I have enjoyed this series immensely. Which is why I’m so surprised and puzzled over the characters and storylines of The Wrangler and the Orphan , the 4th in the Farthingdale Ranch series.
Unlike the others, this book has some major elements and characters which unfortunately didn’t work for me and in cases actually, had me thinking of cautionary flags.
And it starts right with the main characters. And their dysfunctional backgrounds as well as current histories.
🌈Kit Foster. Abandoned teen, last enrollment and safe structure was middle school, regularly beaten as well as emotionally traumatized by his mother and her endless line
of temporary “boyfriends” to the point that’s Kit’s normality.
His mother repeatedly moves him, eliminating any support or security other than her, who again abandons him after stealing money from her latest target and taking off to Las Vegas.
So basically, Kit is a mass of Insecurities , unable to trust, a scared kid of scarred body and young unformed abused mind. Without even an abusive mother to hold onto, he’s desperation personified.
Worse, Kit has just escaped ,after being severely beaten by bar owner Eddie Piggot, and imprisoned in the bar’s basement. He’s got Victim written all over him.
He’s rescued by Brody, the ranch’s wrangler.
That would be…..
🌈Brody Calhoun, almost 30. Ranch Wrangler. Son of an abusive father who whipped , beat and starved him. Ran away with a older carny man, still suffers PTSD from his upbringing, nightmares which he treats with CBD oil. Which is fine except it would get him fired and the ranch in trouble if found. So he’s not exactly dealing well with his own past.
Brody never got the real help for the issues his brutal adolescent and background still causes him but looses himself in training horses for the ranch. And self medicating when necessary when the past catches up, including his nightmares.
Brody’s rescuer , the man who took him away from his abusive father, also works with him. His history is never far away.
He sees himself in Kit. And wants to take care of him? Finds the teen attractive in his totally needy, abused way? Everything about this , including keeping it a secret that Kit’s even at the ranch at the beginning starts the questions popping up in my mind about the relationship and storyline.
Kit is regularly referred to a “kid” and acts like one. Although it’s made a point that’s he’s of “legal age”, nothing in this story, from the descriptions to his behavior will ever be anything that resembles something close to an adult. Instead Kit just presents as a somewhat broken, utterly youthful ,uneducated if eager youngster. One in desperate need of therapy and stability.
What he gets a older man who’s been as much if not more abused than he was, who decides how to fix and take care of the kid. Not as a family but as a lover. Hmmmm.
One of Kit’s few happy memories of one of his mother’s temporary boyfriend was a cowboy, a bronc rider. Now Kit is rescued by a cowboy. Can we say transference? Kit’s now isolated on a ranch, with someone who just rescued him, who “glows hero”, but not once does anyone mention what specifically Kit has undergone or that he needs therapy to understand just what his past history has done so he can better understand the choices made going forward.
Things just continue to add up, and not in an enjoyable way.
The author uses terms such as “kid, scared kid, scared foal, young animal, torn sneakers, skittish” over and over , adjectives used to describe very young people or animals when referring to Kit. These are not words I’d choose when applied towards adults or anyone of legal age.
Example of elements I found problematic. One scene that threw up a big question for me. Brody turns grooming a horse into a sexual/comfort effort after Kit ends up in a fetal position just from enforcing close proximity to a horse. FYI Kit’s informed Brody he’s terrified of horses.
The author/Brody says he’s soothing him like he would a skittish young animal. Hmm. Putting your arms around him and your groin up to his ass while someone is in a fragile emotional state? I know what I call that outside of this novel. Taking advantage of someone in a shaky state. Maybe something harsher.
Also there’s that weird element that the ranch hands refer to Kit as a orphan and he tells them he’s not. Truth. You may not like that he’s got an abusive mother but that’s downright odd denying someone’s truth.
Where during the rest of the story Kit is still making impulsive “young “ decisions based on his abusive upbringing….because you’d expect a teenager to at this point. He’s still new to the situation and people.
But why is the author not addressing this ?
Kit’s damage from his mother and upbringing doesn’t disappear nor should it. Brody‘s scars are inward as well as laid across his skin. So why is there no real acknowledgment that healing for something of that pain and depth is more than to “cowboy up” and a quick romance.
By the end Brody takes” the place of his mother in Kit’s eyes . Kit’s words🤦🏼♀️. In the epilogue, Kit is comparing his life he had with Katey(his mother) versus the life he has now with Brody, how ones so stable. SMH.
As readers how are we supposed to feel about this? In another age gap novel I just finished, where the gap between lovers was larger, the author used other characters as stand-in’s for readers perspectives who might feel uncomfortable, voicing various opinions. Allowing us to think about the pros and cons of such a romance through multiple characters.
But also those characters weren’t damaged and knew fully who were supporting them.
Here, we are supposed to connect with a brutalized teenager and a damaged man, both of whom need help to deal with their traumatic memories and childhoods. But instead dive immediately into a romance.
For this reader? Doesn’t feel healthy.
Several times this came close to a DNF as it was just an uncomfortable read. Trust me, not the age gap but the characters, their issues as well as their ages. It was everything here I found challenging.
It was odd because it felt as though this did not fit in among the other stories.
And as such, I just can’t recommend it.
Some scars run soul-deep. Some scars only love can heal.”
Brody is the wrangler at Farthingdale Ranch. He knows a lot about horses, but not a whole lot about people.
He is so broken, he cannot imagine anyone would want to love him. Then along comes Kit, a young man in need of shelter, searching for a forever home.
In Kit, Brody sees the scared young man he used to be. In caring for Kit, Brody is in over his head.
But as Brody makes room in his heart for Kit, both their lives begin to change.
A gay m/m cowboy romance with hurt/comfort, rescue, age gap, fish out of water, opposites attract, midnight rendezvous. A little sweet, a little steamy, with a guaranteed HEA