Books reviewed prior on this site prior to March 2019 were provided to me, at no charge, by the publisher, or by the author, in exchange for an honest review. I have received no further compensation for these reviews. Reviews beginning March 2019 come from a variety of sources: advanced copies, library loans, and my own purchases. All reviews are my honest opinions.

January 9, 2017

An Uncommon Protector {Shelley Shepard Gray}

an uncommon protector shelley shepard gray
Overwhelmed by the responsibilities of running a ranch on her own, Laurel Tracey decides to hire a convict—a man who’s just scary enough to take care of squatters and just desperate enough to agree to a one-year post.

The years following the war have been hard on Laurel Tracey. Both her brother and her father died in battle, and her mother passed away shortly after receiving word of their demise. Laurel has been trying to run her two hundred acre ranch as best she can.

When she discovers that squatters have settled in her north pasture and have no intention of leaving, Laurel decides to use the last of her money to free a prisoner from the local jail. If she agrees to offer him room and board for one year, he will have to work for her to pay off his debt.

Former soldier Thomas Baker knows he’s in trouble when he finds himself jailed because he couldn’t pay a few fines. Laurel’s offer might be his only ticket out. Though she’s everything he ever dreamed of in a woman—sweet and tender-hearted, yet strong—he’s determined to remain detached, work hard on her behalf, and count the days until he’s free again.

But when cattle start dying and the squatters damage a barn, Thomas realizes more than just his freedom is on the line. Laurel needs someone to believe in her and protect her property. And it isn’t long before Laurel realizes that Thomas Baker is far more than just a former soldier. He’s a trustworthy hero who’s survived a terrible past. He needs more than just his freedom, he needs her love and care too.

My Thoughts:
It's not every day I pick up a book and actually like both of the main characters, but this was one of those instances. I absolutely loved both Laurel and Thomas, and for many of the same reasons.

We meet Thomas first, and our first impression is he is a hard working man, willing to pay his dues and deal with whatever life hands him. He has fought in the war, spent time as a prisoner of war, and then found himself in the local jail over gambling debts. Because of his willingness to take whatever he gets, he finds himself the victim of abuse from those in authority around him.

As we get to know him, we learn he had a very tough childhood, provided for himself until he entered the military, and came out a better man because of all of it. The way Thomas immediately fell into the protector role with Laurel made me want to give him a big hug. He is such a gentleman, and I wanted nothing but the best for him in life.

Laurel has a heart of gold. We first meet her as she is serving water to the prisoners working on her land. It is this glimpse into the kind of woman she is that wins your heart immediately. She thinks very little of herself, but not in an annoying way. She simply believes she is a plain girl just trying to save the ranch she inherited from her family.

Laurel also recognizes she needs help, and she finds herself purchasing Thomas from the jail. As soon as these two make their way back to her ranch, it becomes obvious they belong together. Unfortunately, each of them is determined to honor the employer/employee relationship created for them.

As they find themselves in danger on the ranch, we get to see a vulnerable and protective side to each of them. These traits just made me like each of them even more. I could not wait for them to figure out they were supposed to be together.

This is a wonderful story of love, grace, forgiveness, and redemption. It is beautifully written and deserves a spot on your reading list this year. 

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