20 April 2014

Precious Gifts (Harlequin Heartwarming No. 8)

Synopsis from back of book: Things have not gone well for Hayley Ryan. Her beloved grandfather is dead. Her ex-husband not only abandoned her for another woman but also stole Hayley's inheritance – and left her pregnant. All she has now is a piece of property to camp on – and a secret mine that might or might not produce.

Jake Cooper is part owner of the Triple C Ranch in southern Arizona. Hayley Ryan's campsite is adjacent to the Triple C. The first time Jake rides into her camp, she points a shotgun at his head – and without even knowing it, takes aim at his heart...

Jake is determined to persuade Hayley to trust him and marry him. As for Hayley's baby-to-be – he'd love the chance to be a dad!

Stats for my copy: Mass market paperback, published by Harlequin Enterprises Limited, 2011, originally published as MOM'S THE WORD; purchased at a library book sale.

First line: “You're pregnant, Hayley.”

My thoughts: I have a subscription to Harlequin Heartwarming through their Reader Service, but I subscribed late and missed the earliest books, so I was pleased to recently come across this one at a library sale – a Heartwarming, AND a Roz Denny Fox, so double score. And then the hero is a cowboy, and I've really gotten into cowboys over the last few months, so triple score!

Hayley is young and naive, a girl who grew up lonely and fell for the first smooth talker to take an interest in her. She was raised by an undemonstrative grandfather who spent more time at his mine than with his granddaughter, and she was glad to marry Joe despite her grandfather's dislike and distrust of him. Then her grandfather passed away, and Joe forged her name and sold the mine out from under her, and took off with another woman, leaving Hayley with no income. And now she finds out she is carrying his child.

Then she learns from one of her grandfather's friends that he had been working another claim site for several years. She quickly goes to the recorder's office and files a claim in her own name, then sets up camp with her grandfather's old pickup and tiny little camper. She plans to work the site herself for a few months, and hopefully discover something, anything, that will support herself and the baby for awhile.

Enter Jake Cooper, part owner with his parents and brother of the Triple C. He tells Hayley that her claim site supplies water to the surrounding ranches, and Grandpa had a deal with the ranchers to let them use the water as needed, and to turn over the land – and the precious water – to them when he's through with his prospecting. So he's not happy to find this woman here working the site. And neither are the other ranchers, some of who are downright angry about it, and want her out of the way pronto.

It's a little strange that in all the years Grandpa was camping out at this site for a few months each year, he never told his granddaughter about it. And even more strange that in all these years he never mentioned to Jake and his family, who he was on very friendly terms with, that he was raising a granddaughter. But the secrecy also works in Hayley's favor, as Joe doesn't know anything about it, and until her divorce is finalized, she needs to keep it that way so he doesn’t steal it out from under her also. And yeah, it seems a little unbelievable that Joe got away with selling the other mine and keeping Hayley from getting a cent (other than the $1,000 he left her when he took off). She apparently has no recourse, and I had a little trouble believing that to be possible. Oh, she contacted the police of course, but it turns out Joe and the local deputy are tight, so, you know, no help from that quarter.

But put that aside and just go with it. Hayley is very determined to never trust or depend on a man again, and Jake is just as determined to show her that she can trust him and can depend on him. Sometimes I felt Hayley was acting foolish, putting herself out in the middle of nowhere, alone, with no cell phone and unreliable transportation – putting her unborn child at risk if anything should happen and she should need emergency medical attention. Not to mention no regular prenatal care. But I could empathize with that determination I mentioned. My ex didn't do me as badly as hers did, but I still felt the same way she did about not trusting or depending on men.

I enjoyed watching Hayley and Jake dance around each other. Hayley would let her guard down and be nice to Jake and have fun with him, and then he'd say something about the claim site or the water and her defenses would slam back into place and she would turn on him, convinced that he didn't care about her and just wanted her land.

Since most of the story takes place at her claim site, between just Hayley and Jake (and his dog), the secondary characters stay pretty secondary, but I didn’t mind that. Jake's family are a little antagonistic about Hayley (and his father and brother to her face), and since we don't spend as much time with them or get to know them as well as we do Hayley and Jake, we're not always sure if they can be trusted. But that added to the overall tone of the book and worked well.

A quick and enjoyable read with a satisfying HEA. 

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