An action-filled tale of love, theft, horses and loyalty.
Brubaker’s debut romance follows 26-year-old Samantha Calloway, who returns to her hometown after a 15-year absence. Samantha put her nascent music career on hold to venture back to the Sierra Nevada foothills to work on the Diamond D Ranch in Penryn Valley, Calif. She grew up in Penryn Valley, a place full of unanswered questions. At 11, Samantha was the sole survivor of a plane crash that killed her mother and father. Her parents—the famous country-western singer Tracy Malone and accountant/hobby rancher Samuel Andrews—left her in the care of her Uncle Joe, the executor of her multimillion-dollar trust. Her abusive cousin (Joe’s son, Reggie) tormented her, and she eventually fled to her Great Aunt Millie’s in San Diego. Her return to Penryn Valley is motivated by her wish to confront “memories that just wouldn’t settle right.” Her arrival is a surprise to Nate Walker, whose family owns the Double D Ranch, as she was hired without Nate’s permission. His immediate response is to send her away, but it’s clear from their first interaction—Samantha eager to work, Nate gruff and dismissive—that the two will eventually fall in love; nonetheless, it’s an entertaining process to watch. As Samantha finds happiness at Diamond D, she begins to question her music career. Shortly after her arrival, however, she receives a series of threats that lead her to learn more about her Uncle Joe. Brubaker expertly sketches Nate’s diligent, stern and kind character through dialogue. Other ranch hands add humor to the mix—particularly May, the wisecracking cook, and her doting husband, Shorty. However, readers may find that some of the tension between Samantha and Nate feels contrived; for example, they once knew each other as children, but he doesn’t recognize her now since she goes by a different name.
A charming, if formulaic, Western romance.