Back cover copy: When the Cavanaugh brothers return home for their father’s funeral, they discover unexpected evidence of the old man’s surprising double life—a son named Blue, who wants the Triple C Ranch as much as they do. The eldest son, Deacon, a wealthy businessman who couldn’t wait to leave the ranch and move on with his life, is looking to use his powerful connections to stop Blue at any cost. He never expected the ranch’s forewoman, Mackenzie Byrd, to get in his way.
Mac knows Deacon means to destroy the ranch and therefore destroy her livelihood. But as the two battle for control, their attraction builds. Now Deacon is faced with the choice of a lifetime: Take down the Triple C to feed his need for revenge, or embrace the love of the one person who has broken down every barrier to his heart.
Stats for my copy: Mass market paperback, Signet Eclipse published by the Penguin Group, 2014.
How acquired: Bought.
My thoughts: I’d never heard of this author, but when I stopped in a CVS to pick up a couple of things on the way home from work one day the dude on the cover caught my eye and insisted on leaving with me.
After the kidnapping and death of their sister, the Cavanaugh brothers all hightailed it out of River Black, Texas, as soon as they were old enough to leave. Deacon, the oldest brother, is a successful businessman in Dallas, buying and selling properties left and right. James has become a media sensation as a horse whisperer, and Cole is an underground fighter.
BRANDED focuses on Deacon, who has attempted many times over the years to get their father, Everett, to sell the Triple C Ranch to him. Now that their father has died, Deacon is determined to completely destroy the ranch and everything it stands for.
Mac was best friends with Cass ten years ago, and had a crush on Deacon, who was four years older and showed absolutely no interest in her. She gave the sheriff a tip about a mystery man called Sweet who Cass had been meeting, but the sheriff decided that Sweet didn’t really exist, and Cass Cavanaugh’s murderer was never found. The Triple C is home to Mac, and Everett was like a father to her. She loves her job as foreman of the ranch, and loves her life on the ranch. The thought of Deacon destroying the ranch, which provides a living for much of the town, makes her sick to her stomach.
The back cover copy is a little misleading. Blue is the son of the ranch housekeeper, and the synopsis makes it sound like he and Deacon are going to be head to head adversaries, which is not quite accurate. Blue is actually a pretty minor character.
Throughout much of the book I could not understand what was driving Deacon. In addition to trying to get control of the Triple C, he’s been buying up land nearby and has construction going on there, with the intention of starting his own spread, Redemption Ranch. He is extremely bitter about his father, and James and Cole appear to feel the same way, though not as aggressively about the ranch being destroyed. Mac of course is also puzzled, and is determined to fight Deacon every step of the way, doing whatever it takes to convince him to leave the ranch alone.
The book was enjoyable enough, and Deacon and Mac were both likable characters. Well, Mac was likable. Deacon acted pretty unlikable at times but he was still a strong charismatic character who I was drawn to. However, I got a little irritated at his constant growling. It’s sexy when a man occasionally growls, but only occasionally. After awhile I wished I’d been keeping count of how many times he growled, it would be interesting to see the final number.
The sex scenes between Deacon and Mac were explicit, which I don’t have a problem with, but they weren’t really sexy. The dialogue during those scenes was not sexy. It was a little awkward and unrealistic.
During the last quarter of the book, we finally learn just why Deacon is so filled with hatred for his father, and it was a pretty shocking moment, and suddenly the book got so much more engaging and gripping, and that lasted right up to the last page. Which sort of ended on a cliffhanger about Cass Cavanaugh's death, which I gather will be a running theme throughout the series.
I didn't love it enough to want to seek out the author's entire backlist, but I did enjoy it enough to want to get the next book, BROKEN, about James.