|As a second chance at love story, this is actually pretty good. But there is nothing new here making Hitched to the Horseman just an average category romance.
Mercedes Saddler is the only daughter on a ranch with a strong mother figure (Geraldine), a father who passed away unexpectedly, and two strong sons and several cousins and relatives that have all worked hard to making the Saddler ranch one to be envied. Mercedes has just returned to the ranch after eight years in the military, spending most of her time in military intelligence and a stint overseas on the small island of Diego Garcia.
Mercedes is wounded in spirit from her bad luck with men. First, there was a man from her college days, a professor, with whom she had a major affair only to discover her dreams of marriage were impossible because he was already married with a family. It was this failed relationship that sent her off to the army. Then while stationed on the island, she dated a man who she trusted and shared some intelligence that she should not have shared. She received a reprimand from her officer and another dent to her heart, showing her that men could not be trusted.
Gabe Trevino is new to the Saddler spread and assumed that the Saddler daughter would be spoiled and a princess, just like most of the daughters of the ranchers he had worked for. He grew up poor and struggled to find his way. Gabe was married for three years to one of those daughters, only to discover that she talked a good fight, but ultimately wanted him to be something he could not be – rich and pampered and only worried about money. Gabe is a horseman, having a way with the training of animals. He loves his work and has found a place on the Saddler spread. He lives in an old cabin that had previously been used as a line shack. Geraldine added some amenities for him and even fixed him up with an office in the horse barn so he could manage the horse business close to the action.
The stage is set. Gabe and Mercedes meet and sparks fly. They are attracted but each has their reasons to be leery. Mercedes is trying to figure out where she fits on the ranch and discovers that she is good at advertising and public relations. She has to work closely with Gabe as they get the horses ready for auction. They share a love of the land and horses. Gabe is constantly surprised by Mercedes since she doesn’t act like the pampered princess he expects and Mercedes doesn’t know what to do with the mixed signals she thinks she is getting from Gabe. When Geraldine plays matchmaker by sending them on a business trip together, things get interesting.
There is nothing new here. Gabe is the tortured hero who almost feels put upon that Mercedes seems to be throwing herself in his direction. He is certain she will try to get him kicked off the ranch if things go sour, so he fights his attraction tooth and nail. Mercedes, meanwhile plays the game of “I think I can trust him” vs. “See, I knew he was like all men.” She is strong at times and then turns around and does something stupid like taking off pouting.
The sexual tension runs high at times and it is true to the story. The story does engage the reader in their romance, but when all is said and done, it is pleasant but not really memorable. Hitched to the Horseman is one of those tales to read on a rainy day for a nice diversion.