RANCHER'S SON – Leigh Duncan
Harlequin American Romance, #1431
Fort Pierce, Okeechobee, and Kissimmee, Florida – Present Day
Sarah Magarity is a senior case worker for the Department of Children and Family Services. It is Christmas Eve and she is dismantling the tree and cleaning up after the party held for the foster children. A woman arrives with a little boy. She tells her that the boy's mother had been murdered a few months ago, and she promised to drop Jimmy off so they could find his father, James Tyrone Parker, who lives near Lake Okeechobee. Because most of the workers are off between Christmas and New Year, Sarah takes the five year old home with her even though that is strictly against the rules. She calls Mr. Parker and asks him to come in. She remembers Ty from the year before when he was trying to set up a Big Brother program for teenagers that turned out so badly.
Ty Parker has a large ranch in Southern Florida. He has eight paying guests arriving in a few days to participate in a cattle drive to Kissimmee. He had been an investment broker until his father needed him to come home and take over the ranch. He and Millie divorced six years ago, and he knows nothing about having a son. He is sure that Millie would have told him, so he doesn't believe Jimmy could be his even though his name is on his Jimmy's certificate. He demands a blood test, but in the meantime, he agrees to take Jimmy on the ten day cattle drive with him. Sarah doesn't feel comfortable letting Jimmy leave with Ty, so she goes with them on the drive. She is very disillusioned with social work as she sees the children in and out of foster homes and wants better for the little boy who has captured her heart.
There is not much in the way of amenities on the cattle drive. Cooking is done over an open fire, and there is no electricity in the little cabins along the way. Little Jimmy is thrilled with the horses and the cows. Ty and Sarah are attracted to each other, but pretend indifference.
Sarah cares about Jimmy and feels sorry to see so many children going into the foster care system and being moved from foster home to foster home with no stability in their lives. She prays that Ty is Jimmy's real father. She discovers that Ty is a good guy trying to make a go of his ranch. Ty likes the idea of a son to carry on so hopes that Jimmy is really his, but doesn't really believe that he is. The attraction between Sarah and Ty grows as does Ty's enjoyment of Jimmy.
RANCHER'S SON is a well written story that will keep readers interested in the tale of romance and family. The dialogue is good, and the story moves along at a good pace. The ending is a bit of a surprise and may leave readers with a tear in the eye. RANCHER'S SON is an enjoyable tale with a sweet romance.