Series: Dry Creek (Book 26)
A Holiday Hero
Renee Gray doesn't believe in fairy tales -- not even at Christmastime.
But when a wounded stranger collapses on their porch, her daughter,
Tessie, believes they've discovered a handsome Prince Charming. Though
he has his own reasons for shutting out the world, Rusty Calhoun can't
resist little Tessie's invitation to play a king in the church Christmas
pageant. Renee and Rusty have both built up walls as tall as castles,
but as their trust and love grow, they wonder whether real life can
include a little storybook magic.
Renee is frightened when a wounded stranger collapses on her front porch, but her daughter thinks he's a fairytale prince. Renee's ex-husband is in prison for armed robbery and Renee has learned to be very cautious around men. She's not too sure she can trust Rusty around her daughter. Rusty has returned to Dry Creek after leaving the army. He is looking for his younger brother who he suspects is involved in something illegal, which is how he got shot. While Rusty tries to get Eric to come clean he is also falling for Renee. But can they overcome their trust issues and have a future together?
I liked Rusty a lot. He had stayed away from Dry Creek while he was in the army because his father had threatened to hurt Eric if he didn't. He stayed in touch as best he could without endangering his brother, and came home after his father's death to take care of Eric. He stumbled on some cattle rustlers at the same time he saw Eric. Landing on Renee's porch saved his life and gave him some hope for the future. Even though he could see her wariness he couldn't get her off his mind. The ranch owner offered him the chance to stay in the bunkhouse until he recovered. Rusty and his brother had been raised by their abusive father after their mother left them. Rusty was totally lost when it came to knowing how to relate to a woman but he really wanted to get to know Renee better. I loved his gentleness with Renee's daughter Tessie and how she could get him to do almost anything. Because of what Eric was involved in, Rusty was afraid that everyone in town would suspect him of being a criminal and that it would reflect badly on Renee. I loved his determination to do the right thing. I really liked seeing his soft heart. One of my favorite scenes was at the beginning when he got talked into being the king in the Christmas pageant.
I had a harder time liking Renee. She was working very hard to make a better life for Tessie after escaping her abusive marriage. She was very wary around men because of it. When Rusty fell into her life she judged him very quickly without knowing anything about him. She thought he was a criminal just because he had been shot, not even considering that he was a victim. I understood her wanting to protect Tessie but I found her waffling back and forth about him to be very frustrating. His tenderness with Tessie moved her but she still kept thinking the worst about him. She slowly began to build up some trust, but even then she didn't give it fully until after the resolution with the rustlers. I would have liked to see her have more faith in him.
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