I received this book for free in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review
Laurie's husband has just died and the only thing she is feeling is a sense of sweet freedom. Her husband Noah was incredibly controlling and looked for ways to constantly demean her. However, even from the grave Noah has found a way to command Laurie's life as his will is set up to give his brother Norman authority to dole out the estate money how and whenever he sees fit. As Norman is quite possibly worse than Noah, Laurie is justifiably upset. When Laurie finds out the new rancher, Jared, in town was denied a loan for a herd of cattle he wants, she approaches him with a deal. With money Laurie has secretly acquired, a plot point from To Have and To Hold book one in the series, she offers Jared the money in exchange for a fifty percent partnership in his ranch. This partnership will provide Laurie with an independent means of income and the sense of freedom she craves. While giving up half of his ranch profits is the last thing he wants to do, Jared also can't say no to money that will buy the cattle he desperately wants and not to mention the way he feels when he looks into Laurie's eyes. With their business partnership sealed, Laurie and Jared start to realize that keeping pleasure out of the mix is going to be harder than they thought.
Along with medievals it seems like westerns have went the way of the buffalo in the last couple years, so it was fun to visit this time period and atmosphere again. The author does a wonderful job of setting the scenery and immersing the reader into everyday American western settlers. In fact, it may be too good of a job as a lot of the story is devoted to this which left the main couple's relationship faded to the background. It also created a slower moving story; it wasn't boring, just a more attention to everyday life with nothing hurried. With my fast talking Northern ways though, maybe this pace was perfectly fitting for a western ;) If the white horse on the cover doesn't tip you off, this story is a little bit of a throwback to older romance books. The prose had a tendency to veer towards flowery and purple but is not of the bodice ripper variety, more of a gently romantic tone. There were also a couple times when I thought this could have been edited down to make it more streamlined, some repeated lines especially dealing with describing Jared as sensual, but after the 32% mark the story started to come together and I quit focusing on the technical aspects and became more involved with Laurie and Jared.
Laurie's anger and pain will reach a tender spot for every woman as we all will be thankful of the equality and advantages our modern times provide us with that Laurie did not have. She develops a strong backbone in negotiating with Jared so that she can have control of her life in the future but displays a heartbreaking vulnerability when it comes to Jared expressing emotions for her and feelings of self-worth. Jared is sensitive and caring but has a strong resolve to make his ranch a success that keeps him busily occupied and a little late to the party about how much he cares about Laurie now that she is in his life. Their romance is subtle and tender with both very leery as to how to proceed but find they can't ultimately live without one another.
There are a couple plot points that carryover from book one but I never felt lost or confused by them and a couple side stories involving Jared searching for two missing brothers and a town stocked with secondary characters looking for romance. If looking to read a western this definitely has the feel for one and would provide a nice pleasant read about two individuals trying to make it in that world who come together To Love and To Cherish.