Bucking the Rules

Author: Kat Murray

Publisher: Kensington Brava

Release Date: July 2013

Blue Ribbon Rating: 4

Format: PRINT

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Jo Tallen is really hoping that this is the last town that she moves to.  She has come and gone from numerous cities throughout her life due to her flaky mother who was always in love and couldn’t stay still.  But even on her own, she wasn't finding a place that felt right.  Luckily, thanks to her mother, she did have a special skill, and that was knowing her way around bars.  The one constant thing during her childhood was her mother working in a bar, and that led to her own dream of owning her own business.  This was a small cowboy town that she ended up in, and they could always use another bar, but she would be doing it the way that she wanted.  However, she had to contend with some people thinking she was too much of a city slicker, and while she knew small towns had the reputation of everyone knowing everyone else's business, she wasn't much of a fan of gossip and tried to avoid it at all costs.  Of course, this meant that she wasn't very familiar with what the two guys from the M-Star ranch looked like when her waitress pointed them out, or knowing who their families were.

Trace Muldoon high-tailed it out of town as soon as he turned eighteen to get away from his mother.  It did mean that he left his two younger sisters there to deal with her, but he just wasn't thinking about that - he simply needed to get away from her craziness as soon as possible.  He enters the rodeo circuit, making it on his own, but he does eventually come back to the ranch.  Now, their mother is dead, all three siblings own a piece of the business, but it's sister Peyton who runs the show, trying to undo all the horrible decisions their mother made with the business.  Other sister Bea is there too, but the former soap star is more the city type and avoids any real work at the ranch; she could say she's there for moral support - but also a bit for herself, she just isn't sharing any of her reasons with the others yet.  With Trace back and helping out, they have been making slow progress, but they are very much still deep in the red.  But there is also one little mystery that Trace brought with him to the ranch - a son who is less than a year old he says is definitely his child, but the mother is nowhere in the picture.  He refuses to elaborate any further, no matter how many times his sisters ask.
Given the ranch work and being a single father, there is no time, nor a whole lot of inclination to have much of a social/dating life.  However, he has been to Jo's bar once before, where he noticed the owner, and unsuccessfully hit on her.  On his second visit, she now knows him thanks to her waitress.  However, nothing really happens this time, and Jo finds herself a bit disappointed when she sees that he left.
The third time Trace stops by becomes the charm; while Jo is actually off for the night, she doesn't have a whole lot else to do, so she is sitting on the "non-working" side of the bar.  As they are pleasantly talking, she does back away from him because she is left with the impression from her waitress that he is the cowboy that she is interested in, and Jo is not going to horn in.  As she closes up the bar, and sees that he is waiting outside in his truck, she luckily discovers, that impression is utterly false.  
So begins their steamy relationship - but she makes it quite clear that she does not do the dating thing.  Her childhood has left her with a bad taste in her mouth for domesticity, not to mention she knows that even good friends come and go, so no person is permanent in life.  With Trace, yes, he starts out agreeing with her, but starts changing his mind over time. He likes her, he wants to get to know more about her, and do more than just have great sex with her.  So how in the world can he convince the lovely, stubborn Jo to try and have a little more with him, especially after seeing her freak out over the idea of just having dinner in a real restaurant with him?  Or how can she convince herself that even just the plain concept of dating isn't the end of the world, and she may even get a couple of real girlfriends out of the deal with Bea and Peyton?  
However, even if Trace can get her to get past all that, there is still the matter of her not listening to gossip, so she isn't aware he is a father just yet...
If you love cowboy romances, you will love this take on it - with the single father who wanted his child and took him home to raise himself, and the super supportive family in a small town with many other cowboys.  The chemistry between Jo and Trace is off the charts, and their road to a happy ending is bumpy, but in the end, very much worth following along.
For Jo and Trace's story, this is very much a standalone book; but I would recommend reading the first book in the series - TAKING THE REINS - to get the full effect of Peyton and her beau, the horse whisperer, Red's story.  And look for the high maintenance ex-soap actress Bea to get her story in the future too!

By Romance Junkies Reviewer: Lois M.

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