Candy Kisses (Romance on the Ranch Series #4)

Verna Clay
Candy Kisses (Romance on the Ranch Series  #4)
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M.O.I. Publishing
Release Date
February 2013
Book 4 of Romance on the Ranch
Chick-lit, Contemporary Romance, Western Romance

Dirk Branigan's latest bull riding competition has left him flat on his back with a busted leg. After meeting his new "domestic help," he decides Sage Tanner and Miles Brightman, close friends that talked him into hiring the woman because she's destitute and pregnant, are going to owe him big time. His new employee is spoiled, temperamental, frustrating, and yes, occasionally, endearing. Thankfully, his daughter Tessa takes to her immediately. As for Dirk, his heart urges him to discover the woman behind the facade.

Book Review by Angie Just Read... (reviewer)
Jun 11, 2013   [ OFFICIAL REVIEW ]
138 people found the following review helpful
Shattered limbs and lives are slow to mend, but a sense of caring and community can heal and forge a new sense of belonging and purpose in the most broken of hearts.

Big city girl Monica Newport was desperate when she contacted her old boyfriend Miles for a shoulder to cry on and help finding a new position. She'd just been downsized from her job as an interior designer in New York City, right after the man with whom she'd been living abandoned her, stole her life savings, and left her three months pregnant. Facing an eviction notice and a dwindling bank account, a nearly friendless Monica needed to find a job fast so she could develop a new life plan.

And though there was no love lost between Miles' wife Tooty and Monica, the big city girl was uncomfortably humbled to accept a three-month job housekeeper and cook to a rehabilitating rodeo star and his 10-year old daughter in a Podunk Colorado town, all organized by the soft-hearted Tooty and one of Tooty's dearest friends.

But what does one wear in Cow Paddyville when cleaning and learning to cook, and when a growing baby bump is quickly making all those big city designer clothes seem so tight and uncomfortable? And how does one deal with a handsome, ornery cowboy with a busted leg, who comes with a sweet daughter, but lives in a rough, out-dated log cabin with dead animal heads on the wall? First impressions make a sophisticated woman like Monica inwardly cringe.

Rodeo star Dirk Branigan's long-term dreams were temporarily on hold, but he still had a chance of earning this year's coveted gold buckle if he could get back on his feet in the next few months. Since the loss of his beloved wife three years earlier, it had been a challenge to give his daughter Tessa a normal home life while he travelled the rodeo circuit. A broken leg took him out of commission and had him practically immobilized, so hiring a temporary cook and housekeeper was the only way to keep his adolescent daughter from taking on those burdens for several months. Pushing forty, Dirk knew he had to recuperate fast and get back on the circuit to get those last few lucrative endorsements needed to provide the funds to get his ranch up and running before the punishment his body endured forced him into retirement.

But the cowboy was firmly on the fence when it came to taking on a down-on-her-luck pregnant woman who seemed so out of place, uptight, and superficial upon first meeting her. Dirk knew his tight knit community of Paxtonville had always been supportive of him, so surely he could tolerate a short-term domestic arrangement with a woman who quickly bonded with his daughter and was easy on the eyes. Well, he could if he didn't act on the two-way attraction building between him and his temporary help as their defenses dropped and their hearts and minds melded.

Hero Dirk is no nonsense and goes about the business of providing for his daughter and working towards his long-held dream of running a working ranch, but he hasn't been able to open his heart to another woman since losing his wife. The ranch he bought before his wife's death is a home without a heart, but he steadfastly clings to what remains of a younger man's dreams. He can't believe he's responding to a high-maintenance woman who's quite obviously a spoiled gold-digger.

Monica's childhood was one of financial privilege, loneliness, and emotional pain. She's always felt as if she belonged to no one but herself, but her pregnancy gives her life new purpose, while the upheavals she's enduring are bitter blows that force her to ask for help and forgiveness from people she's hurt in the past. Having never experienced unconditional love or friendship, and feeling she was an unwanted burden to the family members that raised her, Monica finds she's desperate to love and nurture the unborn child she's carrying, despite her uncertain future to provide for herself and her child.

Yet, as Monica spends more time with Dirk, Tessa, and the people of Paxtonville, she develops a sense of rightness, home, friendship, and family she's never experienced before. In turn, Dirk opens his heart and mind to a second chance at marriage and a future with a woman carrying another man's child. But a tragic event challenges the feelings they've only recently began to acknowledge, and Monica's deep seated feelings of unworthiness send her running back to a new job in New York. Fortunately, Dirk's not a man to let a dream that's within reach just up and die.

Verna Clay's matter-of-fact, down-home style of storytelling yanked me into the household shared by Dirk, Monica, and Tessa and welcomed me into close-knit Paxtonville, Colorado and its compassionate and caring inhabitants. Readers will find themselves experiencing a gamut of tender emotions before CANDY KISSES culminates in a pleasing, satisfying end. This is a definite feel-good romance that will have you waiting for a new story in the Romance on the Ranch series and a chance to revisit the peaceful, thriving town that makes Ms. Clay's warmhearted series so special.
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