A COWBOY CHRISTMAS MIRACLE by Carolyn Brown
Burnt Boot Series, Book 4
Sourcebooks Casablanca
ISBN: 978-1402296147
September 2016
Contemporary Western Romance

Burnt Boot, Texas, the Present

Christmas is a time of good will to all, isn't it? Well, that hasn't been so any time of year in Burnt Boot for a hundred years, ever since the feud began between two local ranching families, the Brennans and the Gallaghers. Never mind the beginnings, both families have prospered and grown, and both are headed by strict matriarchs who keep the feud alive. The two sides are in a constant state of competition, always trying to out-do the other, and heaven help any who trespass over the line between them. This extends even in church where each family sits on its own side with normal folk in the center.

There are a few neutral territories. One is Rosalie's bar where every Thursday local men meet to play poker, even members of the rival families. One night Tanner Gallagher wagers Declan Brennan, who is known as a bit of a player, that if he loses the current hand, he must woo and win the next woman to enter the bar. No way can Declan back down from a challenge by a Gallagher. But Declan loses the wager, and who should walk in but the beautiful, feisty redhead, Betsy Gallagher, Tanner's cousin!

The witnesses are all sworn to secrecy; a huge scandal would result if the two were ever seen together. And Betsy would be disowned by the head of the Gallaghers…her grandmother!

Betsy's cousin Angela laments that there would be no Christmas pageant this year, and no decorations; everything was destroyed in a fire. Angela is soon to give birth to a son, and she dearly wished for him to play baby Jesus this year. Betsy promises to do what she can to make her best friend's wish come true. So when she chances to meet Declan at the river, she brings up the topic of the feud making it impossible for the town to cooperate in replacing the crèche, costumes or anything. The pair, who secretly admired each other in childhood, hatch a plan to quietly gather donations from friends and family. This means secret meetings with each other . . .

When categorizing A COWBOY CHRISTMAS MIRACLE in the heading, I might easily have called it a romantic comedy. Full of quirky characters and the lively give and take dialogues of Betsy and Declan who realize nothing can come of a relationship once they have saved Christmas, the term fits. But it's so much more. Readers won't be able to help sympathizing with the real victims of the feud, the younger generations who have had to live under its cruel repressions. Betsy is nearing thirty, but has little to no choice in how she lives her life. Things really get intense when they both see something they want and must compete. Read this fun novel and see who wins…if anyone does.

Jane Bowers