HRR Review: Once a Rancher by Linda Lael Miller


The Houses of Parliament, Westminster, London

Once a Rancher by Linda Lael Miller
Series: The Carsons of  Mustang Creek (# 1)
Release Date: March 29, 2016
Publisher: HQN Books
Pages: 320
Source: book provided by NetGalley for review



The Carsons of Mustang Creek: three men who embody the West and define what it means to be a rancher, a cowboy and a hero in this brand-new series from the queen of Western romance.

Slater Carson might be a businessman by trade, but he’s a cowboy at heart—and he knows the value of a hard day’s work under the hot Wyoming sun. So when he sees troubled teen Ryder heading down a dangerous path, he offers the boy a job on the ranch he shares with his two younger brothers. And since Ryder’s temporary guardian is the gorgeous new resort manager, Grace Emery, Slater figures it can’t hurt to keep a closer eye on her as well…

Grace Emery doesn’t have time for romance. Between settling in to her new job and caring for her ex-husband’s rebellious son, her attraction to larger-than-life Slater is a distraction she can’t afford. But when the past catches up to her in Mustang Creek, she’ll discover just how far Slater will go to protect what matters most—and that love is always worth fighting for.


Review:  Quintessentially Linda Lael Miller with ranching, families, alpha males and beautiful women and their interrelationships at its core.  I didn’t realize these were connected stories with her Brides of Bliss County series but it was a nice surprise to see some of the characters we’ve met before and grown to love appear in Mustang Creek.  I look forward to reading many more stories in this series and others she writes since she’s one of my favorite western authors!

There was instant chemistry between Slater and Grace and even her fourteen year old stepson, Ryder, noticed.  They fought their attraction as much as they could but they kept being drawn to each other.  She had been married and divorced and now was taking care of her stepson since his dad was in the military and once again deployed.  Hank could never be counted on since he always got restless waiting for his next assignment.  She planned on never marrying again.  Slater never saw himself settling down since he did a lot of traveling for his business and no woman had ever made him want to commit to marriage even his ex-girlfriend who is the mother of his child.  They get along better as friends and both realized it was better to stay that way and be in each others lives as friends for their daughter’s sake.   I loved  that Grace and Slater always had their children’s best interests at heart and how easily Ryder was given the male attention he needed from the Carsons as well as Red, the ranch hand.  When Hank entered the picture he quickly realized he wasn’t in it and wasn’t too happy about it.  Slater and Grace had a quirky relationship, neither acting how they normally would, but their attraction always shined through whether they wanted it to or not.

The Carsons – mom, Slater and brothers Drake and Mace as well as Slater’s daughter and their ranch hands and housekeeper were all front and center along with Grace, Ryder and those that she worked with.  The relationship between the three brothers and their mom and cook was unique and different.  There were always bets going on about one thing or another and everyone seemed to get in on the action!  There were family, friends, children, the ranch, horses and other animals, the vineyard, the spa and hotel, small town life, happiness, sadness, fear, anger, exes, tears, laughter, love, burn up the sheet moments and lots of loving.  The descriptions of the mountains, the ranch and other locations along with the animals were vivid and made me feel that I was there.

The mystery surrounding the crime spree didn’t hold my interest since so much of it was too obvious but it kept throwing Slater and Grace together.   There wasn’t the depth to the characters that I’ve come to expect from Miller especially in some of her older series.  There was a happily ever after that was different and was unexpected but felt right.  There was nice closure and I look forward to reading the other books in this series and see if there are the feelings that her McKettrick series and others brought out.

Favorite Quote: “Mom told me if I wanted the truth I should ask Uncle Drake, but if I wanted ice cream, I should ask Uncle Mace.  I wanted ice cream.”








Slater Carson was bone-tired, as he was after every film wrapped, but it was the best kind of fatigue—part pride and satisfaction in a job well-done, part relief, part “bring it,” that anticipatory quiver in the pit of his stomach that would lead him to the next project, and the one after that.

This latest film had been set in a particularly remote area, emphasizing how the Homestead Act had impacted the development not only of the American West, but also the country as a whole. It had been his most ambitious effort to date. The sheer scope was truly epic, and as he watched the uncut footage on his computer monitor, he knew.

160 Acres was going to touch a nerve.

Yep, this one would definitely hit home with the viewers, new and old.

His previous effort, a miniseries on the Lincoln County War in New Mexico, had won prizes and garnered great reviews, and he’d sold the rights to one of the media giants for a shitload of money. Like Lincoln County160 Acres was good, solid work. The researchers, camera operators and other professionals he worked with were the top people in the business, as committed to the film as he was.

And that was saying something.

No doubt about it, the team had done a stellar job the last time around, but this—well, this was the best yet. A virtual work of art, if he did say so himself.


Slater leaned back in his desk chair and clicked the pause button. “Hey, Nate.” He greeted his friend and personal assistant.

“What do you need?”

Like Slater, Nate Wheaton had just gotten back from the film site, where he’d taken care of a thousand details, and it was a safe bet that the man was every bit as tired as he looked. Short, blond, energetic and not more than twenty years old, Nate was a dynamo; the production had come together almost seamlessly, in large part because of his talent, persistence and steel-trap brain.

“Um,” Nate murmured, visibly unplugging, shifting gears. He was moving into off-duty mode, and God knew he’d earned it.

“There’s someone to see you.” He inclined his head in the direction of the outer office, rubbed the back of his neck and let out an exasperated sigh. “The lady insists she needs to talk to you and only you. I tried to get her to make an appointment, but she says it has to be now.”

Slater suppressed a sigh of his own. “It’s ten o’clock at night.”

“I’ve actually pointed that out,” Nate said, briefly consulting his phone. “It’s five after, to be exact.” Like Slater himself, Nate believed in exactness, which was at once a blessing and a curse. “She claims it can’t possibly wait until morning, whatever it is. But if I hadn’t been walking into the kitchen I wouldn’t have heard the knock.”

“How’d she even find me?” The crew had flown in late, driven out to the vineyard/ranch, and Slater had figured that no one, other than his family, knew he was in town. Or out of town. Whatever qualified as far as the ranch was concerned.

Nate looked glumly resigned. “I have no idea. She refused to say. I’m going to bed. If you need anything else, come and wake me, but bring a sledgehammer, because I’d probably sleep through anything less.” A pause, another sigh, deeper and wearier than the last. “That was quite the shoot.”

The understatement of the day.

Slater drew on the last dregs of his energy, shoved a hand through his hair and said, “Well, point her in this direction, if you don’t mind, and then get yourself some shut-eye.”

He supposed he sounded normal, but on the inside, he was drained. He’d given everything he had to 160, and then some, and there was no hope of charging his batteries. He’d blown through the last of his physical resources hours ago.

Resentment at the intrusion sent a tremor though his famous equanimity; he was used to dealing with problems on the job—ranging from pesky all the way to apocalyptic—but at home, damn it, he expected to be left alone. He needed rest, downtime, a chance to regroup, and the home place was where he did those things.

One of his younger brothers ran the Carson ranch, and the other managed the vineyard and winery. The arrangement worked out pretty well. Everyone had his own role to play, and the sprawling mansion was big enough, even for three competitive males to live in relative peace. Especially since he, Slater, was gone half the time, anyway.

“Will do.” Nate left the study, and a few minutes later the door opened.

Before Slater could make the mental leap from one moment to the next, a woman—qu8ite possibly the most beautiful woman he’d ever seen—stormed across the threshold, dragging a teenage boy by the arm.

She was a redhead, with the kind of body that would resurrect a dead man, never mind a tired one.

And Slater had a fondness for redheads; he’d dated a lot of them over the years. This one was all sizzle, and her riot of coppery curls, bouncing around her straight indignant shoulders, seemed to blaze in the dim light.

It took him a moment, but he finally recovered and clambered to his feet. “I’m Slater Carson. Can I help you?”

This visitor, whoever she was, had his full attention.



Author Bio

The daughter of a town marshal, Linda Lael Miller is a #1 New York Times and USA TODAY bestselling author of more than 100 historical and contemporary novels, most of which reflect her love of the West. Raised in Northport, Washington, the self-confessed barn goddess pursued her wanderlust, living in London and Arizona and traveling the world before returning to the state of her birth to settle down on a horse property outside Spokane.

Linda traces the beginning of her writing career to the day a Northport teacher told her that the stories she was writing were good, that she just might have a future in writing. Later, when she decided to write novels, she endured her share of rejection before she sold her first title to a publisher in 1983. Since then Linda has successfully published historicals, contemporaries, paranormals, mysteries and thrillers before coming home, in a literal sense, and concentrating on novels with a Western flavor. For her devotion to her craft, the Romance Writers of America awarded her their prestigious Nora Roberts Lifetime Achievement Award in 2007. Currently the Hallmark Movie Channel is developing a series based on Linda’s Big Sky Country novels.

For more information about Linda and her novels, please visit


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