Tuesday, June 27, 2017

The Rancher's Surprise Baby - Trish Milburn (HWR #1646 - June 2017)

Series: Blue Falls, Texas (Book 11)


Mandy Richardson has always wanted a husband and lots of kids. She knows Ben Hartley isn't a forever kind of guy, so she struggles to keep her feelings for him friends only. But she can't help her growing attraction. Then one night their relationship blossoms into more, and soon Mandy discovers she's pregnant.

Ben still bears the scars of a painful past -- a past that has him avoiding love and commitment. When Mandy tells him he's going to be a dad, he worries he won't measure up. After all, his own father was far from a role model. But he's fallen hard for Mandy, and now it's up to him to prove he's a better man -- a stronger man -- than he thought.

Very good book, with a sweet but emotion driven romance and some laugh out loud humor. Ben and Mandy had grown up in the same town and gone to school together, but really only had a nodding acquaintance with each other. That all changed thanks to an encounter with a pigeon. In a hilarious opening scene, Ben crashes his truck into Mandy's parked car when a pigeon ends up flying in his open window and hitting him in the head as he's driving. After stumbling out of his truck, the ensuing moments establish an unexpected connection between Ben and Mandy.

I loved Ben and Mandy. Ben is the second oldest of the Hartley siblings, all adopted from unpleasant home lives. He is good-looking, fun, kind and protective. He is also scarred, mentally and physically from his early childhood with abusive parents. He is determined to avoid commitments, fearing that he could become the same kind of parents his had been. Mandy is the daughter of a single mother, sweet, kind, and has a terrific relationship with her mom. She looks forward to having a family of her own someday, with a husband and lots of kids.

There's a spark of attraction between Ben and Mandy that is obvious from the start. Ben isn't sure what to do about it, because he knows that Mandy is a forever kind of woman, and he generally avoids that type. But he can't stay away from her. At the same time, Mandy has accepted that Ben isn't what she's looking for, but resisting her attraction to him just isn't happening. As they start spending time together, they discover that they share a similar sense of fun (loved the scene with Greg's pickup truck) and admire what each other has made of their lives. The chemistry between them continues to build until they can no longer resist it. The depth of the experience scares Ben because he realizes he wants more, but his fears won't let him believe that it's possible. Mandy realizes that's she's fallen for a man who won't give her what she needs, then discovers that she's pregnant. I ached for them both, as Mandy faces single motherhood, without the man she loves, and Ben is afraid to believe in his own ability to overcome his past. The scene in front of the baby display brought me to tears as I read it. I loved Mandy's strength and determination as she prepared to move ahead without him. Ben's misery was well-earned, and I loved seeing him get advice from his brother Neil and from his mom. Ben's big moment at the end was awesome, especially since he was brave enough to do it in front of an audience. I especially loved that he admitted having help with it so that he didn't mess it up.

Family is a big part of this book. Mandy's family is small, just her and her mom, but their love for each other is huge. I loved seeing how Mandy looks out for her mom and how she tries to get her to slow down. The Hartleys are awesome. I love how the parents adopted five kids who needed to escape troubled homes and made them into such a close family. There's lots of teasing, but the love and support is always there. I especially loved the mom, who has absolutely no problem getting involved in her kids' lives, providing advice whether they want it or not. I can't wait to see who is next to fall in love.

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