Riley Fitzgerald is a twenty-five-year-old bronc rider in the rodeo circuit who comes from Kentucky whiskey and horse-breeding money. He knows he is fortunate that he doesn't have to work for a living, and can pursue his love of rodeo, but his father is leaning on him to join the family business. Riley wants one more Rodeo Championship win behind him before he'll think of moving on from rodeo, even though he doesn't know what career he'll ultimately settle on. When his plane sustains in-flight damage, he is forced to land near a derelict parts warehouse outside of Albuquerque, New Mexico. There he meets Maria Alvarez, who warns him he is in gang territory.
Maria is a thirty-five-year-old Latina teacher who works with disadvantaged students to help them to get their GEDs, since she believes education is the only way to save them from the dead-end lifestyle of gangs. She is at the warehouse looking for three of her latest students at the gang hangout, and encounters Riley. He's definitely one sexy cowboy, even if she knows he's too young for her. Not to mention he is white and comes from money. How on earth can he understand her values and what it's like being raised in the Albuquerque hood, where she works to keep youngsters from befalling the same fate as her deceased younger brother? She is determined to help to save Cruz, Alonso, and Victor from the cycle of poverty and violence that led to her brother's demise.
Riley becomes a close friend and something more, as he helps her work with the young men. He arranges for them to work and live on a friend's horse ranch while they study for their GEDs. He is intrigued and impressed with the beautiful, sexy, and together older woman, and he's not bothered in the least by the age difference or their different backgrounds. Not only does Riley intend to qualify for and win the Rodeo Championship, but he also plans to win Maria's heart. Maria finds it very hard to resist Riley, because he is gorgeous, fun to be around, and has a good heart. Can she get past the seemingly insurmountable barriers of race, age, and background to find the love of her life with Riley?
A Rodeo Man's Promise was a quick, involving, fulfilling read. Marin Thomas has a breezy style that keeps the story flowing. Riley was a sweetheart. I appreciated the vigorous and vital impact of his youthful masculine energy, but also the fact that he was mature, confident and generous. I loved the fact that he didn't let issues of race and social status stand between him and the woman he wanted. Equally important was the fact that although Riley recognized he was born to privilege, he lacked a sense of arrogance and entitlement because of that. He embraced the fact that he was blessed in his background, and was willing to get outside his privileged upbringing and its accompanying mindset to help to mentor three young Latino boys from the rough part of town.
Maria was a compelling and likable character. The pain of losing her brother had driven her to help youngsters. She was realistic in her wants, needs and desires. I could understand why she would have some fears and reservations about becoming involved with Riley, considering her past hurts and their disparate backgrounds. I loved that Riley was determined and committed to win her trust and to convince her to give them a chance together.
The sparks fly between Maria and Riley and make a great romance. I felt the strong bond between them that transcends any obvious differences. Sometimes you find ‘the one' and they are nothing like you, and that can be a very good thing. In addition, the inclusion of the three teens, Cruz, Victor, and Alonso, with their troubled lives, and hopes and fears for the future, helps to round out the romance and make for a deeper read. The rodeo elements were interesting, and I loved how they became a bridge between Riley and Cruz, the most troubled of the trio of teens. Rodeo is a metaphor for hanging onto one's dreams in life, even when the going gets tough. If you can stay on the bronco for eight seconds, then you can do just about anything. That's a great take home message. A Rodeo Man's Promise is a book I thoroughly enjoyed, and would recommend to readers of romance.
Note: I received a copy of this book from the author in exchange for an honest review.
*Reviewed by guest reviewer, Danielle Hill.
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