Michael Pearce and his father had a falling out many years ago, but now both men need each other to get past their own troubles. Michael’s coming off a nasty divorce, learning his husband swindled him out of the royalties from the computer programs he wrote for their company. He’s house-rich and cash-poor, so he has little choice when his ailing father needs full-time live-in care but to return to his decaying childhood home in Weston, Texas. Michael isn’t able to fully care for his dad, but he’s smart enough to hire a part-time home health nurse, Josiah Sheridan. With little money on hand, Michael reaches out to his former neighbor, Brand Woods, to take work as a ranch hand so he can afford Josiah’s services.
Josiah came to Weston a couple of years ago to care for a patient and took lodgings with the single sheriff. Unfortunately, Sheriff McBride isn’t the professional, polished man he projects to the folks of Weston. He’s mostly had Josiah under lock and key, sexually and physically abusing him, for quite some time. Being in the Pearce house day after day gives Josiah a new perspective, but also keeps him in the sights of the Woods Ranch folks. Michael may not be at his most observant, but he’s able to recognize that Josiah may himself be in big trouble, and between Michael, his dad, and the Woods Ranch crew, they aim to ensure Josiah is safe from harm.
His Reluctant Cowboy is the second book in the Woods Ranch series, but can be enjoyed as a standalone. This is a slow burn romance, as both Michael and Josiah have big trouble to overcome before they can trust new partners. Josiah has to get past his trauma, and it helps that Michael is so patient and kind, giving him the space he needs to recover, without demanding anything but good care for his dad. The sheriff is a bad man, but it’s a more nuanced story than ‘the bad guy gets his comeuppance,’ which was refreshing. Josiah isn’t a damsel in distress who swoons for his rescuer; he’s a wounded man who needs to learn to love himself and stand on his own for a time. Michael helps him do that while Michael sorts out his own issues. I loved how Michael also got some good karma intervening in his love life, his family life, and his professional life. He’s a good man, and both he and his father have been hurting for a long time, since Michael’s mother’s tragic murder decades before. Michael couldn’t understand his dad’s reaction to that loss as a teen, but he’s gained perspective in the intervening years. He’s able to recover his relationship, which was sweet to see. And the progress he and Josiah make toward healing and love is joyful to watch.
This wasn’t a typical “cowboy” book, with Michael essentially dusting off his skills following two decades of hiatus, but the Texas is strong with this crew, nonetheless. There’s a sweet and compassionate core of guys developed in this series, and I look forward to more tales from the Woods Ranch in the future.
P.S. Note the trigger warning for domestic violence, partner abuse.