A COWBOY FOR ALL SEASONS
Four generations of Dempseys have struggled to turn the Dos Estrellas ranch into a successful cattle operation. Gabe Dempsey vows to keep the dream alive, even if he has to share ownership with two half-brothers, who are virtual strangers. They are also pressuring him to sell -- which will happen over his dead body. Luckily, Reese McGraw is the trustee of his father's estate, and she's on Gabe's side. For now.
Reese is happy to support Gabe in his fight to keep the ranch -- but is her support a conflict of interest? His brothers seem to think so. Gabe and Reese's growing feelings for each other are a problem, too. But maybe it's one that will be solved by the magic of Christmas!
Good book. Gabe has been helping his father run the ranch for a long time. His father's recent death has thrown everything into turmoil. Though his father had promised to leave the ranch to him, the reading of the will shows a change. Instead, he and his two legitimate half-brothers share ownership of the ranch. Reese McGraw, daughter of his father's longtime enemy, is the will's trustee. Gabe is determined to keep the ranch. It isn't going to be easy - the ranch is deeply in debt. Plus, he has to share decision-making with his brothers and Reece. To make things even more complicated, he's attracted to Reece, which puts stress on their working relationship.
For the most part, I liked Gabe. He's a hard worker, determined to get the ranch back on solid ground. He loves his mother and is protective of her. He also has the respect of the people who work for him. However, he also has quite a chip on his shoulder when it comes to his two half brothers. He seems to resent their very existence, not just the fact that they share the ownership of the ranch. He is not blameless in the tension that exists between them, as he doesn't even try to hide it. When it comes to Reece, he knows he should keep his distance. Unfortunately for him, the attraction is just too strong. The problem comes when he has trouble separating their personal relationship and their business one, taking it as a betrayal when she doesn't always side with him. One of his driving goals is to gain the ranch for himself so that he feels he "deserves" a chance for a future with her.
I liked Reece a lot. She's made mistakes in some of her life's choices, but has done her best to overcome them. At this time she has returned to Mustang Valley to live, after twelve years away, because her father needs her help. Working at the bank is part of the career she loves, but being made trustee for the Dempsey will is awkward. She expects that Gabe isn't going to be happy about it, and she's right. What she doesn't expect is the attraction between them and the strain it puts on their business relationship. The back and forth of their relationship was a bit frustrating to see, especially when Gabe seems to think that she should always be on "his" side, despite it being her job to look out for the best interests of the ranch. It took some work, but they finally were able to find a compromise that makes a future possible.
I liked seeing how the various characters slowly began to adjust to the reality of sharing responsibility for the ranch. Gabe eventually had to admit that his brothers weren't as useless as he'd wanted to believe. Josh and Cole began to get more invested in making their partnership work. Josh because he needed a stable home to bring his kids to once he gains custody, and Cole because he wants to support Josh. I liked seeing them start to cooperate, and the purchase of the steers seemed to be a step in the right direction. When trouble came with it, it was hard to tell if it was going to destroy the ranch completely, or if they would really start to work together. What happened was something of a surprise, but it shows great promise for the future of the ranch.