Always a Cowboy (A Carsons of Mustang Creek) by Linda Lael Miller
Description: He's the middle of the three Carson brothers and is as stubborn as they come - and he won't thank a beautiful stranger for getting in his way! Drake Carson is the quintessential cowboy. In charge of the family ranch, he knows the realities of life, its pleasures and heartbreaks. Lately, managing the wild stallions on his property is wearing him down. When an interfering so-called expert arrives and starts offering her opinion, Drake is wary, but he can't deny the longing - and the challenge - she stirs in him. Luce Hale is researching how wild horses interact with ranch animals - and with ranchers. The Carson matriarch invites her to stay with the family, which guarantees frequent encounters with Drake, her ruggedly handsome and decidedly unwelcoming son. Luce and Drake are at odds from the very beginning, especially when it comes to the rogue stallion who's stealing ranch mares. But when Drake believes Luce is in danger, that changes everything - for both of them. (from Goodreads)
Genre: Romance - Contemporary
Why I Picked This Book: I really enjoyed the first in the series and I liked Drake's character so was thrilled to see him get his own book.
My Impression: Linda Lael Miller is an author that I've seen around for ages but I'm relatively new to her books. Counting a holiday novella, this was my third by her and definitely my favorite. I loved Drake and Luce. They're both intelligent and hard working people who have very similar views on environmental aspects as well as a deep love of animals especially horses though Luce's love is more on the academic side than Drake's. As usual we get the whole Carson clan with Drake's mother Blythe taking a very front and center role. I loved getting to see more of the family and how they interacted - especially the brothers. I also found the occasional mentions of their father who is deceased really touching especially from Drake who is very similar to his dad. Luce's family is only peripheral but her conversations with her sister were entertaining and felt very real. As well as the Carson clan we have a number of residents of Mustang Creek - many of whom have featured in other books. I haven't read any of their stories but after meeting them I'd really like too.
The romance was on the quick side which seems to be a common occurrence in Miller's books but it wasn't insta-love. Drake and Luce spend a lot of time together before anything develops which made it easier to root for them. Drake's very alpha-male but a quiet one. His protectiveness mostly made sense as Luce really hadn't had much hands on experience with wild animals though I did think with Drake admitting that she was a very experienced hiker that he could also admit that she understands the basics (aka don't approach a wild animal). However, I did have to support his "with a mountain lion on the prowl who is drawn to livestock perhaps a lone unarmed woman shouldn't be out wandering around".
I really enjoyed the inside look at the ranching world. Animals are a very large part of it - between livestock, pets, and wildlife - and while Drake's attitude is realistic it was also very compassionate with a focus on being responsible and humane which really worked for me. I don't know if I would classify this series as a favorite but it is one I consistently enjoy and Miller has created an interesting community with characters I do want to see more often. I was really excited to see that the Hallmark movie channel is working on a series based on another of Miller's series - Big Sky Country. I'll definitely be looking out for that premiere and for the next book in the series!
Would I Read More of this Series/Author?: I will! I'm looking forward to Mace's book. It'll be fun to see him fall hard for someone!
Would I Recommend this Book?: If you enjoy a good cowboy romance I think you'd enjoy this one.