The Rancher’s Baby by Maisey Yates

the rancher's babyTitle: The Rancher’s Baby

Author: Maisey Yates

Mills & Boon imprint: Desire

Year of publication: 2018

The heroine: Skin care company founder Selena Jacobs

The hero: Supermarket chain owner/Rancher Knox McCoy

The blurb: When a torrid, possibly dangerous scandal comes to Royal, Texas, Selena Jacobs is nearly caught in the middle. Until her best friend Knox McCoy ensures her safety — by moving in! Selena has loved Knox for years, but she’s never had the courage to tell him. Now the sparks she’s tried to smother burn out of control…and leave her pregnant. But with the pain in his past, will Knox finally take a chance on love…with her?

Standalone or series: Part of the Texas Cattleman’s Club series, but can be read as standalone

The review: I don’t normally buy Desire books, because they’re not my favourite imprint, but was drawn to this by two words in the blurb: best friend. If you’ve been reading along, then you’ll know that best friends to lovers is one of my favourite romance tropes. I haven’t read a Desire book in years, and hot damn! I was surprised at the graphic language in this book. I didn’t realise Desire books had swearing and graphic sex scenes… not that I’m bothered, of course 🙂

Selena and Knox have been best friends since college; both worked hard and have built their own successful businesses. However, their friendship has taken a backseat for the last few years because Knox lost his little girl, Eleanor, to cancer. His marriage to her mother, Cassandra, fell apart and Knox, unable to move past his grief, vows never to marry or be a father again.

Selena was left a trust fund by her beloved grandfather, and the only way to inherit it before turning 25 was to marry, so in college, desperate to get away from her physically and emotionally abusive father, she married a friend, Will, who offered to help her out. He came from a wealthy family himself, so wasn’t in any need of her money. However, one of his friends (who was hot for Selena himself) told her Will had married her to access her trust fund, and once she got the money she divorced Will and their friendship faded; something that Selena regrets the marriage caused.

So when the book opens, Selena is attending Will’s funeral after he is killed in a boating accident and she receives a letter stating she is the beneficiary of his estate. However, she’s not the only woman who rocks up to the funeral clutching the same letter, and they’re all in for a big shock when Will himself walks into the church. Turns out he didn’t send the letters and obviously isn’t dead. I found this subplot bizarre, because it’s never resolved – you don’t know who or why the letters were sent, and it felt like a really strange way to get Selena and Knox to spend time together.

Knox, who goes to the funeral to support Selena and farewell an old friend, decides for some reason that she could be in trouble, so he moves in with her in Texas for a little while. While they’re living together, Selena realises she’s in love with Knox and always has been. She eventually tells Knox the real reason she married Will, and he’s not a happy camper. The reason she didn’t ask Knox to marry her is because she knew she would have wanted the marriage to be real, and by the time she divorced Will Knox was seeing Cassandra.

I found a few things didn’t work for me with Selena and Knox supposedly being best friends. I get that Knox has been grieving and he moved to Wyoming to start his life over when Eleanor died, and Selena has gone to visit him. But Knox never knew her father beat her? Really? As her best friend, surely that’s something she would have confided in him about. And if they really were so close, I would have found it easier to believe that he’d lean on Selena, rather than push her away. I know everyone grieves differently and that Knox has had a lot of trouble coping with his daughter’s death and the end of his marriage, but still. And why wouldn’t Selena have told Knox the real reason for her marriage to Will after she’d actually married him?

I found some of their dialogue quite stilted and more like two strangers getting to know each other, rather than two people who have been best friends for a decade.

I also had a lot of trouble believing that Knox would not have thought about protection when he finally gives in and has sex with Selena. Selena wanted Knox to take her virginity (she and Will never consummated the marriage because it was fake, and then she didn’t bother with relationships because of her childhood and she wanted to concentrate on her business) and talked him into going glamping her; she even took a box of condoms. There was mention that she didn’t want to think about a relationship for a number of reasons, becoming pregnant being one of them… but neither of them stopped for just a moment to think about protection? Especially given how vehemently Knox stated he didn’t want to be a father again?

As it happens, he gets Selena pregnant, freaks out, tells her she’s on her own and vamooses back to Wyoming lickety split. After drunk dialling Cassandra, who’s currently engaged to another man, she tells him to stop being an idiot and admit to Selena that he’s in love with her. So he decides to fly back to Texas… only to find Selena on his doorstep. They declare their love for each other, he asks her to marry him, and in the epilogue they have two young McCoys. I love a happy ending!