Blast from the Past

Once a Rancher (The Carsons of Mustang Creek) - Linda Lael Miller

First, and most importantly, how in the world did they know they needed Jason Priestley to pose Priestleyfor that cover all the way back in the 90’s?! Seriously, maybe it’s just the pose, but the likeness is uncanny! Every time I look at it I giggle. It actually makes me feel better about how that model doesn’t look anything like how I pictured Slater during my read.

It wasn’t until just this moment that the name Slater began resonating in my mind with Saved by the Bell, and now I have a weird mash-up of Jason Priestley and AC Slater in my head. Picture Brandon Walsh, wearing parachute pants and a mullet, riding a stallion. Just no. No.

Okay, now, let’s get serious. Once a Rancher was a nostalgia selection for me. As a young teen, 13-14, I was an avid reader. More avid than I am even today. We’re talking a book a day. If I went on vacation for 10 days, I took 10 books, and I read all of them. Many times I would take one or two books with me to my older sister’s house, when I was there for a weekend, and finish them too quickly. Since not having a book to read is akin to death for a reader, I’d start digging through her drawers of books. She didn’t have book shelves, she put her books in her guest room drawers, oddly enough. Inside those drawers I discovered true Historical Fiction, like Mary Queen of Scots by Margaret George, or heavy fiction like Through a Glass Darkly by Karleen Koen… but mostly inside were quick light romantic reads by authors like Nora Roberts, Jude Devereaux, and of course Linda Lael Miller. To be perfectly honest, prior to today I hadn’t read a book by any of these authors in decades. Despite that, when I saw Once a Rancher on the list of ARC’s on Netgalley’s website something inside me just had to request it. It wasn’t that I was ever a huge fan, or if was my favorite genre, it was purely in remembrance of my youth.

What I discovered, reading now in my mid 30’s, is that Romance as a genre has come so far. The set up in Once a Rancher felt exactly the way it felt when I was young. ‘Hot’, tall, virulent, man meets woman and is taken aback by her fiery personality, thrown for a loop at her independence, and of course she happens to be the most beautiful woman he’s ever laid eyes on. The heroine is hesitant, for whatever reason, to begin a relationship but finds herself quickly and irresistibly drawn to him. She’s so drawn to him that she overlooks slightly aggressive behavior that in our current decade has quickly become frowned upon, such as being invited by said man somewhere but, without waiting for her agreement, he just assumes the answer is yes and proceeds as such. Or, assuming that the female MC wants to have sex, without any real discussion, and proceeds as such.

That’s not to say that I think Slater was a ‘bad man’, or that Grace couldn’t have said no at any time and he would stop. Lucky for the both of them that the actions were appreciated or this could have been a whole different story. The truth is that even though the plot felt regurgitated, and the characters felt one dimensional, I actually did enjoy reading this book. It was fast, a day read so it was like a blast from the past, it was sweet, and it even made me highlight one passage:

One night does not make us lovers. And for the record, ‘lovers’ is an archaic term only used in historical romance novels, along with smelling salts and perfectly tied cravats.”

Maybe it’s because I read a lot of historical, but that made my giggle audible.

So, what did I learn from this walk down memory lane? I learned that formula is important to a story. I learned that I prefer present day romance novels, because they’re more meaty. I learned that that none of that really matters, because despite how much substance this story lacked, I will probably be right there requesting the follow up story. With ‘Always a Cowboy’ as the title, me thinks it’s about Drake and I can’t help my curiosity.


Thank you to HQN Books and Netgalley for providing a copy of his book, in exchange for an honest review.

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