ignoring my calls; how did the appointment with Nick Stafford go?”
“Patient/client privilege, HIPAA rules, leave me alone.”
“Stick to basics, then,” her older sister insisted. “Did he show?”
She could answer this honestly and keep the guy temporarily out of trouble. “Yes.”
“You sound genuinely pleased,” noted Elsa as she wired the bird’s cage shut. “Why?”
“His daughters are delightful, even if Nick is oblivious,” Rachel replied. “They’re smart, funny, and have a lot going for them. But it’s real tough when you’re old enough to understand that your mother’s new boyfriend is more important than her children.”
“You think they know?” Nicholas Stafford had seemed more protective than the average angry single dad she’d met while in active practice in a Seattle suburb. She wouldn’t have labeled him as a rash talker in front of his kids, but then she’d been wrong before. A tight sigh wound its way up from gut level. She forced it back, determined to stride forward.
“It’s Gray’s Glen, small town USA. Of course they know,” said Rachel. “Wives running out on rich husbands, chasing rodeo cowboys, ditching kids. Please, that’s a reality TV show with no cable bill involved. Dakota might be a little less informed, but Cheyenne was older when Whitney took off. Trust me. She knows.”
Mother abandonment, the toughest scenario for any child to surmount. Bad enough when inadvertent, like death, but the raw, ragged edged emotions left by a mother’s deliberate abandonment could leave lifelong scars and present challenging behaviors.
“When are the girls coming to see you?”
Rachel wanted definitive answers. Elsa could throw the guy under the bus and tell her sister he wasn’t going to follow through, or she could give him some time to figure out what he wanted to do. Life and emotions weren’t as cut and dried as her big sister seemed to think. “Once again I’ll cite patient/client privilege and leave it at that.”
“Rachel.” Elsa blew out a breath as she studied the deepening shadows surrounding her forest home. “I understand the district’s concern, and I’ll keep you in the loop. For the moment, you’re about to end the spring semester, all the kids will be on summer break soon, and then they have the entire summer to try and make headway. This isn’t a quick fix, ever. You know that.”
“I do, but Nick Stafford has already shrugged off my concerns for seven long months. We’ll have to hold Cheyenne back a year, and while that’s not the end of the world, I don’t think being labeled as stupid by her peers is going to help anything. Her self-image is already soured.”
“You can’t just pass her?”
“Not and live with myself,” Rachel retorted. “But I don’t want to add to her passive/aggressive plate by pushing her over some unseen edge.” She paused, sucked a quick breath, and backtracked. “Sorry, I didn’t mean that the way—”
“You’re fine, Rachel. And you’re correct, the stubborn, quiet ones can brew a head of steam no one notices.”
“I won’t ask any more questions, but I want you to know that if you need information from me, I’ll share,” Rachel continued, and Elsa knew not all school administrators were that accommodating. If they were—
No, she wouldn’t look back and wouldn’t cast blame. There was plenty of it to go around. From a clinical point of view, she understood not everyone could or would be saved. But every now and again, when shadows loomed and she remembered the sound of little Christiana Belvedere’s voice, she wondered what would have happened if she’d called the school with her concerns that day. Would they have taken steps to hold the children there?
Probably not, but she’d never have the chance to know because she never made the phone call.
And then it was too late.
Her sister’s words bothered her all night. Or was it the look of defeat in Nicholas Stafford’s troubled brown eyes that messed up her sleep? In any case, she questioned her snarky attitude and her judgment well into the next morning. Finally, she stormed into the house, picked up the phone, and hit Nick Stafford’s number. He answered on the second ring, which meant he wasn’t crazily avoiding her. “Double S Ranch, Nick speaking.”
“Mr. Stafford, this is Elsa Andreas.” Was he hauling in a breath? Looking around him, uncomfortable? Peeved and considering hanging up the phone without another word?
Stop creating the scenario and let it occur naturally. Why is it so easy to use your training on everyone except yourself
“I’ve been reconsidering our conversation yesterday.”
“The one where you held all the cards and treated me like some kind of low-level species beneath your dignity?”
“That would be the one.” To her relief, he laughed, so she waded in. “I’ve had time to think about the girls and their current situation and how I might be able to help.”
“Here’s the thing,” she went on, ignoring his objection. “You and I don’t have to be best buddies for me to be effective with your children. And yes, I decided I wanted a more solitary setting last year, but a love of solitude doesn’t negate years of education and practical experience in family therapy. My sister has legal means at her disposal to ask a court to order your children into therapy, but is that what you want?”
“Absolutely not.” His voice went hard.
“My thoughts exactly. Here’s my suggestion. You come over here again —”
“Or you could come here, save me the drive to Middle-earth.”
“Funny. Like I haven’t heard that before.” Rachel tweaked her about it all the time, but she had to hand it to Nick Stafford. It sounded funnier coming from him.
“Your steady barrage of company makes Tolkien jokes, Doc? Why do I suspect that’s not the case?”
“Reiterating,” she drawled, disregarding his comment, “you could come over here and our first session could be a family session. You get to know me, I get to know all of you, and the noisy bird is a great conversation starter for kids. It’s neutral ground, Mr. Stafford. Kids do better on neutral ground. And yes, at some time I’d like to come there. With your permission, of course. Rachel and I were raised on a ranch up north, so animals, hay, dogs, and farm equipment are a comfortable setting for all concerned.”
“You’re a ranch kid?” Doubt speared his voice.
“Not everyone finds their home on the range, do they?” She left the question rhetorical and moved on. “My familiarity with their setting might make sessions at your place beneficial.”
“My father’s home, you mean.”
His father’s home? She’d been tapping a pencil against the tabletop. She stopped. “You and the girls don’t live on the ranch? I assumed —”
“We live in town, but I work here, so the girls are at the ranch fairly often.”
“I see.” And here might be conflict number one, because with a huge spread like Sam Stafford’s Double S Ranch, why wouldn’t his son be living on the gorgeous rolling acreage spreading across the rich plain of the fertile Kittitas Valley? Too much family proximity? An aversion to the ranch? Separation of job versus daily life? Her mind jumped to possible scenarios, any of which might have an effect on the girls’ behaviors.
He sighed, and he didn’t try to cover it. In fact, he might have exhaled extra loud for her benefit, and when he did, she almost smiled. “Unless you prefer the long drive to Ellensburg,” she continued. “They have many good therapists there, and I won’t be offended.”
Seconds mounted, and when he did speak, she knew she’d made her point. No one had extra time these days, and single parents suffered from lack of time more than most. “When should we come?”
She wasn’t about to let scheduling mess up progress. “My schedule is flexible,” she replied smoothly. “Yours isn’t. What works for you? Do the girls have after-school activities we need to work around?”
“They do, but they’re free on Thursday and Friday this week.”
“Does that work with your schedule?”
Again the pause, but he didn’t make her wait too long before he conceded. “I’ll make it work.”
“Perfect. Thank you. I’ll see you and the girls on Thursday at five.” She hung up the phone before he could answer. She was pretty sure he’d prefer being a no-show if she gave him the chance. He’d put Rachel off for most of the school year, which meant he was adept at shelving problems. Reticence in his tone indicated he was cornered, and Elsa had been a western girl for a long time. Born-to-the-saddle cowboys never liked being cornered. Now it was up to him.
She moved toward the door, set down the phone, and walked outside.
Clean spring air had swept away the smell of winter mold from leaf clutter and needle droppings. Birdsong surrounded her, bright and vibrant, assorted visitors singing welcomes as they cared for northern nesting grounds.
She used to love springtime. The dance of new life, resurrection, rebirth. She’d reveled in the fresh angle of the sun, its sharper rays, a more defined warmth. On her parents’ ranch, they’d be birthing puppies, piglets, and calves — a true season of renewal. Her brother, Ian, and his family would come to help, even her littlest nephew. Ian had bought an old-timer’s house up the road and fixed it up for his growing family so they could all be part of the ranching process. When Nick said he lived in town, her internal radar had spiked, but she’d been in Gray’s Glen long enough to hear a little history. And current history in Gray’s Glen revolved around Sam Stafford and the Double S.
She drew on her cape and stepped outside. The bark-like voice of a heron paused her. It was joined by another great blue, then another, and as she turned toward the honking voices of pterosaur-looking birds, a sweeter, more melodic tune made her stop. Moving slowly, she peeked around the corner to find the songster. On the southeast side of the shed, in the lee of a faded, peeling shutter, a purple finch knit bits of grass and weed in quick, decisive motions. His bright plumage danced in the warming sun, and when his mate flew in with more nesting material, he bobbed a quick look of true love her way and kept right on working as she flew off in search of more goods.
A young pair, most likely. Hurried, with no last year’s nest to guide them, but the fury of first love and babies pushed them to commit. Did they stay together out of need or desire?
An age-old question that niggled present-day anthropologists.
She stared around her small holding, suddenly dissatisfied, and with a swoosh of her cape, she strode back inside and gathered her art supplies. She piled them into the car and followed the logger’s road to a higher elevation where dense foliage welcomed her. She pulled her cloak close, set up the easel, arranged her colors in nonspectral order, and let the shadows draw her in.
Up here, she was safe amid somber grays, blues, and browns. Brightly colored birds singing songs of love didn’t find cozy nesting corners in the gloomy chill, and when she’d applied paint thickly to the eighteen-by-twelve canvas, she took a razor blade from the side pocket of her bag and began carving muted images of shadowed trees and lifeless branches, light along the edges and growing darker inside.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
This is a nice sized book and great read. I love the writing style, because it keeps you glued to the book. The only down size to the book is that it is small and the print is small. However, instead of looking at just the physical aspects of the book let's dig into the story. This time we meet Nick Stafford, the middle child of Sam Stafford. Nick is a single dad trying to raise his two beautiful daughters. His wife had left him for a rodeo man two years ago and his oldest daughter is struggling with the fact her mother left. Nick sees his daughter is failing in her school and the principal recommends a psychiatrist to help with the issues. This woman is Dr. Elsa Andreas. When Nick and her first meet her in woodsy house far out of town, secluded from the rest of the world, Elsa slams the door in his face. Talk about introductions. They soon become friends and try to help the girls get through their difficulties. Remember keep the girls first! However, Elsa is dealing with her own ghosts. As weeks, past the friendship grows and they become closer, but Elsa still hold her darkest secrets. Just when everything is going well and Elsa is adjusting with her new life, the ex-wife shows back up. Everything topples on Elsa and Nick is trying to put his girls first, deal with a ranch that is short on hands, deal with his past ghosts, and most importantly handle an ex-wife with many serious issues. Will Elsa and Nick help the girls? Will Elsa let go of her ghosts and learn to trust Nick? Will Nick win the battle that is going on in his mind and handle his ex-wife graciously? You will just have to get a copy for yourself to find out. ;-) This was a great read about family bonding and that no matter what, sticking together can get you through anything. I want to thank the Blogging for Books program for letting me get this book with no compensation for my honest opinion and review.
I totally enjoyed this little book. I read the first one just a month or so ago, (Read my review HERE) and was eager to follow up on the story. The first book mostly about the oldest Stafford son - Colt. After reading his story, I looked forward to reading Nick's - the middle brother in the Stafford family. Ruth did not disappoint. I loved how she weaved their stories around heartache, faith, family, love, forgiveness, and healing. The people she brought into their lives were so perfect for them. I really enjoyed watching the characters interact and grow in their relationships. I also enjoy reading about ranch life. The patriarch of the family Sam, was also an encouragement to read about. Once a hard, tough man, with little time for anything other than running his ranch, making money, and a name for himself. His family relationships a total wreck are now healing since he has become a new creation in Christ. Finding faith has changed him and his outlook on life, but with his health failing, how much time will he have left? I don't think there is much I didn't like about this book. Of course there is that one character that shows up to rock the boat a bit, who is not the most pleasant to be around and makes the story a little more dramatic. I enjoyed this book as much or more than the first and am looking forward to reading the last book in the series soon. I received this book free from Waterbrook and Blogging for Books to read. All opinions are my own and I was not asked to write a positive review.
Book 2 in Author Ruth Logan Herne’s Double S Ranch Series, this can be read as a stand-alone. I haven’t read Book 1, but was able to follow the story line. It did refer to some happenings in Book 1 but it was fairly easy to figure out what had happened. Believable characters who draw you in, this story confronts both the good and bad of life. The author does a great job of handling what is really PTSD in one individual, explores the dangers of substance abuse, and shows the healing possible after divorce when God is allowed to work. Summer is a busy time on a ranch and children and baby animals abound to help make this an enjoyable read. I loved the different personalities in this story and am looking forward to reading Book 3. I received a complimentary copy of this book but was not required to leave a review.
Home on the Range is a Double S novel by Ruth Logan Herne. If you love cowboys and fiction than you will surly love this book. It is a great read that will lasso you in right from the start. This book is packed with love, heartache, faith, trust and letting go of the past. I so love the characters and their roles in this story. Be sure to order your copy of Home on the Range today. I received a complementary copy of this book. This review is my honest opinion. 4 stars!
Ruth Logan Herne's book Home on the Range is the second novel in her Double S Ranch Trilogy, where we find the captivating story of Nick Stafford and his two daughters. It has been three years since his wife walked out on them without so much as a goodbye. Nick is trying to raise his two daughters alone. His parenting methods are not focused on the children's best interest, but are focused on doing a better job than his Dad did with him and his brothers. When he realizes that both his girls are dealing with emotional issues, he finds that he needs to rethink his priorities. Putting his personal frustrations with his Dad aside, Nick takes the advice of friends and family to seek professional help. Dr. Elsa Andreas is a family therapist who has experienced a traumatic event. Her way of coping with the situation was fleeing to live in a "hobbit hole" deep in the woods of Grey's Glen to recover. It's been four years since the trauma and now it's time to move on. Helping Nick and his girls seems to be the perfect way to get back on track. Will Nick and Elsa be able to have faith and look to God for help? Will they be able to set fear aside and trust the One who understands? Home on the Range is an exceptional novel that will keep you fascinated. It is a relatable book with its family conflict, humor, love, and faith. Definitely one to keep on your shelf. I received this book from Multnomah Publishing in exchange for my honest review.
I have really become invested with author Herne’s characters and their lives on the Double S Ranch. Where Back in the Saddle dealt with the prodigal son, Home on the Range is Nick Stafford’s story; the son who stayed, the one who wanted to outshine his father. Nick is a single dad trying his best to raise his 6 and 8 year old little girls, but they have been having some problems. Cheyenne (the 8 year old) is having the most, as she remembers when her mother walked out of their lives. Cheyenne is failing her grade and getting into trouble, so the school has recommended counseling and summer school for her. Enter Elsa, childhood counselor, who lives deep in the woods is the one most qualified to help her. However, not without personal cost to herself as Elsa has just begun to recover from a tragedy in her own past. We have a group of hurting people coming together helping each other out, and just when new hope and love begins to bud, life throws them a curve ball. The author definitely knows how to write children into her story, their fragile hope and peace of mind. I really liked how as Nick (the father) looks back on his childhood, oftentimes before with anger, but now as he struggles with his broken little family he is beginning to respect his father and the decisions Sam, his dad, made. Oftentimes in our own lives we do not see our childhood so clearly or our parents until we become parents ourselves. This was a very poignant read and I look forward to youngest brother Trey’s story now. I received a copy of this book for free from the publisher. I was not required to post a positive review and the views and opinions expressed are my own.
Home On the Range is the second book from Ruth Logan Herne's series, Double S Ranch. This installment involves Colt Stafford's brother, Nick. He is still dealing with his ex-wife, Whitney, leaving their family three years earlier. Struggling being a single dad to his two little girls, he gets the help he needs from psychologist Dr. Elsa Andreas. Elsa, too, had her own struggles in the past and has to learn to trust herself and live again. Just when things were coming together, Whitney shows up, turning everyone's world upside down. I absolutely love the first book of the series, Back in the Saddle, and could not wait to continue the series. Home On the Range did not disappoint! I was not sure if I really cared for Nick when I first was introduced to him and Back in the Saddle. He sure did grow on me! I sure love his sweet little girls. My heart just ache for them not having their mother, but admired Nick's courage and determination to be a good dad to them. They were so cute with Elsa and love the authors comedic references to the Disney movie, Frozen. I truly enjoyed everything about this story. It is beautiful, tender, well written with some laugh out loud moments, and more importantly, a wonderful reminder it is never too late to forgive and move forward. Looking forward to the third book of the series. 5+ stars. I received this book from Blogging for Books program. This review is 100% my own honest opinion.
This book is such an emotional heart touching book - it reaches so many places in your heart you are surprised - you find yourself laughing, crying - and I am being so totally honest on that people - heart crying - you feel so deeply for these characters - they are YOUR characters if you know what I mean - you get so involved in their lives - the author did an incredible job bringing you into the lives of the characters and gets you permanently part of their family, so when they hurt you hurt and when they laugh you laugh. Nick has two daughters of his own but they are not adjusted well, abandonment issues, which brings him to Elsa(a shrink) - who is dealing with her own problems as well. They all start seeing each other to get help and as things go love of GOD flows through all things and when GOD gets involved love just flows and flows and flows and restores hearts from the girls all the way up to the adults and then the adults can then heal and learn to trust and love again - or - can they? This book really touched so many feelings in me I haven't felt reading in a long time - this was wonderful. I received this book to read from Multnomah in exchange for an honest review.
I have loved every Ruth Logan Herne book I've ever read, and I've read many! Home on the Range continues that trend. Book 2 in her Double S Ranch series features #2 son, Nick Stafford. Nick was the good son, staying behind to work the ranch with his father, Sam, when his brothers left home to follow their own dreams. Father to two beautiful little girls, Nick is blindsided when his wife walks out, divorces him and signs over custody of the girls. Three years on, he discovers that his oldest daughter isn't coping with her mother's absence as well as he thought. When the school's principal recommends counseling, Nick resists until he realizes it's that or his daughter won't move on to fourth grade with the rest of her class. Meeting Dr. Elsa Andreas gives Nick his first glimmer of hope that Cheyenne can be helped. Hiding away from the world, Elsa lives in a"Hobbit house" in the woods with her dog, Achilles, and her bird, Hoyl. Elsa has no desire to practice the profession she is trained for but when her sister, the principal at Cheyenne's school, asks her to do an initial assessment on the girl, she's intrigued. If she can make a difference for this family, will she be able to resume a profession she used to love? Two wounded adults, two wounded children - can they work together to heal a family torn by not just one mother's abandonment but two? When her past returns to overwhelm her present, will he be able to look past his own hurt to see the future they could have? Herne's story tugs at the heart and shows the power of God's grace to cover every mistake. Reconciliation and forgiveness play huge roles in the story. I can't wait to read book 3, Peace in the Valley. Disclosure statement: I receive complimentary books for review from publishers, publicists, and/or authors, including Netgalley. I am not required to write positive reviews. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255.
The Stafford family took up residence in my reader heart during Back in the Saddle yet Ruth Logan Herne managed to make me love them even more here in Home on the Range! I felt a strong kinship to both main characters in this story and saw many of my own strengths and weaknesses come to life on the pages. Ruth Logan Herne is a master at creating authentic child characters and Cheyenne and Dakota are my favorite yet! These little girls are perfectly complex and unique with age appropriate behaviors and mannerisms. More often than not, authors focus on adult characters and leave the children to act as fillers or props. Herne stands out and brings entire families to life. This series is going on my all-time favorites list. It's fabulous and I highly recommend it! I requested the opportunity to read and review this title through Blogging for Books. The opinions expressed are my own.
Take a hard-working cowboy who’s doing the best he can to raise his two precarious daughters after his wife left him years ago, throw in a successful cattle ranch, his rugged elderly father trying to change his ways after several decades, an older brother who returned not long ago and soon-to-be married to the best house manager around & a washed up children’s therapist and you got yourself the makings of a whooper of a story! I thoroughly enjoyed returning to the Double S ranch to learn of Nick’s story. He likens himself to the brother of the prodigal son who stayed to help his family. The one who feels he has everything to prove with nothing to show for it, except two girls who are so different and test him at every turn. Finally realizing the need to ask for outside help to deal with Cheyenne—the oldest one—he meets Elsa, a child therapist who has a hidden past. These two butt heads at first & she is reluctant to get involved, and that makes for a whole lot of sparks to fly! Eventually she gives in to both her sisters demands and a chance to be free of a painful past. Bolstered by a successful first meet and instant connection with the little girl, thus begins the healing process—not only for her and the girls but maybe just Nick himself too? This author knows her stuff when it comes to writing family sagas. The emotional depth she portrays through each of her true-to-life characters not only connects me to them, but makes them literally leap off the pages! I enjoyed not only getting to know Nick more, but reconnecting with his father Sam; his older brother Colt & his bride-to-be Angela; Angela’s mother & son, Isabo and Noah; and a smattering of ranch hands. There were quite a few surprising twists and turns that I had no idea how the family would react to each one, but the author handled each with the grace I’ve come to expect from her. She knows how to take the reader from the highest heights and lowest valleys emotionally wise. And her spiritual wisdom comes straight from Father God’s heart! I loved seeing the characters grow in their faith, bolstering each other in reminding them of various times when God was there for each of them or just stating a well-placed scripture or two. And the love story between Nick and Elsa?? Absolutely exquisite!! They both have past hurts and trust issues & I loved seeing them work together through them, so a sweet & poignant –it melted this readers heart! There are so many facets and layers between the lines of this book, some of them took my breath away or made me sigh with contentment. I’ve come to love this authors writing and her way of handling life’s messes with grace, mercy and love. Her faith shines through and refreshes my spirit, reminding me of God’s infinite love for me! I absolutely can’t wait for the next installment of this wonderfully powerful and emotional series “Peace in the Valley”—youngest brother Trey’s story. I can’t recommend this book or series enough, especially if you love stories of redemption, love, faith and with all the emotional depth you can handle! *I received a complimentary copy of this book from Blogging for Books. I was not required to leave a favorable review and all opinions expressed here are strictly my own*
Nick has done everything right in his life, or at least has tried. He's at a point in his life now that he needs to do whats right for his girls, even with the world around him seems to be falling apart. When his family pushes him to take his girls to a therapist he is non to happy but he knows he needs to do right by them. Will he be able to convince Elsa this is whats best for his family and get her to help? Elsa is facing some demons from the past and she is not happy that her sister keeps pushing for her to things that are just out of her comfort zone. Will she be able to face the past and find a future that she always wanted? I really, really loved this book. I felt like I was catching up with friends not reading a book. I really loved how the characters felt like the situations were very much real and could happen in life and not just fiction. The storyline is well written and gets to the heart of the matter. I loved how life is not perfect, and the author didn't try to make it that, no matter how much you try and protect the children its not always that way and that came across in this book. This book will not disappoint and is the perfect read and reminds you that at the end of the day Family is whats most important. This book will not disappoint and you can't go wrong, totally worth the read.
I love to read. It is, quite simply, my most favorite thing in all the world to do. There are those times when you open a book to begin reading and you are drawn so far into the story, (from the first paragraph!) that you just don't want to leave it for long. This was such a book. This is Ruth Logan Herne's second book in her Double S Ranch series and just her best ever, in my opinion. I loved everything about it. Herne has that unique ability to make her readers *feel* everything that is happening in her books. Her characters are so well fleshed out that they feel real, making the reader feel like they are in the room with them, watching all the action from their position as a fly on the wall. Even the secondary characters seem real! The first book in this series was wonderful, but this one is even better. And, what's even MORE better is that we see all those characters from the first book in great quantity here, too. Herne deals with a very difficult subject here: abandonment of her children by their mother. Tough subject. Very tough. Children are hurt, sometimes forever, by such a thing. The mother/child bond is the most powerful here on earth, in my opinion. Children long for their mother's approval and love. There is so much hurt here, but Herne handles it with such a deft hand that the reader is amazed. Truly, this was a most excellent novel and as I read the excerpt from Book # 3 in the series, I wept. I really did. I enjoyed every single minute of this book and now I'm so sad it's over. Sometimes you don't know whether to read slowly and prolong the pleasure or read faster to find out what's happened. I'm going to be living with these characters a while. I guarantee you that. I absolutely am longing for book # 3! I can't read it soon enough. I love the Stafford family. I highly recommend this book.
Who doesn't love a man in a cowboy hate who has all the right ways to charm a gal into wanting to ride off into the wild blue yonder and live happily ever after? Well I do for one. But in Ruth Logan Herne's latest novel, Home on the Range it won't be that simple. This is the second novel in the Double S Ranch Series and in this novel we meet Nick Stafford, who is a bit of a prodigal. Not the one that ran off and spent his father's inheritance, but the one who stayed. Even though Nick has a firm foundation in his faith, it is tested both my his legendary father who has spent his whole life building up a ranch to leave as an inheritance for his sons and their families. For Nick, that happily ever after dream disappeared the moment that his now ex-wife Whitney, took the money he gave her for the house, divorced him and left their two daughters into Nick's custody. Now years later, the girls are still dealing with the effects in ways that are affecting their school work so Nick is advised to get counseling to help them deal with things beyond their years and get things back on track. As much as he hates the idea, he knows he will do whatever it takes to help his two young daughters. Even if it means driving into the middle of a forest and happening upon a hobbit like home in the middle of nowhere. That is what the school's principal has recommended and not to mention it is her sister who used to practice child psychology. She believes that Elsa can help Nick and his daughters, Dakota and Cheyenne if only he is willing to give it a chance. Her sister believes that this might be the one thing that can bring Dr. Elsa Andreas out of her hermit like existence, but first they must agree to work together and with sparks flying from all of them, not just the romantic kind, it might be easier to put a sweater on a porcupine! I received Home on the Range by Ruth Logan Herne compliments of Waterbrook Multnomah Publishers and I have to say I really LOVE the Stafford family. They are as loyal as the day is long and their faith is trusted because it is a faith that is tested on more than one occasion. I love that Elsa makes references to the Disney Elsa throughout the book and love how she manages to work through the hard issues facing the two young girls, giving them a different perspective without making them feel like she is counseling them. A brilliant and warm contemporary romance readers will come to love an remember long after they turn the final page. There are even two amazing recipes tucked inside for readers to enjoy after all the Stafford family dinners on the ranch! This one is well worth all 5 out of 5 stars in this reader's opinion.
Ruth Logan Herne's latest novel is entitled Home on the Range. This book is part of her Double S Ranch series. You find Nick Stafford traveling deep into the forest to visit a doctor to help address some of the problems his daughters are struggling with in school. What he finds is a beautiful woman who seems to be living as a hermit! Once Nick decides to move ahead with this new therapy for his daughters, he cannot believe how quickly Dr. Elsa Andreas is able to bring about a change in both of his troubled daughters spirits! After struggling through the years after his wife, Whitney, left him and the girls, Nick cannot believe the difference Elsa has brought about in his oldest daughter, Cheyenne's attitude. Everything seems to be progressing well until Whitney suddenly shows up on the scene! Cheyenne has been dreaming about her mother's return for years. How will she react to this surprise visit? Has Whitney learned to truly love her children? Watch and see where this family will end up by the end of this tale! I received this book from Waterbrook Multnomah in exchange for my unbiased review http://penlessreview.blogspot.com/
Home on the Range is a great addition to the Double S Ranch series, yet can be read as a stand alone, too. Since the characters are family members who appear in each book, I would personally recommend reading these novels in order, to enhance the reading experience. This story was packed with emotion. I had to set this book down so many times because of the issues that were being dealt with. There was Elsa and the past trauma she experienced and Nick with the feelings of abandonment and failure that he carried around. Watching the stirrings of romance between these two while they battled their pasts was touching. The very hard parts to read about for me were when I was reading about Nicks oldest daughter, Cheyenne. She was so wounded from her mothers abandonment years earlier. It was hard to read about her behavior and the way she either resented or lashed out toward people. I knew why she reacted the way she did, but it was still tough to see her being rude or bratty to the people who were trying to love her. This was a very engaging story with a lot of heart. The character growth for Nick, Elsa, and especially Cheyenne felt realistic. I received a complimentary copy of this book. All opinions are my own.
Home on the Range is an Awesome Story Home on the Range is book two in the Double S Range series by Ruth Logan Herne. I loved this story about Nick Stafford, Dr. Elsa Andreas and Nick’s darling daughters, Dakota and Cheyenne. Throw in the characters from Back in the Saddle and you have a story that will tug at all your emotions and senses while reading this top of the line book. Nick and Elsa had both been hurt in the past. Nick was having difficulty with Cheyenne, his oldest daughter, when her principal suggested he take her to see Dr. Elsa Andreas. Elsa had moved to the Gray’s Glen area after a tragic happened with previous clients and wanted a life of seclusion. Nick and his daughters had been abandoned by his wife for a life with a cowboy traveling around to rodeos. Trust was an issue for them with their struggles of heartbreak, brokenness about their past and waving faith. Will Nick and Elsa find common ground to bring a change in Cheyenne’s behavior and their own lives? Ruth created a beautiful story filled with true to life characters with real life issues. Home on the Range will have you laughing one minute and tears flowing the next one, as the story unfold for trust to be rebuilt, finding forgiveness, renewed family relationships filled with love and hope as they moved forward with God. Home on the Range can be read as a standalone book, but I would highly recommend reading book one, Back in the Saddle, first. I must pick up a copy of book one to read about the secondary characters that were in Home on the Range. I want to know the full story about Nick Stafford return to the Double S Range. I look forward to reading book three in this series, Peace in the Valley, which will be the youngest Stafford son’s story. I received a complimentary copy of Home on the Range from the author. I was not required to write a positive review but have shared my honest opinion. Ruth Logan Herne is one of the utmost gifted authors with her stories of family, children and God’s amazing love, mercy and forgiveness.