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    Review of THE RANCHER TAKES A FAMILY by Judy Christenberry (see her website)

    Silhouette Romance #1830, September 2006

    Sexy rancher John Richey doesn't trust women--not since his late wife spent him into debt and then ran off with another man--only to get killed on the highway. With no money coming in, a nine-month baby to care for, and calving season about to begin, John doesn't see any way out. Not, that is, until his ranch manager suggests the impossible--that John marry again.

    It was a trick, pure and simple. Not that Debra Williams had minded leaving the cramped apartment she shared with her mother. But her uncle, ranch manager on John Richey's ranch, had promised her a job--a job where she could be with her 3-year-old son all day rather than leave him with an uncaring grandmother while she slaved in a cafe. Her uncle hadn't said anything about a marriage. But that's what he's signed her up for and Debra doesn't have the savings to walk away from the deal. Handsome as John is, a real marriage wouldn't be a hardship, but being an unpaid housekeeper is tough. She can understand how John's late wife turned him off to the idea of marriage and women, but still, his talk about replacing her with a paid housekeeper after a few months hurts--a lot.

    Author Judy Christenberry (see more reviews of novels by Christenberry) spins a charming Beauty and the Beast story. It doesn't take hardworking Debra long to persuade her 'husband' that she is made of different stuff than John's ex-wife. Still, the damage done by John's early anger, and by Debra's stubborn need to prove herself--even to people who already believe--threatens their chances at happiness. Fortunately, their two young children are there--giving them a shared bond that may be the strongest thing in the world--family.

    Fans of Christenberry's warm-hearted romances will definitely enjoy this charming fairy-tale, set in rural America.

    Four Stars

    Reviewed 9/30/06

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