Rating: 4.75 stars out of 5
With the holidays upon them, Jack and Riley Campbell-Hayes are stressed out. Jack and Riley are anxiously waiting for the courts to decide if they will be able to adopt Max, the twins are growing rapidly and they still haven’t found a nanny. Meanwhile Jack’s sister Beth is about to give birth after a dangerous pregnancy, and their new employee, Liam, is having trouble adjusting to life on the Double D .
Liam Frazier loves his life working with the horses on the Double D Ranch. His bosses are wonderful as are the other ranch hands he works with. The trouble? His abusive past that won’t let him go. Now Marcus Walker, co owner of the surrogacy agency that helped Jack and Riley find a mother for their children, is flirting with him and Liam doesn’t know how to handle it. He finds Marcus attractive but his abuse is a barrier he doesn’t know how to get past.
When Liam’s past follows him to the ranch, it puts everyone in danger. It will take Marcus and the rest of the Double D family to help Liam face those who hurt him so he can move forward.
I have enjoyed this series from the beginning story, The Heart of Texas, which introduced us to Jack Campbell and Riley Hayes. I have been with this couple through their rocky start with a fake marriage and tumultuous family histories, their declarations of love, the murderous events that took place and the fire that almost cost them their lives and home. In the previous story, Texas Family, Jack and Riley’s family had grown to include twins as well as the children and partners of the rest of their extended family. It was a joyous layered story that took us through the surrogacy issues for gay families and introduced us to Max, a young foster child with autism.
Texas Family was a book packed with relevant issues and new characters. It also left us with some unresolved elements, specifically those that focus on Max’s adoption fight and the new ranch hand Liam Frazier. I am happy to report that with Texas Christmas, R.J. Scott ties up all those loose ends happily and on a perfect note for a book about families,friends, and the holidays.
Jack and Riley’s relationship is still the foundation upon which this series rests and they are still working on their marriage here, adjusting to the twins, their daughter getting older, and all the other stresses life can put on a marriage. It’s a healthy, sexual and deep relationship and the author relays that beautifully. But I have to admit its the newest member I wanted more of.
I was entranced with Max from the moment Scott introduced him to Jack and Riley. The little boy clutching his Thomas the Tank Engine toy caught at our hearts. RJ Scott did not shy away from the issues of adopting a child with autism. Max’s emotional issues, his inability to deal with certain social situations, the manner in which he communicates, and well, everything about a life with an autistic child is relayed realistically along with the love. There is a magical moment that RJ Scott brings to life as Max explores a sensory room Jack and Riley have created for him. The wonder of a child caught up inside his mind is revealed in such a way that we feel we are on the floor with him, holding our breath as Max explores with a quiet joy a place created for him out of love.
Liam Frazier is another special character and his story is brought full circle as well. But as his started in pain and abuse, those elements reappear to be dealt with before he can move forward. The elements where Liam decides he needs outside help to deal with his abuse, the frustration Liam feels as he tries to deal with Marcus and a real relationship have a feeling of authenticity to them. Liam brings out our empathy and our compassion.
There are several scary and heartrending scenes. But they serve to heighten the satisfaction the reader will feel as all the elements come together to give Jack, Riley and all the others a Christmas to remember. Consider this story and this series highly recommended!
Here are the stories in the Texas series in the order they were written and should be read:
Cover by Meredith Russell. The cover is adorable and perfect in every way.