Blood Brothers
by Anne McAllister &Lucy Gordon
(Silh. Desire #1307, 3.99, PG) ISBN 0-373-76307-7
If you are looking for a quick read with a pleasant story, Blood Brothers fits that description. The book is the joint effort of American writer Anne McAllister and British writer Lucy Gordon. The "blood brothers" are cousins, both grandsons of a British earl. Gabe McBride is a Montana cowboy and rodeo bull rider. Randall Stanton is the earl's heir and runs the family newspaper empire. The two spent a lot of time together as children and became blood brothers. They also look very much alike. They writers wrote the prologue and the epilogue together, then each wrote the story of one of the cousins.

Gabe is visiting England after a fifteen year absence. He decided to get away from Montana after one of his girl friends took their relationship much more seriously than he and involved her family. Serious is not something Gabe is known for. He has spent several years on the rodeo circuit and only took on the family ranch after the death of his father a year earlier.

When Randall picks him up at the airport, Gabe sees that his cousin has become super serious and consumed by the job of running the family business. When the business suddenly acquires the newspaper in the family seat, Randall is ready to take on another large responsibility. Gabe rashly tells the Earl that Randall is killing himself with too much work and says that he will take on the new acquisition and that Randall should go spend time on the ranch in Montana. His grandfather scoffs at the idea, but agrees to let him try.

The first half of the book is the story of Gabe and Frederica Crossman. She is the caretaker at Stanton Abbey. Her husband had worked for the earl, but was killed trying to relocate the earl's boat during a storm. Freddie was left with two children, Charlie and Emma. When Gabe arrives, her children immediately gravitate to him. Freddie does too, but she tries to hold back because she recognizes the same recklessness in him that was part of her husband. Since his death, she has tried to avoid all risk so that she could protect her children and herself. Gabe is used to women falling all over him, so her resistance intrigues him. He quickly falls for her and the children, but she resists.

The second half of the book is the story of Randall and Claire Stevens. Claire was an abandoned infant left on the McBride's doorstep with a note saying that her father was one of the ranch hands. The man was a drifter who was long gone, so the McBrides raised Claire like one of their children. Gabe had always been her hero. She learned to do everything on the ranch that Gabe did. As she got older, she hoped that he would see her as a woman, not as a little sister. When Randall shows up, she is determined to dislike him because he is trying to take Gabe's place.

Randall is drawn to Claire's open honesty and forthrightness, so different from the society women he normally encounters. He realizes that she has her heart set on Gabe, but sets out to try and change that by pulling his weight around the ranch. Claire slowly realizes that Randall is more than just the British snob she expected, but can she forget Gabe?

The complete book is less that 200 pages long, so there isn't a lot of in-depth character development. Randall is the most developed of the four characters. It is fun to see him put on his British snob persona to put a defiant ranch hand in his place. He also shows a lot of patience and insight with Claire. Freddie is such a bland character that it was difficult to understand why Gabe becomes so quickly attached to her.

Some of the secondary characters enhance the two stories. Mrs. Peek is the village gossip who lets everyone know about the arrival of the earl's American grandson. In Randall's story, North is a ranch hand who quietly supports Randall and is a closet lover of British literature. Randall helps him get more books and hides his secret from the other hands.

The skill of the authors is evident from the smooth way the two stories blend together when needed. If you are looking for a "feel good" book, Blood Brothers will fill that need without requiring a lot of time.

--B. Kathy Leitle

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