Series: Fool's Gold, Book 7
Rating: 4 Stars
Length: 378 Pages
Formats: Mass Market Paperback, Kindle
Disclosure: An ARC of this book was provided to me by HQN Books publisher Harlequin via NetGalley. This rating, review, and all included thoughts and comments are my own.
A Light, Fun Read With Feeling
Growing up dirt poor in Fool's Gold taught Rafe Stryker a very important life lesson: money is everything. Now Rafe, rich and successful, controls his own destiny. And everything else, as well.
When his mother is swindled out of over two hundred thousand dollars trying to buy the ranch that she loved and lost once before, Rafe does something he never thought he'd do. He returns to the town that reminds him of every pride-swallowing moment of his youth, intent on waging war and triumphing. For his mother, and for himself.
The goat, admittedly, was a surprise. As was the girl...well, woman, really...chasing after it.
After spending years on the road, all former carny Heidi Simpson wanted was a home. Now she's living the life she'd always dreamed, both as the owner of Castle Ranch and as goat milk entrepreneur. Then her grandfather, himself a former carny, takes a huge hunk of money from a woman, "selling" her home out from under her. Except it wasn't his to sell, and the money is gone, given to a sick friend for his cancer treatments.
Now the woman's son has thrown himself into the mix and is stirring up a world of trouble. He's furious and intent. She's earnest and stubborn. Neither want to give ground, but sharing starts to spark all sorts of feelings that neither had anticipated. Feelings that neither wanted. Feelings that neither can resist.
Mallery's seventh installment of her popular Fool's Gold series is exactly the sort of brain candy I was hoping it would be when I started it. Light, sexy, and fun, without a preponderance of emotional angst weighing it down, the story of Rafe and Heidi provided several wonderful hours of solid reading entertainment. And though this was my first visit to the well-established town of Fool's Gold, I had no trouble diving in at this point and appreciating the book on its own merits.
Heidi was a lot of fun as the heroine. She's a young woman intent on carving out a home for herself on Castle Ranch, and though her grandfather threatened that, she championed his reasons for doing so and worked darn hard to right the situation without losing her home. She was eminently sympathetic for all of that. She was also stubborn, proud, and independent, three traits which appealed to me in this situation.
Rafe was perhaps the more complex of the two of them, with a lot of baggage left over from a less than ideal childhood. I felt quite a lot for him, and honestly had some problems with his mother after the full impact of what he shouldered at such a young age. For all his faults, he was exactly the sort of controlling, money-hungry tycoon his past shaped him to be, and I commend Mallery for creating such an organic character.
I wish there was more of a reckoning for his mother, though. She's a woman who ceded family control to a boy whose biggest concern should have been whether or not the girls around him had cooties. That being said, the fact that his past was less than ideal and that past colored his relationship with his family and his happiness for his life was not only organic to his character but was also painfully realistic.
Yet this book isn't one of somber reflection and heavy issues. It's fun. The plot was fairly predictable, the outcome definitely so, but I enjoyed it despite that. There was plenty of fun to be had in the characters' antics and life in general in Fool's Gold. I heartily appreciated the light, humorous tone as I did the darker, more serious elements. Though those were fewer by far.
Together Heidi and Rafe were great. Heidi's past was less traumatic than Rafe's, but it served her well when it came to knowing her mind and following her heart. Rafe's transformation was another major positive. He goes from being a fairly generic poor-boy-made-good business mogul to land-loving cowboy between the covers of the book, and the transformation seemed natural and heart-felt, if a bit begrudging initially.
His controlling ways added a bit of weight and gravitas here and there. The issues with both his brother's career choice and his sister's life choices added familial conflict to the story and personal struggles to his character definition. I absolutely loved the scene with his sister, wish his model brother would have made an appearance, and generally adored the concern and care he showed his mother.
Of course it was cheesy in places, and there were elements that didn't completely win me over, but all told, this was exactly the sort of fun, breezy read I was hoping it would be. It gave me everything I'd hoped it would give me, and more depth than I was anticipating. These are thoroughly likable characters leading totally entertaining lives.
I wish I'd known about the Fool's Gold series sooner, because it's the exact sort of brain candy that I need now and again, a read that I can just settle back and enjoy without analyzing too deeply. It may not be perfect or truly unique, and Heidi may be just one Swiss mountain range short of a classic novel with her blond braids, grandfather, and goats, but it was fun, the emotional and sexual tension between Heidi and Rafe was off the charts, and the romance touched my heart. Can't complain about that.