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Montana Wrangler is the book 5 in Ramona Flightner’s Bear Grass Springs series. I’ve had quite a love-hate relationship with this series, yet I can’t help but being curious about what the characters are up to, all credit is to the author! I’ve enjoyed this series enough to keep coming back to it.
I keep saying it because it’s the truth. I’m a big fan of Ramona’s Banished Saga series, which will end pretty soon. Bear Grass Springs is quite different than Banished Saga in the sense that the latter is more of a family saga spanning generations, rather than your typical story and HEA for one couple per installment. The Saga always comes highly recommended from me. Though Bear Grass Springs does have HEA in each installment for each H and h featured, you still get the vibe of being with a family and getting to know them better while reading about the MacKinnons.
Bear Grass Springs began with the stories of the 3 MacKinnon brothers Cailean, Alistair and Ewan, in the first 3 installments respectively titled Montana Untamed, Montana Grit and Montana Maverick. They also have a younger sister called Sorcha. They’re from Scotland, but have settled in the Bear Grass Springs Montana in search of a better life. Cailean and Alistair own the only livery in town, which they’ve managed to make a successful business out of. Ewan is a carpenter and his business is thriving as well. The brothers were much sought after bachelors until they settled down with the love of their lives, Cailean with the town baker Annabelle, Alistair with Leticia who was a school teacher before she began helping Annabelle with her rapidly growing bakery business. Ewan finally found someone to love in Jessamine, a news reporter at that time newly arrived in Bear Grass Springs. The backgrounds of all 3 of heroines are told in their books. However my feelings for all 3 books were pretty ambivalent. The first two, the brothers were being obtuse and in turn, there were loads of misunderstanding and frustration that made me wanna kick their a$$. And for book 3, I didn’t like the heroine AT ALL.
This series also have some wonderful secondary characters like Bear who is part Native American, works in the livery with Caliean and Alistair. There’s Fidelia, Annabelle’s sister who had the misfortune to arrive at the town long before Annabelle did and without any support or help from anyone, had to turn to the life of prostitution. She’s since been saved from that life by the collective efforts of the MacKinnons. We also meet Frederick, and his grandparents Harold and Irine who own the most popular café in the town. There is also the town lawyer Warren and his wife Helen, who had their story in Montana Renegade, a book I loved! Both are good friends with the MacKinnons, though their friendship had been tested more than once due to a singularly unpleasant character. In one of the installments, we were introduced to the Norwegian immigrants Nathanial, his sister Leena and his friend Karl, who’d arrived in Bear Grass Springs for much the same reason as the MacKinnons. Leena, a gifted baker, had begun working with Annabelle very recently. Leena and Karl’s story can be found in a lovely novella titled Jubilant Montana Christmas.
Montana Wrangler is basically the story of Frederick and Sorcha. They’ve been known to ‘circle’ one another in more than once occasion in the previous installments that everybody and their grandmother deemed as courtship, except for the two people who should really be concerned.
Sorcha had been in the series since book 1. Gradually, we get to know a bit of her background and why she has such low self-esteem that has plagued her all her life. In truth, Sorcha is actually the half-sister of Cailean, Alistair and Ewan, something even she didn’t know until she was old enough to understand the difference. She’d always been treated like the dirt by the woman she’d known to be her mother. Sorcha had merely thought it was about preference to sons. But then she learned the truth. Her father had an affair with a woman who died a few years after Sorcha’s birth. Thankfully, the elder MacKinnon didn’t abandon little Sorcha and brought her home to be reared with his sons. Cailean/Alistair/Ewan’s mother saw Sorcha as a nuisance. Frankly, I felt that she hated the reminder of her husband’s indiscretion, and I can’t blame her for it. However, it’s also been hinted at that this woman had always been bitter and the marriage wasn’t a happy one to begin with. The addition of Sorcha only made it even worse. When the elder MacKinnon died, and the brothers left for America, Sorcha’s life became quite a hell where she had to take care of their mother and deal with her sh!t until she passed away too. It was THEN she came to America to live with her brothers.
I found Sorcha’s life in Scotland pretty vague, in whatever bits and pieces are narrated through the talks between the siblings. However, it was plain to see that years of verbal abuse took a toll on her. In turn it made Sorcha quite bitter too. She’s easily riled up, also quite rash to the point of being obtuse not unlike her own brothers. She’d leap first and think later, which is what gets her into her latest predicament. After an argument with an unpleasant character I mentioned once above (she’s so vile I don’t wanna waste any space on her), an angry Sorcha headed out on a full gallop without even telling anyone where she’s going. It was in the middle of winter and snowing heavily everywhere. Soon, when she went past the town boundary, Sorcha was lost. While searching for a way to get back home, she’s thrown off her horse and is severely injured with a broken leg. If it wasn’t for Frederick, it could’ve been the end of Sorcha; in that weather, with that injury.
Frederick is a cattle rancher with the dream of one day establishing of his own stud farm where the best horses of the town would be sold. Although it was hinted at, his own background has never really been discussed until his own story. All we know that his ranch is quite far away from Bear Grass Springs and pretty much cuts off when the winter is particularly bad. He has 2 elder brothers who aren’t around all that much. They aren’t fond of the staid ranch life and leave the responsibilities to their youngest brother. Frederick has lost his parents already so, apart from his brothers, his grandparents Irene and Harold are all the family he’s left. He loved visiting his grandparents whenever he could, which is how he met Sorcha. Frankly speaking, I wasn’t all that interested in their ‘courtship’. Mainly because Frederick didn’t come off as an interesting character and I was never particularly a fan of Sorcha. She’d be pretty rude to Frederick—who had already sworn off marriage for some personal reasons— and then get jealous if he danced with other partners. It would be funny if I wasn’t frequently rolling my eyes at Sorcha’s antics. -_-
In any case, Frederick did harbor a tender for Sorcha for whatever reasons but his own issues made him believe there could be no future for them. And Sorcha thought she isn’t pretty enough to ever catch the eyes of such a ruggedly handsome cattle-rancher. Yet when Frederick finds Sorcha wounded and bleeding, he doesn’t think twice about taking her back to his ranch, which was closer to them than the town.
From then on, you get to witness these two thrown together without anyone to chaperone them. Sorcha badly wounded but still sassy, while Frederick trying his best to take care of her day and night, while also running a ranch with bare minimum staff. Winter this year was so severe that the ranch became isolated and no one could visit them until Helen and Warren when the snow temporarily stopped and path cleared up a little. That too at least a month after Sorcha’s accident. Thankfully though, Frederick was able to send news to the town about Sorcha’s accident and her whereabouts beforehand.
90% of the story takes place on Frederick’s ranch with Sorcha healing from her wound, while Frederick and his ranch hands taking care of her. Then, after a few months, her family coming to visit her whenever they could travel. We then see them on and off visiting her as the weather allowed. Helen, who is a trained midwife and nurse, had advised that Sorcha not be moved until her leg is healed to a point that a journey to town won’t jostle it up badly so she was forced to live on the ranch for months! TBH, I lost track of how long she’d been in the ranch before she finally went back to Bear Grass Springs. It was there that she and Frederick find themselves in a dilemma when the words of Sorcha’s whereabouts begin circulating around Bear Grass Springs and nasty rumors are spread by the usual ne’er-do-wells. This time, they are forced to make a decision on whether to marry to save her reputation or not. But the problem was, both had fallen in love with one-another, yet didn’t want to express their feelings.
For me, I found the story dragging on and on as was the winter described in the story. I could only imagine what Sorcha did, totally bed-ridden for the first few months, where she could only stare out the window to see nothing but snow outside and no family member to comfort her. Then I found it pretty crazy that she lived with 4/5 men with NO woman in attendance while she couldn’t even move without help. I had questions about her daily ablutions, even if bathing wasn’t an everyday occurrence in a winter that severe. Then, you know, uh, women have other monthly issues that men don’t have. Oh I had too many questions and was finding it difficult that she’d be cheery even to the point of knitting and sewing, which is her favorite thing to do, when some materials could be brought in for her. Things were totally overlooked in the story which made it look like her recovery went as light as a breeze.
Back to the issue at hand, namely the impending ruination of Sorcha’s reputation. Frederick’s parents weren’t in a happy marriage and his mother’s adultery made it difficult for him to ever trust a woman enough to marry her. He simply didn’t want that baggage in his life. But this time, he vowed he’d do anything to save Sorcha’s reputation. Only he had no idea what she actually felt for him cause her mood could shift at any moment from cheery to snapping and scowling. Which it did when Sorcha heard exactly why Frederick wanted to marry her. Of course it took them a bit of time to come to terms with their feelings but when they finally did, nothing could hold them back.
Yet, when I mentioned that the winter was particularly bad, I meant that it affected everything including Frederick’s own ranch and its cattle. This winter he was finding it more difficult than ever before. He wasn’t sure how many cattle would survive the harsh weather and how he’d keep his ranch afloat. More importantly, now that he’s found and fallen in love with the woman he wanted to spend the rest of his life with, Frederick was more than just concerned. He was afraid of losing Sorcha, not knowing whether he’d have anything left to take care of her and the family they’re to have. It was also determined that Sorcha’s fall wasn’t an accident and they’d already zoomed in on a culprit. Could they catch him in time to prevent anymore ‘mishaps’ in the future?
Don’t lose heart because there was HEA for Sorcha and Frederick with some very convenient solutions thrown in at the end. Nevertheless, I was still rather bored at how smoothly everything went. Then again, I’m not sure what I was looking for cause this couple wasn’t really the one that I was particularly interested in. The couple I’ve ACTUALLY been looking forward to reading about—had hoped they’d be paired since they’ve been introduced in the series— Bear and Fidelia, finally got their story in Untamed Montana Passion. Can’t wait to see what they’re up to! For Montana Wrangler 3 stars.