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Monday, June 30, 2014

ARC Review: Her Desert Treasure by Larie Brannick

This is a first for me—I just overdosed on sweetness in a romantic suspense title. Actually, I hesitate to call debut author Larie Brannick’s HER DESERT TREASURE romantic suspense: it’s really more of a contemporary romance that’s a bit too sexy to fall under the ‘sweet’ heading with some light mystery undertones. And a cowboy veterinarian… who can resist a man who loves animals AND wears a Stetson? Especially with that cover. Coming off a dark-and-intense-and-action-packed-RS reading binge, this book was a touch too slow and sweet for my tastes, but it’s a well-written debut with enjoyable characters and great, witty dialogue that makes for a quick, cute read with some heat and a Western vibe.

Heroine Megan (Meg) Reynolds returns to Big Rock, Colorado upon her beloved grandfather John’s death after five years and a bad relationship in San Diego to take ownership of the ranch and land she grew up in that has been bequeathed to her. She hopes to start a new life for herself and realise her and her grandfather’s dream of opening up a ‘living classroom’ on the land, but those plans are put on hold whilst a challenge to the will from the mysterious Goldstone Holdings (the source of the suspense element in the story) is resolved. On her way to her grandparents’ cabin, Meg encounters the sex-in-a-Stetson hotness that is Dr. Jake Matthews, former Chicagoan and current town veterinarian, attempting to photograph a herd of wild Mustangs that have taken up residence in the nearby canyon. In Meg’s absence, Jake and her grandfather struck up a close friendship, and Jake wants to see John’s dream of a wild Mustang sanctuary on the land come to fruition—which would interfere with Meg’s outdoor classroom. This opposition is supposed to be a source of conflict between Meg and Jake, but I never felt like it really generated much tension beyond a couple of minor verbal disagreements.

Jake is entirely too perfect to be realistic, but he makes for a great book boyfriend. He’s ridiculously attractive, lovingly takes care of animals for a living (even a random and potentially pro-bono one struck by a car that Meg brings in), is protective and concerned for Meg’s safety without being excessively overbearing, blames himself for something that happened to an ex that was completely not his fault (the reason he started anew in Colorado), and is both considerate and a God between the sheets. And he wears a Stetson. Seriously, where do I find myself one of him?? He’s a goner the second he sees Meg, and the two of them together are adorably cute in a high school kind of way (but with steamy-ish sex). The fake relationship-that-turns-real the two of them engage in when Jake’s parents show up with an annoying Chicago socialite and family friend with amorous intent in tow is hilarious, even if the interloper’s character is overblown and cliché. Meg’s an enjoyable character as well: having escaped a relationship with her controlling college sweetheart, she’s stubborn and determined to stand on her own, but she’s also vulnerable and sweet and has a great sense of humour. Her witty banter with Jake had me laughing out loud a few times, and the two of them seriously deserve an award for cutest couple ever… I’m tempted to check for cavities, but not in a bad way.

The mystery/suspense plot is the weakest part: it is definitely not the focus of the story and feels thrown in there to try to make it more than a straight-up contemporary. Anybody who reads any significant amount of suspense will see the “twist” coming a mile away and will have no problems determining the identity of the villain, but it does serve to make the HEA slightly more high-stakes. As a fan of much darker romantic suspense, I could’ve done without the subplot, but readers who are into RS-lite will likely find it a nice addition to an easy-to-read, approachable, and fluffy story.

**ARC provided by Publisher**

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