When he wakes up in the hospital, the victim of a brutal beating, John Doe has no memories of who he is or who hurt him. The cops can find nothing to identify him and he can't remember anything to help... except the name Ethan and one recurring place from his dreams. Two words, and they're not much, but it's a start: Crooked Tree.
Detective Ethan Allens has never stopped searching for the two boys who vanished. When a report lands on Ethan's desk that may give new leads, he jumps at the chance to follow them up. The man he finds isn't his brother, but it's someone who could maybe help him discover what happened twelve years ago.
What neither man can know is that facing the very real demons of the past could destroy any kind of future they may have together.
I went into this book not really knowing what to expect. I gave the first book in the series, Crooked Tree Ranch, 3 stars but I had trouble recalling what went on in the book. Though I didn’t have to worry, because ‘The Rancher’s Son’ works fine as a standalone, and RJ Scott did an excellent job with both the romance and the mystery plot.
For twelve years, Ethan Allens has searched for his brother, Justin, and for the boy who was his first love, Adam. Now a detective, he always keeps an eye out for any information about the two vanished boys. So when he’s tipped off about a John Doe, Ethan rushes to Chicago to meet him. Waking up in a hospital after a brutal beating, Adam Strachan doesn’t recall his name or who attacked him. The only things he remembers is a name, Ethan, and a place, Crooked Tree. Coming face-to-face after a decade, Ethan and Adam are forced to confront the past, while skirting around a romance that was never realized.
It was at times heartbreaking reading about Adam and Ethan’s interactions from Ethan’s POV. He’s spent twelve years searching for this boy, this man, who can’t recall more than his name. Amnesia isn’t something I’ve read much of, and it’s not something that particularly appeals to me. But having read a bit of Ethan’s story in the preceding book, I was willing to give it a try. I don’t know how realistic Adam’s amnesia was, but I do think that this author handled Ethan and Adam’s gradual reunion very well. Though Adam can’t recall details, he does subconsciously, through his dreams and feelings of deja vu, know that Ethan means something to him.
That made their feelings for each other more believable, as opposed to if Adam had absolutely no recollection of his past life.
‘The Rancher’s Son’ is a slow-burn romance. Like very slow. And I loved that, because I would have been writing a snarky review if Ethan and Adam had jumped straight into bed. Aside from the amnesia, these two haven’t met for over a decade, and have since gone from being boys to men. They’re complete strangers. So while there’s an intense attraction, the two instead spend their time together talking and getting to know each other. I highly enjoyed seeing them rediscovering their love. It was sweet and slow, with just a touch of angst, and put a smile on my face.
And when they eventually get to the ‘jumping into bed’ part, it is hot.
The mystery of Adam and Justin’s disappearance is just as prominent in the book as the romance, and at the end I had more questions than I did answers. The few answers that I did get were exactly what I’d expect from RJ Scott - mind-boggling and skirting OTT. If you’ve read her Texas series, you’ll have a sense of how RJ Scott likes her action. I’m a fan of it, so I took every twist and turn as it came.
‘The Rancher’s Son’ was a very good read, with a sweet romance and an engaging mystery. I’m not usually a fan of a reunited lovers theme, but with Ethan and Adam it worked well. I’m eagerly waiting for the next book, which will hopefully answer all of my questions!