Brody is a horse wrangler at the Farthingdale Ranch and he loves his life there. He has his own room in the staff quarters and he is admired by the dude ranch patrons for his cowboy mystique and his rope tricks. Brody had been part of a trick roping and riding duo of brothers back when he was a kid, abused and neglected by turns over his youth. Brody was beaten and nearly left for dead before being rescued by a horse trainer, Quint, who is still a good friend and mentor at Farthingdale Ranch.
Brody is in the nearby town of Farthing and comes across Kit, a young man breaking out of the basement of a local tavern. Brody recognizes the look of a malnourished and abused person, so he sneaks Kit into his truck and back to the ranch to escape his captor, one of a long line of boyfriends Brody’s mom had ripped off. Kit may be 19 in age, but his maturity seems less. A high school drop-out, like Brody, Kit has few belongings and even fewer people he can trust. His practical knowledge consists of cash-and-carry skills from the hand-to-mouth, destitute life his scam-happy mom led.
Now, being at the ranch, Kit sees that life can be very different and, with Brody’s help, he might be able to adjust himself enough to find a career and a life that’s truly his own. Maybe these two men who have had terrible childhoods can gain affection from more than just the animals they nurture and maintain, but also find love with one another.
The Wrangler and the Orphan is the fourth book in the Farthingdale Ranch series, but can be easily enjoyed as a standalone. I liked this story, with the hurt/comfort of Brody taking on Kit and all his anxieties and challenges. Kit is determined to reconnect with his mom, but she is dodging his calls going on weeks now. He’s doing good work in the stables and in the kitchen, where he’s learning to be a line cook. For once, Kit is earning his own money, and he loves sharing a room with Brody, who is so calm and serene, and sexy. Their mutual attraction is growing each day, but Brody has deep reservations about fraternizing, so he tries to keep Kit focused on their work, and not sexytimes. Brody’s desire to set a good and positive example competes poorly with his desire for Kit, and his stalwart resolve doesn’t last long. Kit’s trauma is so fresh, it seemed complacent for Brody not to attempt to discuss it with him and to help him recognize that his mother’s manipulation wasn’t love, and that he and Brody were finally experiencing love with one another.
For me, the pacing was very slow here, especially in the first half of the book where Brody recounts years and years of abuse and neglect, pre-Quint. I respect that it was there to give us context of why Brody is so closed off, and yet determined to help Kit rescue himself. It just felt long and unnecessary to have so much trauma narrated to us. Likewise, Kit’s history is unpleasant and long; I was just as tired of hearing Kit’s mom’s name as Brody was by the second day. Had the story spent half as much time discussing the past and twice as much time focused on the current conflicts, I would have enjoyed it more.
I did like the grand gesture that saves Kit from an unfortunate and dismal future. It was pretty fun to experience Brody riding hell for leather to save his man. Series readers probably knew all the side characters, but they were all well-described here. Again, maybe too much of their backstory was given; I had distinct moments of wanting to move through the current plot faster. For me, I would have also loved a solid conversation about the future possibilities between Brody and Kit, which might have shut down Kit’s desire to reconnect with his mom. The climax brought Brody’s selflessness to a well-deserved end, though, for which I was glad. He took absolute control of the situation and Kit’s regard was only higher for Brody being such a knight in shining armor. Expect a happy ending all around.