Janie Smithwick has her hands full with her ranch since the death of her husband, and things are getting more difficult by the day. Money is tight, she's let the help go, and she can barely keep up with what's left. The last thing she needs is some all too young, all too cocky cowboy distracting her from her responsibilities. But there's no denying the attraction, and Janie could use some fun in her life, if for no other reason than to remind her she's still alive. And Tyler definitely makes her feel alive…
The Verdict: I was a little nervous about this one, since so often the age difference thing just doesn't come across the pages as well as it's intended, but we all know by now that I've got a thing for cowboy romances, so I had to give it a shot. And oh, what great shot it was!
Jamie's been doing her damnedest to keep her head above water since her husband died, but running the ranch on her own is proving to be too much. She's not dead broke just yet, but if things continue the way they have been, she will be soon enough. And just maintaining what's already there is proving to be too much of a challenge. A downed fence has her borrowing help from the rancher next door, and that help turns out to be irresistible.
Tyler's initial meeting with Janie is by far one of the funniest I've read, and I was hard pressed to put the book down, even for a few seconds, after the first few pages. He's fun-loving, smooth-talking, and not looking to settle down anytime soon. Janie, on the other hand, is practical. She leads a rather uneventful and somewhat empty life since her husband passed away, and it's easy to see that she's just getting by, going through the motions day by day. Tyler brings some excitement and change to her life — even just his being around and helping out is a welcome development — but she knows better than to let herself get caught up in his smile.
Their age difference is enough to make anyone think twice, but it's not so much that they don't fit together. In some ways, Tyler represents the things that Janie missed, having gotten married young to an older, stable, and responsible man. There's a strong chemistry between them, something she didn't really experience but had never really missed with her late husband, but it's got her all kinds of hot and bothered now. But she's too reasonable to throw herself into a casual affair with a young cowboy who could have pretty much any girl he wanted — even though that's exactly what she ends up doing.
Tyler is just a good guy all around. Sure, he has a knack for finding mischief, but his heart's always in the right place, and when he realizes how skittish Janie is at the idea of even going on a date with him, he patiently stands his ground and waits for her to come around. The way he made his intentions know but put the choice in her hands was incredibly sweet and practically had me yelling at her to hurry up and get past her insecurities.
It's those insecurities that throw a wrench in things later on, leading to the best non-date ever and finally getting her head on straight. However, Janie's also not one of those women who denies a beauty everyone else thinks is obvious or spends time obsessing over her flaws. She's just pretty practical when it comes to the logistics of a relationship with a much younger, incredibly attractive man, and she's far too level-headed to let herself dive in without any thought of the consequences.
I have to admit that while I hoped I would enjoy Midnight Ride, I was surprised by just how much. The characters felt so genuine, their interactions always perfectly real, their challenges the kind that anyone in their situations would face. Tyler wasn't portrayed as overly immature, though his youth made itself known on a few occasions, and Janie was never painted as the old-before-her-time widow who couldn't just let herself live. They were such a cute couple, and seeing Tyler draw her out and make her feel something more than she ever expected to was like watching a perfectly directed movie in my mind. The general ranch work, rodeo competition, and depiction of country life took me back home in a way that most country-themed stories fail to do. Midnight Ride is a fun, sweet, sexy love story, and it's got everything I look for in romance out on the range. Count me in for the whole series and then some.