"Drama on the open range in this contemporary romance"
Reviewed by Clare O'Beara
Posted May 6, 2018
Romance Western | Romance Contemporary
S Ranch series began with COWGIRL, UNEXPECTEDLY,
and continues now with the definite requirement for a good
man -- MUST LOVE HORSES. Bryan Wilcox, known as Boomer,
needs to hire a horse trainer, and Sidney Teller from Texas
seems to know what she's doing. Unfortunately her family
have a poor reputation when it comes to horse care. Sidney
is determined to prove herself different.
A working ranch in the Rockies still needs horses, plus
they can sell some to dude ranches, so Boomer and Sidney go
to adopt four mustangs from a BLM holding pen. They come
back with four fine, but nervous, unbroken horses -- and a
cheeky donkey. While there's plenty of work for the lady,
Boomer and his mate Mac (another lady) from the military
years have some apprehension about tracks in the uplands.
They think drug runners and human traffickers may be using
the back trails. A ranch runs on a skeleton staff, and the
wranglers can't be everywhere.
I like that we feel tension almost from the start, yet the
individuals demonstrate, and recognize, professionalism.
Boomer has lost a leg and gets by fine with a prosthetic.
There must be people like that all over. The PTSD is
actually harder for him to cope with. Sidney loses
something else -- the buckskin horse she loves and has
taught tricks, Eli, is stolen. She vows to get him back,
however rugged the country. She has a few ex-soldiers to
This is an adult romance, full of growing trust,
comradeship, and fellow feeling as the adventure progresses.
Expect strong language and adult scenes. And no easy
Vicki Tharp lives in Texas and has an imagination as big as
the state. She creates big-hearted, fragile yet tough
characters. And very real horses. For electrifying suspense
and romance in a modern western, you can't go wrong with
MUST LOVE HORSES.
The dust hasn't settled on one woman's past, but amid the
breathtaking hills and valleys of Wyoming's high country-
with the encouragement of one special man-her spirit won't
be broken . . .
Sydney Teller is as determined as the wild mustangs she was
raised to train. Her reckless parents destroyed their
reputation in the business-and hers, by association-yet
Sydney knows she can prove herself, if she's just given a
chance. That where the Lazy S Ranch, and sexy Bryan
Wilcox comes in . . .
Bryan risked life and limb on his tours in Iraq, and he
knows damaged goods all too well when he sees them. Problem
is, Sydney looks damn fine in a saddle and she's got moves
that can't be learned. He doubted her at first, but now he
wonders if they can navigate life's obstacle course
together-and indulge their own animal instincts . . .
Sydney can't deny her attraction to Bryan, yet she's wary
his demons. But when foul play threatens the ranch, and
their futures, Bryan gets a chance to rediscover the hero
he's been all along-and Sydney gets to show she's got what
it takes to tame the wildest impulses-in both man and beast
. . .
ExcerptAfter they’d spread a thick layer of shavings in the back
of the stock trailer and hooked it to the truck, Boomer
waited in the crook of the open driver’s door. Sidney had
wanted to change clothes before the drive down.
He glanced down at his jeans and army green T-shirt with
“Marines” in big letters stenciled across his chest and a
hole in the left armpit. It wasn’t like the horses cared
what they wore. Besides, it was a tiny armpit hole, and it
was his favorite T-shirt.
The sun warmed his cheeks. His nerves buzzed, and his stump
crawled with the niggling sensation of ants that made his
skin feel a size too small. Boomer reached into the inside
pocket of his jean jacket, pulled out a flask, and threw
back a quick swig. The Glenmorangie went down smooth—a
soothing trail down the back of his throat.
His nerves settled almost instantly. The ants died. His
skin returned to normal size. The alcohol hadn’t had time
to hit his bloodstream. Placebo effect? Didn’t matter. The
how and why were unimportant.
He turned as he replaced the flask. Sidney stood two feet
away with an expression he couldn’t read—he didn’t know her
well enough. Had she seen him take a drink? He thumbed a
wintergreen Lifesaver from his front pocket and slipped it
into his mouth. He stifled the shudder. Lifesavers after
whiskey. He’d almost rather lick a horny toad.
She held her hand out to him, not saying a word, but
watching him the way his mother used to when she was
waiting to catch him in a lie. He thumbed another mint from
the roll and plopped it into her hand. If he was going to
pretend innocence, he was going full monty, as his Brit
brothers-in-arms back in Fallujah used to say.
She plopped the mint into her mouth, and he turned back to
“Not so fast.” She had her hand held out again, one eyebrow
If she wanted a sip from his flask, she was out of luck.
That thing wasn’t big enough to even last him the day. He
reached into his front pocket and plunked the half-eaten
roll of candy onto her palm.
She slipped them into her pocket and cleared her throat.
She wasn’t asking.
He turned away. The whiskey had made the ants go away, but
one swallow wasn’t nearly enough to dull his irritation
with her. “I can drive with the prosthetic.”
“It isn’t the prosthetic I’m worried about.” She reached
out, slid her hand into his jacket, pulled out the flask,
and tossed it into the bed of the truck.
“What the hell?”
“Keys.” Her tone flatlined.
“I’m not drunk.”
“Didn’t say you were.”
“For the sake of argument, let’s say I prefer to drive.”
Still the hand. Outstretched. The fingertips wiggling in a
“Keys.” She stepped into his personal space. “Or I’ll—”
“Or you’ll what?” He fought the grin that wanted to take
over his face. Her green eyes flashed somehow cold and hot
at the same time. But damn, it was hard to take her
seriously when she barely came up to his chest. “You going
to tell my mommy on me? Or Mac?”
“I’m not five years old. I don’t tattle on the other kids
on the playground.”
“Then what’ll you do?”
She glanced down at his crotch pointedly. “I’ll take the
He laughed aloud at that. “I’d like to see you tr—”
As the words left his lips, he knew he was in deep, deep
shit. He’d forgotten he had his regular leg on—it fit in
the cowboy boot, but didn’t have the spring effect the
blade had. The effect that transferred his energy to the
ground. The effect that gave him power. The effect that
gave him speed.
The effect that prevented him from having his nuts kicked
up into the back of his throat.
She was quick. Little-fairy-all-hopped-up-on-pixie-dust
His hand came down to block.
He closed his eyes and braced for impact.
The blow never came.
He peaked out between his eyelids. What had he expected to
see? That she’d up and disappeared? Isn’t that what fairies
did? But she was in front of him, one leg raised like the
karate kid with her pointy-toe boot kissing distance from
He grunted with relief. Whiskey never tasted good when it
came back up. He swallowed. “For such a little thing, you
sure are violent.”
“When I have to be.”
He unclenched his jaws, and a slow smile spread across his
face as he reached into his pocket for the keys. “Do you
usually pull your punches?”
“No,” she said. “But I also don’t take advantage of the
His hand stopped above hers. The tips of his ears heated.
He didn’t feel handicapped. He wasn’t handicapped. In fact,
he’d worked his ever-loving ass off in physical therapy to
regain his mobility. He still worked out hard. Every.
“Don’t vapor lock on me now.” She snagged the keys from his
fingers before he could change his mind. “I didn’t mean the
leg, Einstein. I meant the booze.”
Was that supposed to make him feel better?
“Get in,” she ordered.
He did, and for the first time in his life, he felt an odd
kinship with Peter Pan. Did Tinker Bell give Peter Pan a
rash of shit too?
She started the engine and headed down the long drive to
the main road. The surge of adrenaline had burned up what
little alcohol had made it into his system. His skin
prickled as if he was developing a heat rash. He fiddled
with the climate control knobs, switched the selector to
vent, and buzzed his window down to let in the cool air.
He glanced behind him. The incline of the road had slid the
flask to the tailgate. So close…
“Is that why you drink?”
“Because I’m Einstein?”
“Because of your leg.”
“What do you know about it? About losing a leg. About
living with a prosthetic?” He tried to keep from sounding
defensive, but by the way she narrowed her eyes at him,
he’d failed miserably.
She nodded. Not in agreement with anything he’d said, but
as if she’d internalized something, accepted something.
“Not a damn thing. That’s why I’m asking.”
He didn’t owe her anything. But something in the way she’d
asked sounded like she really wanted to know. Really wanted
to understand. That she wasn’t asking so she could pass
“It dulls,” he said, in a rare moment of honesty, “the
pain. Of now, then, what happened…and after.”
When she didn’t say anything, he continued.
“I don’t drink because of the amputation or the phantom
pains or the nightmares and flashbacks or the loss of my
career or the stack of papers from the divorce lawyer. It
isn’t any one of those things.”
She stared through the windshield as if granting him
“It’s all of those things,” she said as if she got it, got
What do you think about this review?
1 comment posted.
Re: Drama on the open range in this contemporary romance
This sounds SO good. I love the premise. Thanks.
(Kathleen Bylsma 10:43pm May 9)
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