REVIEW: Rocky Mountain Home by Vivian Arend
Warning: series spoilers follow
Dear Vivian Arend,
Fans (like me) of the Six Pack Ranch series have been waiting for Jesse’s book with bated breath. Jesse Coleman, the eldest of the Coleman twins, took off from Rocky Mountain House and his beloved Six Pack Ranch in the previous book, Rocky Mountain Devil. But since Joel’s book, Rocky Mountain Rebel (and number five in the series – six books ago), something has been up with Jesse and we have all wanted to know what it was.
In Rocky Mountain Devil, Jesse did talk to his cousin Rafe about what had been bothering him so we kind of knew what had been going on then. But in this book, we get a greater understanding of Jesse’s feelings and his conflict. Perhaps it was because it’s been building over so many books but it felt a little anticlimactic to know what had been really going on in Jesse’s head. While a lot of it turned out to be guilt rather than jealousy and it didn’t turn out to be because he had feelings for Vicki himself (something I was glad of but had briefly suspected), it felt a little… thin. I don’t know, maybe nothing was ever going to be both enough to explain Jesse’s bad reaction (and for such a long time) but something he could be redeemed from?
In any event, I did appreciate Dare’s advice to Jesse about the issue and I also appreciated how Jesse ended up dealing with it all.
Who is Dare? Well, Darilyn Hayes is the girl Jesse meets in an out-of-the-way bar in rural Alberta very shortly after he leaves Rocky Mountain House. Dare is drinking in memoriam to her parents and sister who had died on that day ten years before. Jesse joins her in drowning her sorrows and soon they are flirting and and more. Before they get really drunk though, Dare makes her wishes known; she fully consents to having wild monkey sex with Jesse all night long. And they do.
“Your place or mine. We’re probably next door to each other.”
“Good. Then we won’t have to worry about our neighbour complaining about how much noise we’re making.”
“You think we’re going to make a lot of noise, do you?”
“Oh, darlin’, I’m quiet as a mouse, but I have a feeling it’s the kind of night you need to do a little screaming.”
However, having only exchanged first names and with no intention of ever seeing one another again, when Dare discovers she’s pregnant a few weeks later, Jesse is a difficult man to find. It’s never specified whether a condom failed or whether drunkenness led to less than optimum use, but whatever the case, Dare decides she’s keeping the baby. She does want to let Jesse know, to give him the option of being involved if he wants to but she can’t find him.
Lucky for Dare, Jesse finds her – all thanks to a slightly risque photo she took of him wearing only a towel, a cowboy hat and a smile and which she posted on her blog and subsequently became a meme.
Dare lives on the Silver Stone ranch near Heart Falls in Alberta. Her family and her best friend’s family bought the ranch together. When Dare’s blood relatives died when she was 16, the Stone siblings became her family too. She helps on the ranch a bit but most of her income is from her blog about ranch life. I admit I don’t really understand the attraction of that kind of blog. I’m obviously not the target audience. But I do know that there are big blogs with large followings about all manner of things and that it is possible to be self-supporting from the ad income so I accepted that Dare’s blog falls into that category. There are blog posts peppered throughout the book – again, because that kind of blog baffles me more than anything else I didn’t find those sections particularly riveting.
When Jesse finds Dare, hoping to take another turn between the sheets with her, he is, to say the least, gobsmacked when she tells him she is four months pregnant with his child. Jesse reacts with appropriate shock and not with immediate joy at this unexpected news. I didn’t expect him to propose straight away however. And neither does Dare. He kind of rides roughshod over her objections and they end up “engaged” while they get to know one another. Jesse does step up in relation to the child – nicknamed “Buckaroo” right from the start. He is determined to do the right thing, particularly as he’s convinced he’s a screw-up and an ass most of the time.
Dare and Jesse have a scorching sexual chemistry- I didn’t even mind the occasional cheesy line because it was so good-humoured.
She glanced down to discover he was smiling in that way that made her shiver. “Stop looking at me as if I’m on the menu.”
“Darlin’, you’re not only on the menu. You are the menu. I’m on a Dare diet, and I’m planning on enjoying as much all-you-can-eat buffet as possible.”
And other than sexually, they do get along well. Really, there is nothing keeping them apart; no big misunderstandings, no unsolvable conflict. I suppose that’s my biggest criticism of the book. I didn’t feel there was any serious risk to them as a couple at any stage in the story. However, that doesn’t mean I was in any way bored. I’ve been struggling to read on and off this year and Rocky Mountain Home was in no way a struggle to finish. Dare and Jesse have a delightful spark between them and I liked the way that dealt with one another – with (for the most part) maturity and sensitivity as well as humour. I was entertained throughout the story even though it did not have much by way of angst.
Most of the conflict is really around Jesse and his return to the family. He has done damage with his dickish behaviour since Joel and Vicki got together and he burned a few bridges when he left Rocky. He has to make amends and find his place. Dare helps him to do that but a lot of it is also Jesse deciding to man up and grow up.
Unlike most of the other books in the series, I don’t think Rocky Mountain Home stands alone well. There is too much history – there are ten previous books in the series, plus the Thompson & Sons books which have a series tie-in – for this one to be easily or fully understood without that context. There is also an element of fan service to the story – there are weddings and babies – so many babies. Three are born within the confines of the book, more if you count the epilogue. I had mixed feelings about this. On the one hand, I have enjoyed all the previous books and I like to catch up with previous characters and check in. On the other, these bits mostly did not drive the plot forward. Because it was the last book in such a beloved and long-running series however, I was prepared to give it a pass and just enjoy it.
Despite most things being neatly wrapped up with a bow, there were a couple of things I was curious about; things that were left unspecified in the book but which would be too spoilerish to say here.
While Rocky Mountain Home is (nearly*) the end of the Six Pack Ranch series, it is also the beginning of a new one – Heart Falls. The first book, A Rancher’s Heart features the eldest Stone sibling, widowed dad Caleb, and Jesse’s Whiskey Creek cousin, Tamara Coleman. It wouldn’t surprise me if we see various Colemans popping up in the future as the Stone siblings find their HEAs.
I enjoy your writing style and your characters always charm me and make me smile. Those things had me staying up late to keep reading and meant that I finished the book in only a couple of evenings. Due to the lack of conflict in the story I’m going with a B- for the grade. However, if a reader is looking for a low-angst book (and don’t we all sometimes?) I suspect their grade would be around the B mark or higher.
*There is a Coleman novella featuring all of the Colemans “coming soon” called Rocky Mountain Forever