From Golden Heart finalist Pettersen (Fillies and Females, 2011, etc.) comes the story of a poverty-stricken horse masseuse and the brash, wealthy new boss she falls in love with.
Jenna Murphy’s life is turned upside down once Derek Burke comes to town. Although she’s far from financially well-off, her job as a horse masseuse at the Three Brooks Equine Center provides her with just enough income. But when out-of-towner Derek buys out the Center, Jenna’s job and heart are both at risk. Derek decides to make some big changes, including the removal of anyone who drains company resources. Between Jenna’s lack of formal education and the lies she tells to cover her tracks, it’s little wonder she feels unnerved. It’s curious, though that she’s willing to accept the man who could possibly ruin her life. Even though she hesitates to fall in love, she welcomes his sexual advances. Her physical attraction is understandable, but letting someone so disruptive into her bed seems like a disaster waiting to happen. Raised by an abusive father and a mother who obsessed over him, Jenna has a strong desire to keep herself from falling in love and thereby repeating her mother’s mistakes. This background makes Jenna a believable character whom readers will hope can be happy; it also makes her dependency on Derek slightly odd. Falling for Derek would be a bit more understandable if he were more developed: He’s little more than a cookie-cutter hero, the handsome yet ruthless businessman who has a soft spot for the heroine. Moreover, the jump from attraction to love happens rather quickly, making it difficult to track the buildup of emotions. Fortunately, the rest of the book’s pacing is spot-on. The harder Jenna tries to hide the truth about her background and her after-hours use of the Center’s facilities, the more the reader anticipates a big conflict on the couple’s road to happiness. There are also plenty of clues to suggest that danger is lurking around the bend for the Center, and the resolution doesn’t disappoint.
Not quite an award-winning stallion, but the plot gallops along at a steady pace, making for an entertaining light read.