The Rancher's Redemption
By Melinda Curtis
Return of the Blackwell Brothers
Publisher: Harlequin Heartwarming
Release Date: October 1, 2018
Reviewed by PJ
The last time Ben saw Rachel Thompson was when her best friend left him at the altar. Now Rachel’s suing the Blackwells over river water rights. Rachel’s a triple threat—rancher, fellow attorney and single mom—and Ben’s plan to win in court hits a snag when mutual attraction blooms. If he divulges a long-held secret, will his family forgive him? Will Rachel?
I'm sure many of us wouldn't mind having a do-over for something in our past. In The Rancher's Redemption, that's exactly what Ben Blackwell gets when he finally returns to Montana: a chance to make right a past decision that benefited his family but has his childhood friend, Rachel Thompson on the verge of losing everything. When Rachel's best friend jilted Ben at the altar to run off with the rich grandfather who had raised Ben and his brothers following their parents' deaths, Ben headed for New York City and a successful legal career, vowing never to return. The only thing that's brought him back is Rachel's lawsuit. Rachel's life hasn't been a bed of roses either. She's battling her lazy drunk of an ex-husband over custody of their little girl and struggling to run her family's ranch while keeping her mother and grandmother from spending them further into debt, all while trying to keep her small law practice from going belly up. But she's smart, she's determined, and she's not going to give up until she beats the Blackwells and wins back the water rights she desperately needs.
I really enjoyed this story and especially the chemistry and banter between Rachel and Ben. I enjoyed the slow rekindling of their friendship, even though they were on opposing sides of the legal battle, and the unwanted - and unexpected - desire that caught them both off-guard. Rachel is a feisty underdog and I was in her corner from the get-go while Ben took me a bit longer to warm up to. He's become a legal shark during his years in NYC and has layers of honor and vulnerability that have been buried beneath the teachings of his grandfather and the pain of betrayal. He's just beginning to question who he is and what values he embraces when he returns to Montana and I appreciated the author allowing those realizations to play out gradually over the course of the book. Spending time with Rachel and her daughter (he's so adorable with the baby!), as well as with his brothers leads him to reevaluate many things about himself. Redemption is within reach but in order to receive it he'll have to do something that just may cost him everything, including a chance to be with the woman and child he's come to love.
This is the third book in this series but can be read as a standalone. I didn't feel at all lost or confused by reading this one first though I was intrigued enough about the Blackwell family after reading The Rancher's Redemption to immediately go in search of the first two books in the series. And I am eager to see what happens next! If you enjoy a friends to enemies to lovers trope that plays out amidst feuds, betrayal, and second chances, with plenty of heart at its core, I recommend you give this story a try.
The other books in the series are: The Rancher's Twins by Carol Ross, The Rancher's Rescue by Cari Lynn Webb, The Rancher's Fake Fiancee by Amy Vastine (11/1/18), and The Rancher's Homecoming by Anna J. Stewart (12/1/18).
Q&A with Melinda Curtis
Welcome to The Romance Dish, Melinda!
The Rancher’s Redemption is the third book in the multi-author Return of the Blackwell Brothers series from Harlequin Heartwarming. Is this the first time you’ve participated in a multi-author series? How does it differ from writing the entire series yourself?
I’m a veteran of the multi-author series. I’ve done them for the Harlequin Superromance line, as well as with other indie authors, most notably the long-running Heartwarming Christmas Town series (a clean romance series written by Harlequin Heartwarming authors but independently published). I enjoy creating connected stories with other authors because I get an internal peek into their writing process (I’m a writing craft nerd), and they come up with businesses or family dynamics that I might not have.
I have several of my own series. I’m really good about plotting out a series arc and keeping track of character names. Other authors are really good about creating series bibles. I’m not (perhaps I should have mentioned I LOVE it when another author creates a series bible, town map, and timeline – lol). I also enjoy taking a character from irredeemable in a series to redeemable in their own book. In multiple author series, your character might get borrowed… Okay, let’s just say it: stolen. For example, in The Rancher’s Redemption, I wrote the hero’s fiancée Zoe having jilted him, and I gave her some heart and a backstory, although she isn’t the heroine. As we planned the next iteration of Blackwells, one of the authors called “dibs!” Yes, this happens more than you know!
To say the Blackwell family is dysfunctional would be an understatement. What would you like readers to understand about these men and Ben in particular?
I love family dynamics, perhaps because my family is large and extended and blended. One thing I’ve learned is you must have the hard conversations to keep the family together. The Blackwell men don’t talk to each other as much as they should, and this led to them drifting apart. In Ben’s case, no one explained to him why they let him stand at the altar and wait for his bride when all his brothers knew Zoe had left earlier—eloping with their grandfather!
What was your favorite scene to write in this book? What was the most difficult?
My favorite scene to write was the kiss in the pasture when Rachel and Ben are out riding. Ben leans from his horse to kiss her—of course, it’s not going to go well! (I love writing scenes where something isn’t insta-magical.) And then to follow it up when their feet are on the ground with him taking charge and showing her there is chemistry. That was such fun!
How many more books are planned for the series?
We have another set of five books planned in the series. Big E, the family patriarch, has secrets, which are so much fun to uncover and reveal.
Ben and Rachel would probably both like to go back in time and give their younger selves advice. What advice would you give your younger self?
Not to take every life event or rite of passage so seriously. The pressure I put myself under when I was younger kept the zit-cleanser manufacturers in the money. I’m much more laid back now.
Thank you, Melinda! Would you like to ask our readers a question today?
There’s a lot in a name and writers name people, places and animals all the time. I recently realized I’d named babies “Poppy” in two different series. If you had a big black horse, like the one Ben rides, what would you name it?