Singles week at a Wyoming dude ranch sounds like fun for
the happy-go-lucky visitors. For Shelby and her young
daughter Lizzie from Boston however, Mustang Ridge ranch is
a place to stay and work for the summer. Taking over as
temporary cook is something Shelby can cope with, but pushy
dudes, a horse-hungry little girl and quietly competent
wranglers could add up to a complicated few months ahead of
In SUMMER AT MUSTANG RIDGE the ranch staff concur that if
the dudes are being shown the family-friendly version of
cattle ranching, that's what it takes to bring in cash.
Young Lizzie has difficulty communicating, and Shelby hopes
that their new life will help her. Foster, the head
wrangler, offers Shelby, who's done English-style riding, a
quiet horse to ride too, and over a bonfire she gets to
know the guests and staff. With a newborn foal to watch,
Lizzie starts to improve. Shelby feels a growing attraction
to Foster, but doesn't dare to think of romance. They'll
only be here for the summer....
From the start it's clear that the author knows horses, and
I liked the attention to detail and the modern touches.
These wranglers have to microchip the cattle, use the
internet and adhere to health codes with the chuck wagon.
The scenery is beautiful in the images Jesse Hayworth
paints for us, the horses are so real you can stroke them
and the ranch folks are down-home practical.
I enjoyed the story and gentle romance, but the fact that
there was no real element of conflict may make it too quiet
for some readers. For anyone thinking of visiting a dude
ranch however, SUMMER AT MUSTANG RIDGE is a great
advertisement. There will be a follow-up, 'Winter at
Mustang Ridge', released next year.
Recovering from a difficult divorce and having problems
with her daughter, Shelby accepts a summer job cooking at a
family–run dude ranch. She hopes the animals will be
just what her daughter, Lizzie, needs. Little does she know
that ranch life will work some healing magic on her too.
When Shelby meets the head wrangler, Foster, she is
put off by his brusque nature, but Lizzie takes an instant
liking to the cowboy and his horses. While both Foster and
Shelby have been scarred by love, it's not long before
Shelby is drawn to the rugged cowboy and his thoughtful
But with summer nights in short supply and Foster wary
of falling for a city girl, a simple summer romance soon
grows complicated. As the days dwindle, Shelby will have to
decide not only what is best for her daughter, but also
where her future—and her happiness—will be
"Okay, no pressure. We're just here to have fun. Ready?"
Shelby paused with her hand on a pair of saloon–style
swinging doors to grin down at Lizzie, hoping her daughter
couldn't see the nerves. "Me neither, but let's do it
She pushed through into the dining hall of the ranch,
which continued the Western theme from the log–style
exterior. Thirty or so men and women wearing
crunchy–new denim and unscuffed boots milled around
long picnic tables, creating a cocktail party's worth of
noise. A banner over the huge stone fireplace proclaimed:
HOWDY THERE, FILLIES AND STUDS. WELCOME TO SINGLES' WEEK AT
The moment the doors banged shut behind Shelby, a dozen
or so pairs of eyes gave her an up–and–down,
making her very aware that her black pants, pinstriped
jacket and chunky boots probably said "straight from Boston"
more than they did "we're comfortable for a long car trip."
Then the doors swung again and her daughter came in behind
her, and the eyes shifted away.
"Here!" A twentysomething blonde bounced up to them.
She was wearing a green polo shirt embroidered with the
Mustang Ridge logo on one side and her
name—Tipper—on the other. She looked momentarily
confused by Lizzie, but then shrugged and thrust two "Howdy,
my name is ____!" tags at them, along with a Sharpie. "You
guys will want these!"
"But we're not—" Shelby began, but then broke off
because Tipper was already bopping over to her next tagless
victim. Shrugging, Shelby offered Lizzie the stickers. "You
want to fill them out for us? No? Okay, I'll do it." She
wrote "Lizzie's mom" on one and "Shelby's kid" on the other,
and stuck them in place. "That should take care of it, but
stay close to me."
"Hello, ladies," said a voice from behind them.
The guy gained points by holding a soda, but lost them
by having added another exclamation point to his name, so
the tag on his purple rodeo shirt read: Howdy, my name is
Brad!! Having gotten her attention, he leaned in. "I've got
a confession to make—it's my first time. How about
you?" An eyebrow wiggle lost him another point.
Not that Shelby was interested enough to add up the
pluses and minuses, but keeping score was an occupational
hazard, as was the propensity to turn everything into a
slogan. Tired of being single? Try our new and improved
Brad!! He comes complete with a one–bedroom condo,
convertible and new caps. Ex wife sold separately.
She gave him a half–watt smile. "I've never been
to a dude ranch before, if that's what you're asking. And
I'm not really—"
"Everyone?" an amplified voice broke in. "If I could
have your attention?" A pretty, late twenties blonde climbed
up on a low stage beneath the banner. "Welcome to Mustang
Ridge! We've got an incredible week of riding, roping and
mingling planned for you. So please have a seat, and we'll
Shelby nodded to an empty table. "Let's sit near the
back." Lizzie hesitated and shot a long look out the door,
making Shelby grin. "Sorry, kiddo, orientation first. But as
soon as we're done in here, I'll take you out to the barn."
It was why they were there, after all.
"Why, hello, aren't you a big one?" a woman's voice
purred through the barn. "Then again, I heard that
everything's bigger up here in Wyoming."
Foster finished squirting antibiotics into Loco's
cracked heel and looked up to find a blonde standing just
inside the double doors, with generous curves stacked inside
brand–new Wranglers and a snap–studded pink
shirt that looked like the top fastener could go at any
moment, and might take out an eye when it did. He stifled a
sigh—play nice with the guests, you're part of the
local flavor—and said, "No, ma'am. I believe that's
He wasn't all that big, either—maybe six foot,
one ninety, wearing his usual "it's my day off" clothes: a
battered black felt Stetson, plain T–shirt, faded
jeans and scarred ropers. As local flavor went, he wasn't
much, but the blonde was looking to bag a cowboy in her
first five minutes off the airport shuttle.
She sidled in, skirted a pile of manure like it was a
diamondback, and sashayed over to lean against the wall
beside him. Which just went to show that she had zero horse
sense, because that put her right in the line of fire if
Loco leaped sideways or swung a kick.
Granted, Loco was anything but loco. But still.
She leaned in too close, giving Foster a good look at
the local topography—a pair of nicely rounded breasts
inside pink lace that would itch like crazy once she was out
riding, with all the sweat and dust, and the bouncing around
that beginners were prone to.
"What are you doing?" she asked prettily. "Is he hurt?"
He let Loco's hoof down and shifted the gelding away
from her. "It's more preventative maintenance."
"Like a lube job?"
Ohh–kay. "You're going to miss orientation."
"How about you give me a private tour?"
Not even with someone else's privates. "Sorry, ma'am.
Ranch policy." Not really, but it was a handy excuse.
Her eyes picked up a gleam. "I wouldn't tell."
"Go on now, and join the party."
She pouted, but then blew him a kiss and flounced away,
ruining her exit—or improving it, depending—by
stepping squarely in the manure. She skidded and squeaked,
but kept up her sexy wiggle all the way out of the barn.
Moments later, Foster heard a muttered curse and some
scuffing noises outside, as she scraped her boots.
Chuckling, he moved around to Loco's other side, ran a
hand down the mustang's shoulder and touched the back of his
fetlock. "How's this shoe doing? Sounded to me like it might
be coming loose."
And that wasn't the only thing, from the looks of it.