|The big secret in The Ranger’s Secret is that Chase Jarvis is really Robert Myers, a former CIA operative who was thought to have been killed in a roadside bomb in Kabul 10 years ago. But somehow he survived what his parents did not. His fiancée was left to believe he was dead, for her own protection, as Al-Quaida could threaten her if they knew Robert was still alive. Unbeknownst to Robert, Annie was pregnant with his child at the time of the attack. Robert was an archeologist just like Annie, as were his parents. That profession was also their cover, and Annie did not know the CIA was involved.
Now, Chase is a forest ranger and is second in command to his friend Vance Rossiter. Annie has been offered a job studying ancient Indian tribes in Yosemite. An airplane crash leaves her with a broken arm and what she thinks is a hallucination that she heard and saw Robert at the accident scene. When Chase finds out about his daughter, Roberta, he demands to tell Annie the truth and see if they can rekindle their romance.
Annie is stunned and angry that Robert/Chase deceived her. She had told her daughter all about her “hero” father and is scared that discovering he is alive will cause problems. However, Roberta is thrilled to find out she has a dad and can get to know him. Annie takes the job with Yosemite to allow Roberta a chance with her dad even as she worries that she will not be able to keep her distance from the man who was her one and only love.
Chase is thrilled to know Roberta and is convinced that he and Annie can make a go of things if Annie can get past his deception. There are barriers. First, there is the fear that the danger is not in the past and so Chase must maintain his new persona. Second, there are dangers that Chase faces as a ranger, such as landslides. Finally there are Chase’s physical scars and a heart condition from a piece of shrapnel lodged in his chest that is inoperable and could kill him at any time if it moves.
Annie and Chase are an interesting couple. They remember their love but yet ten years have passed and much has changed. Chase is harder emotionally and worried that his scars will scare Annie off. Annie is a mature mom and just doesn’t know what to believe about Chase’s feelings. Can he actually still love her and yet not have let her know he was alive? Roberta, of course, is excited about her dad and just wants to be a family. She and Vance’s son become fast friends, cementing her transition to a new place to live in a rather sheltered community of rangers who live in the national park.
The story moved rapidly and kept me engaged. My only concern is that the story is a bit farfetched. It is hard to believe that Al-Qaida is still searching for one operative who is believed dead. There was little detail about what he knew and why they would keep looking for him. In the end, the threat never developed, making me wonder why so much was made of it. Annie is believable, going through a range of emotions from shock to anger to acceptance and trust. Chase is a little more transparent since he knew the truth all along.
Winters has a fine ability to spin a tale and this makes the story strong. The characters are the key to the strength and those who have read Vance’s previous story will get to see how his life has come out in a true happily-ever-after. For the rest of us, Vance and his family are good companions to Annie and Chase and add to their story. The Ranger’s Secret is a solid tale and will engage the reader in a simple and yet well-written story.