HEARTSTRINGS (Lone Star Burn Universe)

HEARTSTRINGS                                   CASEY HAGEN

Ryan Ward is desperate to escape her soul-sucking life. Between catering to the work demands of her ambitious father, a popular Washington senator, and extricating herself from her abusive ex-boyfriend, Ryan yearns for the life of which she once dreamed: that of a country singer/songwriter. But how does one of Washington’s elite shed the slimy skin of politics for cowboy boots and a Taylor six-string? And can she do it incognito?

Slade McCall traded money for passion when he left his high six-figure income for a Texas ranch to indulge in his love of the land and, more importantly, his autistic young daughter. With an intractable ex-wife and ranch demands beating him down, the last thing Slade needs in his life is a troubled woman with a fading black eye, the voice of an angel, and a dubious past. But when need outweighs common sense, he hires the would-be country singer for a short stint of housework at the ranch.

Ryan and Slade know tangling their hearts is a bad idea—she has a past to escape and a dream to pursue, and he has a ranch to build and a daughter to protect. But they can’t deny their desires or their hearts, and as their love strengthens it is put to the test. Someone is intent on physical harm, and Slade’s ex is determined to reconcile. Will the pressures destroy what Ryan and Slade have started to build? Or will they follow the sounds . . . of their Heartstrings . . .

     Slade McCall comes from a long line of wealthy ranchers.  As well as he went out on his own after he went off to college and stayed.  He was in the corporate world for seven miserable years.  Married, had a daughter, and divorced.
     Ivy, his daughter was being bullied for her mild form case of autism, which you barely notice that she in on the ranch.  You see the marriage that should have never been had fallen apart.  He will never be sorry though because he got Ivy, the best part out of the whole thing.
     Although, all that wealth and all it cost to get him where he is would never get back the time with his dad who passed away nine-months-ago.  They had moved from the homestead their family had owned for generations, too many memories for his mom, which was a twenty-five-thousand-acre spread.  They moved onto the spread he now owns.  The place he has and calls home is Rockland Ranch which is fifty-five-thousand-acres.
     Not to mention he had taken on the added responsibility of being a big brother figure to his cousin, Matt.  Whose parents died in a plane crash, and is well on his way to a drinking problem if he can’t get a handle on it.  They had an agreement that he would have a roof, meals, and a job if he could maintain the two-drink max, and stick to drinking at the respectable bar in town. 
     On this night he went to check on him he was not at the bar they had agreed on.  You got it, he was at the seedy bar know for all the wrong you can think of sex, drugs, and rowdy people.  As he was looking for Matt an angel on stage starts singing and catches his attention.
     Which is unusual for him to take notice because he really had not taken notice.  For he had no time for anything or anyone in his life other than what was in his life right now.  This woman was one of the most beautifully simple beauties he had ever seen in a long time. 
     She had a rich singing voice on that echoed in his ear and down to his groining area, it was so soft that it captivated him.  Her fingers gracefully worked the strings of her guitar.  She had the crowd in the palm of her hand.  All the men were watching for sure.
     After her song, he turns to look for his cousin when he hears the crowd take a collective breath together.  The atmosphere changes too making him aware of his surroundings.  He turns to see this woman who had been on stage with Cutter in most instances a choke hold.  For manhandling her friend who couldn't get away from him.  With her being so small and Cutter so damn big it was not an even fight at all.  When Slade sees Cutter reaches back and grabs Ryan in a choke hold and cutting off her airway. 
     Cutter swings her around to the front to get her in a better grip.  He gets both hands around her neck and starts calling her all kinds of nasty names.  Then he starts applying more pressure.  Not one man close to the situation is going to her aid.  So, without even thinking about it, Slade dodges tables.  
     Slade grabs Cutter by the neck and tells him to let her go.  He starts applying the same pressure to his neck as he has on hers.  He’s not laughing or calling names.  When he lets go Slade eases up a little because by then the sheriffs take cutter to the ground but not before he can grab for Ryan’s guitar and break the neck off her guitar.
     As Cutter was being handcuffed he was making threats.  Someone lost their job, got stiffed their pay, and no money to pay for transportation repairs.  Plus, Cutter broke the neck of her guitar so no way to make a living either.  Find out how Ryan plans to make a living while her truck and guitar get fixed.

     Loved this story.  The characters are full of life and totally real.  I loved the strength and true heart that Ryan carried with her no matter what.  That she knew what it was like to be without a mom and to fight for a daddy’s attention.  So, she gave Slade her thoughts even when he didn’t want them.  She stayed true to herself.  Loved Slade’s protectiveness of those he loves but the women in his life for sure.  I give this: 5++++ stars.  Provided by netgalley.com.  Follow us at www.1rad-readerreviews.com.

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