Other Lori Wilde reviews are available in the Archives.

A Cowboy for Christmas
by Lori Wilde
(Avon, $ 7.99, PG) ISBN 978-006-204780-9
This is the third tale by Lori Wilde set in Jubilee Texas. Those who have read the first two will recognize old friends, but the story stands on its own. I liked the setting, the characters and even the sentimentality that comes into a story with a child who has a disability.

Lissette Moncrief has had a difficult year. First her husband Jake re-enlists in the army and heads out to Iraq, where he is killed while trying to save someone. Lissette suffers not just from his death, but from knowing that they had been growing apart and she was almost relieved when he left. She is also suffering because he left his benefits; including all of his insurance to a half-brother she didnít even know about.

Rafferty Jones is that half-brother. He was raised by his mother Arlene Jones, being the result of a short affair between his mother and Gideon Moncrief. Arlene was a drug addict and for most of his life, Rafferty raised himself and his two siblings. He often acted as the parent. He had met Jake only one time, when Jake came to California and stayed for a month when he was just eighteen. Jake left a lasting impression on Rafferty. Rafferty was surprised when the money was left to him. He didn't need it. He owns a ranch and makes a living training horses for the movies. He wants to give Lissette and her son Kyle the money, but also wanted a chance to see Jubilee Texas and meet the people who raised Jake.

Their romance is one that builds on first wariness, then tentative friendship and finally a realization that they share an attraction that cannot be denied. Rafferty has a foreman who is deaf and hooks Lizzy up with him to help in the decisions she has to make about Kyle. Rafferty also knows sign language and helps her with Kyle's first education with communicating. This draws them together. Rafferty also makes a deal that he will train the horse Jake left her so he can be sold, thus making sure she has money to expand her baking business.

Rafferty spends a few months in town and they start to fall in love. They do connect in many ways, but are wary due to the differences and the fact that Jake's mother is angry and hurt by Rafferty's presence in town. There are issues that they both have to work out and they are cautious about making more of their attraction that just a short term fling. Yet both are aware of how the other is helping in providing some stability to their lives and to helping them move on with their lives.

Ultimately, the two have to decide if theirs is a love for the ages, or just a brief interlude. There is some sentimentality but it is controlled. There is a lot of information about what to do with a deaf child and the decisions that Lizzy has to make tug at one's heart strings. Yet this is a Christmas story about hope that all comes out in the end. It is engaging with just the right balance between sentiment and practicality.

A Cowboy for Christmas is a good story the reader can enjoy. Those fans of the series will meet old friends. Those new to the series, like me, will find some people who are worth spending some time with on a winter afternoon.

--Shirley Lyons

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