Ties Of Love
by Anita Wall, historical (2000)
Zebra, $5.99, ISBN 0-8217-6475-6

Amanda Erikson has promised her sister that she would take care of the woman's three kids should anything happen to the sister. When she hears that the poor woman has died, she packs up her bags and her goat and chickens for Lariat, Wyoming. Oh, and don't forget her gun.

Amanda's brother-in-law (actually, her sister's husband's brother) Isaac Wright runs a ranch and he has enough problems on his hands without three kids tagging along. But hey, he loves those kids. He's looking for a nanny for them, but so far, no luck.

Then he happens to witness Amanda being harrassed by the train hands in the railway station. These men are being disrespectful because she has taken an Indian orphan under her wing. Isaac is about to intervene when our heroine takes out her gun and starts waving it around. Needless to say, he is intrigued. That is, until he realizes who she is and she starts asking to see the three kids.

He won't let her take them away from him, she won't let the kids stay with a man who is obviously too busy and unqualified to raise the kids. At a standstill, they end up living together - temporarily, of course - at the ranch with the three kids. She starts whipping the whole messy place to shape, and he starts wondering if maybe it isn't such a bad idea to have a woman around after all. But hey, she's engaged, and he has some problems about his ranch to settle first.

The whole premise of Ties Of Love isn't new or original, but the whole story is fun. Amanda isn't the typical, spineless town girl stuck in a ranch, so she's already half-way there to winning me over. When this woman shows that she isn't above feeling lust and admitting that, "Okay, I lust after Isaac. Oh boy. I can handle that" I'm won over.

And Isaac is fun too. He could have ended up the stereotypical macho male who has let the kids run wild while he does his thing with the widow downtown while getting drunk, but instead he turns out to be a great, lovable softie. A gruff softie, but still a huggable softie. He loves the kids, and he is genuinely befuddled at how to handle the lil' girls. He is relieved when Amanda takes the girls under her wing, and he has to admit that he does like coming home to a clean house.

There is no silly, contrived misunderstandings or formulaic sexual healing nonsense. Just two intelligent people finding love in a harsh land. The three kids are adorable too, especially that boy who befriended the Indian orphan.

TOL can be a bit slow at places, I admit, but all is forgiven when I am treated with yet another delightful family moment, or a heartwarming banter between Isaac and Amanda. This book makes raising three brats and weathering hot, sweaty weather while working one's bones off in the Wild West a romantic occasion. How many books can boast that? This is one fine, wonderful read indeed.

Rating: 89

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