Rich, Rugged Ranchers

Harlequin Desire #2235
ISBN-13:  978-0-373-73248-7
June 2013
Series Romance

Yella, Texas – Present Day

When John Coleman (Cole) hears that Maddie Gray is returning to Yella to take care of her old English teacher after she had an accident, against his better judgment he leaves the oil rig he's trying to get set up to pump oil and jumps in his truck.  Six years ago Cole and Maddie had a hidden summer romance, meeting by the river under the trees to make love.  But six years ago that summer she suddenly left with her mother's boyfriend Vernon.  Cole ended up marrying sweet Leslie, who everyone in town agreed was perfect for him.  Before Leslie died a year ago, remembrances of Maddie pervaded Cole's thoughts, and he never gave his marriage or his wife the love she deserved.  Maddie called once after she left, but by then he was married and he hung up on her.  Now Cole's determined to rekindle the romance and see if Maddie still has the same attraction to him as before.

Maddie works for a non-profit women and children's shelter in Austin as a fundraiser, but when she hears her English teacher needs someone to help her for a week, Maddie can't forget the woman who helped her so much all those years ago.  All her life, Maddie had to live with the reputation of her mother, Jesse Ray Gray, the town's infamous slut.  In a small Texas town, there wasn't anyone who gave Maddie the time of day, until she started working with horses, which didn't care about her reputation.  She met Cole when she was working on a wild horse of Leslie's, and that last summer in town their lust for each other overcame them.  Nevertheless, the night she left town she called Cole, and his mother told her she was worthless, just like her mother, and Cole didn't want anything to do with her.  Now six years and a small son later, she only hopes she can help in Yella and leave without tempting herself with Cole again.

Cole is only interested in sex with Maddie, and despite getting to know her a little better than he did six years ago, he still can't see the difference between her and her mother, and has absolutely no trust in her, despite trying his best.  Maddie always dreamed of marrying Cole and living on his fancy ranch, even though he never was brave enough to be seen with her in public, let alone take her to his home where his mother absolutely despised Maddie.  Maddie's son Noah is a central part of the story, and Maddie doesn't even seem to have that intense a relationship with him.  Both Maddie and Cole seem to live above real life, and constantly think about “what might have been”.

Ann Major tells the story from Maddie's and Cole's points of view, and they are two very troubled people.  Maddie has lived her whole life trying to live down her mother's reputation and the town's certainty that she is the same way.  Nothing has ever changed their opinion, and at this date nothing will ever change their opinion.  Cole wants to reignite the flames of their old summer affair and feels that he must have a relationship with Maddie again because of the memories that refuse to leave his mind.

Secondary characters are mostly in the background; memories of Cole's wife Leslie, Maddie's mother Jesse, and a little of Cole's half brother Adam.  Also the whole town of Yella is united in its distaste for Maddie and not afraid of showing it.

HIS FOR THE TAKING was really not my cup of tea.  Cole is eaten up with lust for Maddie, but he never shows any trust in her or really any interest in anything but bed.  Maddie rehashes her early life constantly and has no interest in getting Cole to think of her as anything other than a bedmate.  Cole and Maddie go through a lot to overcome their old relationship and see if it can survive the present day and everyone who still hates Maddie.  Not a feel-good romance, HIS FOR THE TAKING is a more serious story.

Carolyn Crisher