Maisey Yates remains the sole romance writer who makes me stay up till the wee hours to finish one of her books. The Rancher’s Baby is why I’m writing this review on a snowy March morning, bleary-eyed and groggy, to the sound of the coffee-machine spurting my third cup’o’java. Rancher’s Baby is set in Texas and not part of Yates’s Copper-Ridge-Gold-Valley series, the Yoknapatawpha of romance. It’s written for the “Desire” category, which brings out the best in her. So … “Desire”, “Yates,” “baby” set my readerly heart a-flutter … and draw me in this did. A few provisos, the hero, billionaire-rancher Knox McCoy lost his baby-daughter to cancer, a difficult read for some; and, billionaire-business-woman Selena Jacobs was physically and psychologically abused by her father (a less developped aspect to the romance), again, may not appeal. Lastly, the hero and heroine have unprotected sex, which may annoy, flummox, or result in disapproving tut-tutting. I followed a Yates Twitter convo where she defended this writerly decision (which I don’t think needs defending, btw) that people do have unprotected sex. I would say it’s about context. The circumstances under which this happens in The Rancher’s Baby may not work for all, but they did for me. Many many reasons some romance readers may not enjoy, none of which I had a problem with. With the proviso that Yates’s romances make me leave my chin-tapping critical sense at the door.
There’s a lot of cray-cray plotting to Rancher’s Baby. When the novel opens, Selena, along with a variety of women (one of whom holds a baby) have been summoned to her ex-husband’s funeral, as has her college-BFF, Knox. When ex-husband Will Sanders walks in alive and well, Selena collapses in a dead faint. Knox revives her, drives her to her secluded country cabin to imperiously announce that whatever shenanigans orchestrated Will’s “death,” funeral, and resurrection (I loved this soap-opera detail and I hope there’s a story here for us in future) may put Selena in danger. Knox says he’s lost too much (marriage and daughter) to give up his best friend … he staying to ensure Selena is safe and protected. This is one of many eye-rolling moments, with the addition of convoluted plotting and high-handed and often unjustified melodrama, in flashback and otherwise.
What the novel does well, however, is to portray Knox’s grief, fear of loving and losing (when he and Selena become lovers), and subsequent emotional resurrection. A friendship’s preciousness and familiarity and a heroine both mouthy and tender are what Knox needs. And the same may be said for Selena: a virgin (whoa! crazysauce after being married, but there be reasons!) with an abusive past may experience safety and freedom in the arms of a best friend. What I also enjoyed is Yates’s ability to match angst with flashes of wit and humour. I liked the reconciliation scenes between Knox and his ex-wife, Cassandra. I thought they were sensitively and psychologically acutely executed. Knox and Selena’s banter is great and there are some beautiful meta-rom-moments when Yates winks at seasoned romance readers, like this concluding sentence to the pre-HEA: “He was pretty determined about what he wanted to do regarding Selena, but he had to be sure he was going to say the right thing. Because when you told a woman you didn’t want her you had to prepare a pretty epic grovel.” *gentle chuckle* And this is why I’ll always love and read Yates.
With Miss Austen, we say keep bringing it on, Ms Yates, because in The Rancher’s Baby, we found evidence of “a mind lively and at ease,” Emma.
Maisey Yates’s The Rancher’s Baby is published by Harlequin Books. It was released on January 2nd and may be found in e and dead-tree at your preferred vendors. I received an e-ARC from Harlequin, via Netgalley.