REVIEW: Last Chance Cowboys: The Rancher by Anna Schmidt
“You can’t be sure we’re doing the right thing,” she said.
He drew closer to the barbed wire separating them. “It’s impossible to know what’s right. But it doesn’t stop me from wanting you.”
The world is changing, and the West isn’t as wild as it used to be. Trey Porterfield welcomes a new era of law and order—and the influx of settlers coming to the Arizona territory. But not everyone is willing to see the old ways change, and as the cattlemen and the herders take sides, a full-blown range war may be inevitable. There’s only one way Trey can see to bring peace to his feuding neighbors.
Marry the enemy.
Nell Stokes is a young widow fighting just to stay alive. In Trey, she sees a chance to heal old wounds and start over. Love was never in the cards, yet as Trey and Nell fight to unite the feuding land, they’ll discover a passion neither could have expected…and a danger far greater than either has ever known.
Dear Ms. Schmidt,
All good series must come to an end and I knew that Trey Porterfield’s story would wind up the “Last Chance Cowboys” series. It’s getting towards the end of the 19th century and things are indeed changing. When I realized what the conflict would be in this book, the “Oklahoma” song “The Farmer and the Cowman” came to mind – albeit substituting Herder for Farmer. And there were a few times in it that I also thought of John Lennon’s song “Imagine.”
Trey Porterfield is running the family ranch now that his elder siblings have all married. Three out of the four Porterfields live in the Arizona territory but it’s Trey who has to deal with the newest threat – a potential range war as the established cattle ranchers are faced with herders. A real “us vs them” mentality has taken hold as outraged ranchers complain about the “woolies” who chew the grass down to the roots then tear up the ground thus ruining it for their cattle. The tension has already boiled over and three men are dead including Nell Stokes’ husband.
Lots of the ranchers want to see the sheep herders run out of the territory but Trey hopes to come to some compromise so that they can all live in peace. Times have changed since his father established their ranch. The herders aren’t leaving and if they don’t all come to an agreement as to how to go on, more people will die. His family have always protected Trey who was sickly as a boy but even they are getting exasperated with his desire to find a common ground.
Trey fears that if the harassment of the herders continues, no one will ever be willing to listen to him. With the near-by Army fort being shut down, law enforcement will be spread thinner than ever. He decides to head out to see Mrs. Stokes and try to establish a working relationship. But when he arrives at her farm, he’s horrified to find her alone and terrified. For two nights she’s been under siege and she’s at the end of her rope.
Nell doesn’t know how she’s going to keep going. Trey’s suggestion is both absurd and alarming. Marry him? She doesn’t even know him and can’t trust that this isn’t some trick to get her off her land and her son’s inheritance. As she thinks about it and of what she’s seen of Trey Porterfield, Nell eventually starts to wonder if this just might work. But will this help open doors or will it drive a wedge even deeper between the sides?
Trey might be the one who takes the initial risk of reaching out but this book is a lot about the women. Nell is trying to preserve her son’s life as well as his legacy. One of the women she’s gotten to know is the local doctor, Addie Porterfield, Trey’s sister-in-law. Now that Constance Porterfield has died, the woman in charge of things at the ranch is Juanita Mendez who has been a second mother to Trey and his siblings. Nita’s youngest son Javier and Trey are more like brothers and Nita worries over and fusses at them both.
Though the marriage of convenience plot is what begins the relationship, there are already some sparks of interest to keep the fires burning. Yet, it seemed like more time was spent on all the other aspects of the story to the determent of the development of the romance. It did take place over several months but I would like to have seen more of Trey and Nell as a couple. On the other hand, Trey’s growing friendship with his step-son was sweet to watch.
The men are the ones getting themselves shot but it’s the women who begin to stand up for a new way to go forward. In the face of great pain, it is they who show how to forgive. They will remember their losses but they will end up not allowing that to destroy the future. The ending isn’t all sugar-coated as there is a villain to be taken down and dealt with but this is a satisfying end to a generally strong series. B