Midnight Wrangler - Midnight Cowboys series, Book 2

Author: Cat Johnson

Publisher: Zebra

Release Date: November 24, 2015

Blue Ribbon Rating: 3.5

Format: PRINT

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Rohn Lerner, owner of the Double L Ranch, seems rather cranky to his ranch hands. Several years older than his young cow hands, Rohn can't make them understand he doesn't want to date. With some prodding by the guys, Rohn decides to end the five years of mourning his wife's death by signing up for an online dating service. That is if he can get his computer to work. With an upcoming class reunion on the horizon, will he be brave enough to ask his high school sweetheart to be his date when she unexpectedly returns to town?

Estranged from her abusive father, Bonnie Martin is surprised to learn that he willed his ranch to her upon his passing. Living with her mom in Arizona, they've built a new life since those dark days of living with her dad. Forced to go back to Oklahoma to settle her dad's estate, Bonnie hopes to avoid running into Rohn. She just can't face him after what she did that summer before college. She's afraid he'll discover her secret.

The most interesting element in this contemporary western story is the way this couple's history is revealed. Every chapter fluctuates between current day and 1990, slowly leading the reader through Rohn and Bonnie's past and present. The reader knows that something terrible happened to separate them, but will your imagination be better, worse, or spot-on when guessing what really happened?

Rohn is blind to the reason Bonnie left and so is the reader. He's hurt, but it doesn't stop him from pursuing Bonnie again when they meet twenty-five years later. Gradually Bonnie hints at her secret until the day she has to tell the truth to Rohn. Even though I suspected what might have happened, the details were completely unexpected.

Bonnie had a legitimate reason for not becoming involved with Rohn again. I was surprised when Rohn so easily wore down her resolve and she forgot her determination to avoid him. She wasn't about to tell him the truth and Rohn never asked. The reader knows crap will hit the fan when Bonnie finally comes clean, but we're not sure why, which is what kept me reading.

I enjoyed this story even though there were a few things that bothered me. The speed in which Bonnie ignores her reason for not getting involved with Rohn again was a bit troubling. It was her reason for leaving her home town when they were sweethearts the first time, without any explanation or contact with Rohn afterward. It was one of the reasons she never came back to Oklahoma. I wanted to know why she was so easily swayed twenty-five years later, even though she kept insisting she couldn't go there, and that wasn't shown clearly.

Another one of my quibbles was the overabundance of telling without showing through the characters' actions or dialogue. I like a lot of dialogue to move the story forward. There were conversations, but sometimes they were simply worded and overly sparse. It didn't give me enough of the characters' viewpoint to feel as if I knew them. Bonnie especially was consistently answering with just "okay" and it made her look passive and uncaring.

Overall, the story was absorbing enough that I was able to set aside my preferences and questions, and just enjoy the book. The way that the history between Rohn and Bonnie played out in-between the present day story is captivating. I was tempted to skip ahead because I was so curious and frustrated with the pacing that was necessary, but the surprise made the "no peeking" worth it. There is a bit of emotional upheaval before the characters get their happy-ever-after. I wasn't sure I liked Bonnie at one point due to her actions. But Rohn was so in love with her that he won me over through his understanding and persistence.

The ranch hands are fun-loving guys with huge hearts who love to test Rohn's patience. If you read the previous book, MIDNIGHT RIDE, or want to read further to book three, MIDNIGHT HEAT, you'll get to know them better. MIDNIGHT WRANGLER features reunited lovers with a secret that may break apart the love they've finally rediscovered. Following their journey between past and present is appealing. I especially enjoyed this story because it was about an older couple who have each made a life that is in flux when they meet again. Oklahoma ranching fans will enjoy these irresistible cowboys.

By Romance Junkies Reviewer: Dorine Linnen

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