Sunday, August 13, 2017

Million Dollar Cowboy - Lori Wilde (Avon - Apr 2017)

Series: Cupid Texas (Book 5)

The illegitimate son of a Texas ranching dynasty, Ridge Lockhart left home ten years ago with one goal: to become more successful than the father who never accepted him.

Mission accomplished, but now he’s back at the Silver Feather Ranch for a wedding -- three days of best man duty until he can hightail it out. Then he spies Kaia Alzate, and suddenly leaving isn’t quite so appealing.

Kaia Alzate grew up the daughter of the ranch foreman, servants to the mighty Lockharts in the mansion. Back then, she followed Ridge around like a puppy. Now, she’s fighting the attraction she feels for this sexy CEO. She’s determined not to make a big mistake -- but when Ridge takes her in his arms she’s stunned…could he be the man she’s waited for all along?

Very good book. Ridge is back in Texas after ten years away, but only because he promised his best friend that he would be there for his wedding. He plans to stay for the bare minimum of time required before leaving again. But those plans become a little less urgent when he sees Kaia again. Kaia, who is his best friend's bratty little sister, is all grown up and very intriguing.

I loved both Ridge and Kaia. Ridge tugged at my heart from the beginning, when his mother left him on his father's doorstep at the age of three. His father was a cold, hard man and his wife was even worse. Ridge never felt loved, or even wanted by his father, no matter what he did to try to win his approval. Ridge left home after college when he arrived at his new house to find his girlfriend in bed with his father. He has spent his time since then working nonstop, determined to become richer and more important than his old man. He has succeeded in that ambition, but he is also alone. He doesn't trust easily, and he never allows himself to get emotionally involved with anyone. He is stunned by his reaction to seeing Kaia again, and not quite sure how to deal with it.

Kaia is six years younger than Ridge and as a child used to tag along behind her brother Archer and Ridge. Ridge used to call her "Braterminator" because she was such a pest. She didn't care because she was never happier than when she was with them, and as she got older, she developed quite the crush on him. When he left, she was devastated and buried herself in her studies and her work. Then she was involved in an accident that nearly killed her and made the decision to embrace life. Now she looks on the brighter side of things and does what makes her happy. She believes that she has gotten over her feelings for Ridge until she sees him again.

I loved the development of their relationship. The sparks fly hot and hard from the start, though both try to resist at first. After all, he's only going to be in town for three days, and she doesn't want the heartbreak. And she's his best friend's little sister, definitely a no-no. But they've also been friends for a long time. When Ridge is injured, Kaia is the one who takes care of him, and their connection is reestablished. I loved the banter between them, as Kaia stands up to his attempts to resist her treatment. It doesn't take too long for them to give in to the heat between them. It is much more intense than either of them expects, and Ridge especially doesn't quite know how to deal with it. Kaia is very familiar with the reasons he left Cupid and feels that he has allowed those reasons far too much influence over his life. I loved watching her try to teach him how to let go and live a little.

Ridge really struggles with his feelings toward his father. Their relationship is strained at best and antagonistic at worst. Their confrontations are intense and painful. But when Duke has a heart attack, Ridge steps up to do what needs to be done. He learns some unexpected things about himself, but stubborn resistance keeps him from believing that there is anything lasting possible between Kaia and himself. Kaia accepts her feelings for Ridge much more quickly but has her family's traditional indicator to fall back on to convince her. The "Song of the Soul Mate" is something she didn't believe in until it happened to her. I ached for Kaia as Ridge pushed her away when she opened up about her feelings. I loved her courage in standing up for herself and telling Ridge her expectations. It takes Ridge a little longer, but when he finally sees the truth, he is all in. I loved his big moment at the end and the vulnerability that is evident under the confidence. I loved the actions he took that showed what a changed man he was.

I also liked seeing the importance of family. Kaia's is obviously strong and supportive. I loved her sisters. Their teasing was fantastic, but they are also there when someone needs help. I would love to see each of them get their own story. Ridge's family was quite interesting. No matter what he did, Ridge always felt that he was an outsider. We didn't see much of his brothers, but the feeling was always that they were in Ridge's corner. His relationship with his father and stepmother/ex was definitely complicated and it was interesting to see how it worked out.

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