Overwhelmed by the responsibilities of running a ranch on her own, Laurel Tracey decides to hire a convictâ€”a man whoâ€™s just scary enough to take care of squatters and just desperate enough to agree to a one year post.
The years following the war have been hard on Laurel Tracey. Both her brother and her father died in battle, and her mother passed away shortly after receiving word of their demise. Laurel has been trying to run her two hundred acre ranch as best she can.
When she discovers that squatters have settled in her north pasture and have no intention of leaving, Laurel decides to use the last of her money to free a prisoner from the local jail. If she agrees to offer him room and board for one year, he will have to work for her to pay off his debt.
Former soldier Thomas Baker knows heâ€™s in trouble when he finds himself jailed because he couldnâ€™t pay a few fines. Laurelâ€™s offer might be his only ticket out. Though sheâ€™s everything he ever dreamed of in a womanâ€”sweet and tender-hearted, yet strongâ€”heâ€™s determined to remain detached, work hard on her behalf, and count the days until heâ€™s free again.
But when cattle start dying and Laurelâ€™s life is threatened, Thomas realizes more than just his freedom is on the line. Laurel needs someone to believe in her and protect her property. And it isnâ€™t long before Laurel realizes that Thomas Baker is far more than just a former soldier. Heâ€™s a trustworthy hero, and he needs more than just his freedomâ€”he needs her love and care too.
This was my first book by Shelley Shepard Gray and I wasn’t expecting a whole lot more than a light and quick read for a Sunday afternoon.Â I found myself very happily surprised.Â While the plot remained rather predictable, the characters were fabulously well rounded.Â They had hopes, dreams, doubts and the author gave us a good look at the pasts that formed them as well as the current motivations that drove them.
The book was also clean.Â There was attraction without the indulgence seen rather often these days in romance novels.Â Underlying themes of community and worth were also beautifully woven into the story.
I also liked that the civil war references didn’t particularly vilify either side, but gave a well rounded reality to the fact that good people can end up on opposite sides of a war for any number of reasons.
In summary, I enjoyed An Uncommon Protector and would recommend it.