Renegade Father is the sequel to The Wrangler and the Runaway Mom. Set in the ranching country of Montana, RaeAnne Thayne returns to the small town where Joe, Colt and Annie grew up, bonded throughout childhood and were later torn apart.
Joe Redhawk was introduced in the first novel as Colt’s foreman. When Colt married and moved back, his physician wife was the one who finally persuaded Annie to get out of the physically abusive marriage she was in with Charlie Redhawk, Joe’s brother.
Joe then moved over to Annie’s ranch to be her foreman to help her save it from Charlie’s spiraling neglect. The fact that he was, and had been, in love with her since childhood was something he constantly struggled to conceal. Joe knew he was unworthy of her; he had served time in prison for the accidental killing of his own father.
Renegade Father opens as Joe is giving his notice to Annie. Feeling that he can no longer be around her with his unrequited love, he has opted to accept a job 600 miles away in order to start over in a place where he is not known as a convicted felon.
Annie is stunned; she has always viewed Joe as her best friend and for one short time prior to prison, her lover. Heartbroken, she starts the process of trying to hire a replacement as well as trying to convince her children, Leah and C.J., that although Joe is moving he still loves them.
Annie has an uphill struggle here, as her very young teenager Leah is giving her trouble anyway, and this compounds it. In addition, for many years Annie has kept a secret regarding Leah’s birth.
As Joe is working out his sixty day notice life threatening events start occurring throwing Annie and Joe together in different ways. Annie tries to maintain her distance, convinced that Joe sees her only as a friend. Because she has been in love with him since childhood, she wants what he considers best for him.
Building on previously created characters, the author has some room to work in several subplots. Most of them are predictable but in the presence of strong likeable characters, the tension is well sustained.
Overriding everything else is the thought: if Joe and Annie had merely communicated along the way, these big misunderstandings would never have occurred. Next to characters wallowing in angst, this failure to talk ranks high in plot devices many readers find burdensome.
Apart from that, the story is in places poignantly told with warm and likeable characters. The children’s reactions to the adult principals add rather than detracts from the story. The tension from the escalating events marches hand in hand with the romantic tension that steadily increases.
However, while not Thayne’s strongest book, Renegade Father does stand alone, but it would be best appreciated as a sequel. RaeAnne Thayne is a very talented writer, with an inventive imagination, and one I look forward to reading again in the future.