Rich, Rugged Ranchers
Harlequin Desire #2229
ISBN: 978-0-373-73242-5
May 2013
Series Romance

Dallas, Texas - Present Day

A year after the plane crash that killed his fiancée, Jillian, and his brother, Kern, Marek Rangel receives a surprising visit from a rising opera star.  Camille Avanole claims that she and Kern spent a weekend together that resulted in a pregnancy, and she is now the mother of six-month-old Noah.  Though skeptical, a note from Kern proclaiming his excitement over the baby convinces Marek of Camille's sincerity, and once he meets Noah, there's no doubt in his mind that this is Kern's son.  Happy to have a part of his brother back, and also because Noah is such a happy, loveable baby, Marek decides he wants to be a part of Noah's life.  With Camille's performance schedule, Marek knows that he and his family won't have a lot of chances for that, so he comes up with an unconventional solution.

Camille thought long and hard about informing the Rangels of Noah's existence, and in the end she decided that not only did Noah need to know about his paternal relatives, but that those relatives deserved to know about their nephew and grandson.  The little Kern talked about his family left her with an impression of Marek that she's pleasantly surprised to learn isn't accurate.  Yes, he's not the laid-back charmer that Kern was, but Camille quickly comes to like the solemn man who is still haunted by the loss of his fiancée.  When Marek proposes a marriage of convenience, Camille is immediately opposed to the idea, but the more he explains his reasons, the more sense this arrangement makes.  Since Marek is still in love with Jillian, Camille knows that she will have to guard her heart or risk falling in love with a man who can't return the feeling.  But if she continues to focus on her blossoming career, that shouldn't be a problem, right?

THE TEXAN'S CONTRACT MARRIAGE is a story of loss as well as love.  The deaths of his brother and fiancée have numbed Marek to everything for the past year, but Camille's arrival starts to wake him up.  He's immediately taken with Noah and wants to be a permanent part of the boy's life.  His reaction to Camille is a shock to him, and while he's convinced he'll never love again, Marek knows that the attraction he feels for Camille could lead to a successful marriage of convenience for both of them.  As a rich, powerful businessman and rancher, Marek is accustomed to getting his way, but he's willing to compromise on pretty much everything in order to get Camille's agreement to the marriage.  Camille has spent her life training to be an opera singer, and her dreams are coming true.  She isn't willing to give up her career, and she begins to realize that Marek's offer won't interrupt her career, and will also make things easier for Noah in the long run.

The attraction between them is mutual but on the back burner for pretty much the first half of the book, as they spend time getting to know one another and work out the details of marriage.  The slow, gradual building of a relationship creates a bit of sexual tension when they finally admit to the attraction, and makes it easy to believe in the romance between two fairly opposite people.  An enjoyable novel, look for THE TEXAN'S CONTRACT MARRIAGE.

Jennifer Bishop