One Night Stand

When She Was Bad

Claiming the Rancherís Heart
by Cindy Kirk
(Silh. Sp. Ed. #1962, $4.99, PG-13) ISBN 0-373-65444-8
Sweet River, Montana is the setting for Claiming the Rancherís Heart and the plot line may strike readers as rather silly at first.† Lauren, a doctoral student, has decided to come to Sweet River and check out her theory on compatibility.† She has designed a test and is certain she can match people with their lifelong mates.† She brings her roommates with her; Anna is a hometown girl, and Stacie is a city girl born and bred.

Stacie Summers, who loves the big city, does not want to be matched with a cowboy, but what else could one expect in a rancherís town?† Her match turns out to be a hunky divorced loner named Josh Collins.† Josh owns his own spread and has learned the hard way that city girls donít change.† His ex swore she wanted to be with him, until life got boring and the social life didnít live up to city standards.† He has sworn off city girls.† Stacie meanwhile, knows she is only in Montana for a diversion and never expected to find anyone who would make her feel like Josh makes her feel.

Stacie is a chef or at least a wanna-be chef.† She even starts helping out at the local diner and finds that people enjoy her talents and her gift for putting together meals that everyone can appreciate.† Her friends encourage her to try things out and of course, to keep seeing Josh, because it is good for her friendís research.† She finds him frustrating and enervating, sexually exciting and a bit too macho and of course, they both seem to think so much alike at times.

Josh, meanwhile, likes his life on the ranch, and has poured his heart into it.† He wants a wife and family one day to share and pass on his legacy, but Stacie just isnít the right person.† Or so he thinks, until she starts showing him that she likes horses and other animals, she enjoys the wide outdoors and can even enjoy a great game of local baseball.† And she is fantastic between the sheets.

Their story is generally predicable with all the misunderstandings one would expect from two people who are such opposites.† The characters in the town could be found in many novels that push small town community and tradition. Stacie and Josh share a great lust, an unexpected development of a friendship, and of course, a slide into love.† And there is the whole ďsmall town experience that changes a city girl because of its charm and down home sense of communityĒ plotline.

I really enjoyed Claiming the Rancherís Heart, and there is enough setup for Meganís friends Anna and Lauren that there might be more stories set in Sweet River.† Despite there being nothing new, I recommend this story due to the easy-to-read nature of the tale, the details and descriptions that enrich the setting of the story and the strength and likeability of the two main characters.† A reader canít ask for much more than that from a category romance and Cindy Kirk delivers them all. †

--Shirley Lyons

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