A con man. A rancher’s daughter. A wildfire out of control.
Elizabeth Graham spends her days running the business side of the Circle Eight ranch. Her knack for numbers and organization lent themselves to her position in the family. She has just turned twenty-one and doubts she will find a man to spend her life with. Elizabeth doesn’t believe in love, after all, and when she meets a charlatan named Vaughn Montgomery, her opinion doesn’t waver. At first.
Vaughn Montgomery is down to the lint in his pocket and the handsome smile he uses as a weapon. His last con went wrong and he fled west. Now he finds himself trapped in the middle of nowhere Texas. And at the mercy of a hard-nosed woman who wears shapeless dresses and whose tongue can cut blocks of wood.
Unwilling to bend and unable to forgive, Elizabeth and Vaughn get caught up in a web of lies that stretches from Houston to the heart of Texas. She finds herself falling for the man who can’t seem to tell the truth and he can’t get enough of a woman who can only speak truths. Surrounded by danger, they embark on the ultimate con to save the Circle Eight and their lives.
This blurb came from the author’s website.
Before I get started on this review, I have to warn you that there will be spoilers for previous books in this series including a major one about what started the story arc. So if you haven’t read the previous books and you prefer to avoid spoilers then please stop reading now.
After I finished reading Caleb, reviewed here, and realized that the search for the missing Graham was complete but Lang still had unmarried members of the Graham family I didn’t know what she was going to do with the rest of them. Then I found out that she was going to continue writing about the Circle Eight which made me happy but I also wondered what the books would focus around given the apparently conclusion of a major element. I found the answer to my wonderings both intriguing and causing me to hope for a spin-off series.
None of the Grahams are exactly ordinary. Their focus on keeping the family ranch going, raising the family together, and finding their kidnapped brother meant they grew up with a variety of abilities, skills, and a willingness to use them. Elizabeth hasn’t had a lot of up front time so it was good meeting her in this story. She did’t like “traditional” female responsibilities and was hurt when her domineering older brothers tried to insist that she fit the mold or ignored how she could contribute to the family in a different way. But she also never insisted on doing something she enjoyed until one of her new sister-in-laws backed her. As the family/ranch bookkeeper she felt more useful but was still unsatisfied with her life. As a result she was ready for her own adventure and it started with a naked man.
Vaughn really didn’t have much redeeming qualities about him except his charm, his body, and his bedroom skills. Oh and he didn’t intent to swindle the Grahams. I actually ended up feeling a bit sorry for Vaughn. He had no idea how to handle Elizabeth because she didn’t fall for any of his usual phrases yet she was attracted to him. Then when the victims of his last con arrived and Elizabeth, the main Circle Eight house, and Granny were caught up in the mess he started to feel the prodding of regret for his actions. Elizabeth had done nothing other than save his life and now hers was in danger. When she found out what he did for a living and insisted that he make it right he started to see other people something besides a “mark.” That was a huge turning point for him, and I think started his journey as a heroic character. I really enjoyed seeing his mental turmoil and puzzlement at Elizabeth’s behavior and her expectations for people in general.
The physical and emotional journey that both Elizabeth and Vaughn took was significant. Elizabeth learned how to stand up for what she wanted and that she wasn’t actually limited by her circumstances. She also learned how lucky she was to have a family that behaved like a family even when they were overbearing and annoying. Vaughn learned what a family was, not just from Elizabeth but also from the victims of his con. He also learned that actions can have very unintended consequences even when you are trying to do the right thing. While I enjoyed watching Elizabeth and Vaughn together and admired how she was able to adapt to different situations as she worked to get back home, my attention kept drifting to the conned family.
The Gibsons consisted of an old man and several brothers ranging from little boys to grown men. They were loyal to each other but had some issues determining right from wrong and doing things in anger that they later regretted. But the respect and reverence they had for the old man was amazing to see. I would really love to see their journey to redemption **very unsubtle hint asking for spinoff series** because the older brothers started learning some slightly softer aspects of life based on their interaction with Elizabeth. They also demonstrated time and again to Vaughn that family is important and worth doing things you don’t really want to do.
All in all I enjoyed Vaughn. I caught a glimpse of some of the other members of the Graham family and how they continued to pull together as a family. I was introduced to the Gibsons, and I have an idea who the next installment or at least a future one will involve. This was a good transition book I think between the original issue and moving towards a more settled but not boring life for the members of the Circle Eight. I am curious about what Lang will have as the center conflict for the next book.
I give Vaughn a B