This fall, when I discovered Kathleen Eagle's Something Worth Keeping would be reissued as part of Silhouette's "Men at Work" series, I sought permission to review it for The Romance Reader. While our site tends to focus on new fiction, the editor agreed to this exception. I recommend your finding a copy and discovering (or rediscovering) Kathleen Eagle.
The opening scene belongs to Cord O'Brien, as he contemplates the capture of a free-spirited mustang he has chosen to become the "savior" of his small herd of horses. Cord and Jesse Pickett, his stand-in father, share a small ranch located in the general area of Dubois, Wyoming, near the Wind River Range of the Rocky Mountains.
Cord is a farrier, talented enough at his trade to support his ranching and racing interests. When away from his own ranch, Cord sets up shop at the South Dakota ranch of Hank Sinclair, an old friend. There he cares for the horses of the local ranchers and plans to train his newly captured mustang, Freedom, for the Rocky Top Endurance Race, a major competition in the Black Hills area.
While Cord's smithing talents are clear, one must be attentive to understand his fascination with the training and racing of wild mustangs. As the story unfolds, Kathleen Eagle makes the reader care about endurance racing. But, do not be misled. Something Worth Keeping is not all brawn, or even all machismo. This is an evenly balanced romantic novel.
Brenna Sinclair arrives in South Dakota planning to see the land on which Hank Sinclair's ranch operates, then to sell it and return home to Connecticut. Thanks to her recently deceased mother, Brenna inherited that land. Also, thanks to that jet-setting mother, she carries the burden of feeling neglected by a father she has never known.
Brenna is a successful horse trainer, whose slightly unorthodox approaches keep her from being immediately accepted by the locals, but whose accomplishments must be taken seriously. No one is more aware or proud of this than her father, Hank, who has followed her career at a distance without her knowledge.
As professionals, Brenna and Cord sense shared qualities which earn the other's respect. Childhoods of parental rejection create wariness of involvement and commitment, but in a wonderful "he said, she said" relationship, they develop an understanding of how each is different from the parents who abandoned them.
Brenna and her father have far more roadblocks in the way of a relationship which needs salvaging. In this regard, Janet Hood, Hank's "housekeeper," is a remarkable creation. Mother of Brenna's half-brother, Kyle, Janet helps heal the breach between father and daughter, when she might easily have been another wicked stepmother character.
If, like me, at least one of Kathleen Eagle's newer, longer single titles is on your all-time keeper list, you should experience this excellent story. If you have never read a book by this talented author, you will not read a better, short romantic book in 1999. Crafted more than a decade ago, when Kathleen Eagle was honing her skills writing in this shortened format, Something Worth Keeping is a window on the world of an author just beginning to impact this genre. Luckily for her audience, she's still with us and her writing is stronger than ever.