I don’t think I’ve ever reviewed an entire series like this before, but there is always a first time, so here it is. I found this series when another librarian was trying to help her patron find this and she asked on a readers’ advisory listserv I frequent. The patron didn’t remember the author or any of the titles, only the barest facts about it: a small town setting in Wyoming, military veterans, romance. Another librarian suggested this series, and I was intrigued. I recently read another series set in a similar area, Wranglers of Wyoming by R.C. Ryan, which I loved, so I thought I’d check out this one.
I read them all in about two weeks. Sometimes that is not a good thing – I think I would have enjoyed them more with some time between each book. As it was, these books were addicting for me, even though I have some real criticism about them.
The setting is a small town in western Wyoming in the Wind River Valley (a real place.) In the books, this is a small, impoverished town with a few families that are well off; one is quite wealthy. They are about 50 miles from the very wealthy Jackson Hole area, which is referenced regularly.
There are some characters that are in pretty much all the books. Maud and Steve own the largest ranch in the area, over 100,000 acres. Maud runs the ranch, and Steve is a world renowned architect. They mostly hire veterans to work for them. Shay owns another ranch, but a much smaller one that is in bad shape. She inherited the ranch from her mother, who died when she was young. Her father is an alcoholic and quite abusive, and he has run the ranch into the ground. When he has a stroke, Shay gets a hardship discharge from the armed services to go home and take over the ranch. She decides to only hire veterans like herself who are suffering from PTSD.
Most of the books take place on one of these two ranches. There are occasional pointed jabs at the VA and the lack of help they provide for our veterans, but these books are not political in nature, and the author has lived a lot of what she puts her characters through. She’s a veteran, among other things, and you can read all about her here: https://lindsaymckenna.com/about/
While I have a lot of respect for the author, I have some issues with this series. All the characters are the same. Pretty much everyone is a veteran, which I really liked. Almost all have been Black Ops in Afghanistan, which makes them super vigilant and extremely observant. All the men are kind, have old school manners, calloused hands, and are afraid of relationships mostly because of their PTSD. They often display “sour smiles,” whatever that is. They are all tall and well built (these are romances!) and pretty much everyone in these books (and frankly, in most romance novels) have blue, green, or gray eyes with just a couple of exceptions. That’s been bugging me for a while, so I did some research.
Can you guess the rarest eye color in the United States?
The [American Academy of Ophthalmology] surveyed more than 2,000 Americans to determine what color eyes they have. Below are the results of that 2014 Harris Poll survey, weighted to reflect the United States population at that time.
Of the 2014 U.S. population:
45% have brown eyes
27% have blue eyes
18% have hazel eyes
9% have green eyes
1% have eyes a color not listed above (i.e. gray or amber)American Academy of Ophthalmology
The women are mostly tall and thin, usually underweight due to their PTSD. They are also afraid of relationships, same PTSD issues. They appreciate the gentleman-like manners. I loved that all the men treat the women as equals. There is so much respect for the military that it carries through to relationships these veterans have in civilian life. Every man and woman is a team player, works hard, never asks for help, hated and stopped taking the drugs prescribed by the VA, and are open to the physician’s assistant in town who is studying PTSD and offers them help via more natural methods.
Most of them have experienced homelessness, even if they come from good families. Some of the men are divorced due to PTSD, a couple are young widowers. All these veterans experience flashbacks and nightmares, making them feel like they can’t live at home with civilians who don’t understand their symptoms, not to mention they feel like they disturb the household too much to live there. They are all incredibly anxious and find salvation working with animals on these ranches. And they all acknowledge their sexual attraction to one another by feeling “warmth” or “tightness” in their “lower body,” which I found weird.
While some of the female vets did mention how badly a lot of the men in the armed services treated them, it was mostly glossed over. No mention whatsoever of the prevalence of sexual assaults, either, and of course all the men in these books totally respect women, especially those in combat, which I found quite aspirational rather than believable.
After the first book, both ranches offer their employees their own homes to live in on the ranch. At Shay’s ranch, all the wranglers are men. The homes are two bedrooms and when she hires a new wrangler, all women, she assigns them to one of the houses to live with the man who already lives there. How convenient it is that every one of these women and men fall in love with their house partner.
All the relationships take most of the book to come to fruition due to their fears and lack of communication. They all realize they have feelings, usually very strong feelings, for the person they are living with, but are hesitant to express those feelings because they are afraid they are not reciprocated. They are also afraid the other person is dealing with too much stress/psychological issues/PTSD to want to have a relationship.
A couple of these books have strong elements of suspense as well. There is a family in town who are the bad guys. The father abused his entire family. There are four sons and a mother, and all are drug users and violent criminals. Some or all of them feature prominently in a few of the books, are briefly mentioned in others.
A couple of the books center on women who aren’t working on one of the ranches. Kassie’s Cowboy is a novella, hence the addition of “6.5” in the series, and is only available as an ebook. Kassie owns the diner in this small town, and hires veterans for her staff. She is one of the few characters that doesn’t have PTSD, but all her staff do so she understands and knows how to deal with it. Wind River Lawman centers around the sheriff of the county, an odd title considering that Sarah is the sheriff, elected after her father retired. She is a veteran with issues and her love interest is a wrangler hired to work on her family’s ranch.
Finally, sex. Most romances have sex, and while these books definitely lean towards the sweet side of romance, all have one sex scene towards the end of the book. It is not very explicit, and in every book it is as close to being the exact same scene as in every other book in this series. It is the type of sex that I thought indicated a man actually wrote this series. Then, as I learned about the author, I thought ah ha! I’m right, he’s writing under a pseudonym. But her website indicates she is a woman, and the one photo I found is of a woman. Maybe it is an age thing? But that really isn’t an excuse to write bad sex scenes. All the men in these books are assumed to be great lovers by all the women in these books because, from what I can tell, of their good manners?
Worst of all, these are the type of sex scenes that make me want to stop reading; kissing leads to simultaneous orgasms from intercourse over a page or two, and that’s all she wrote. Literally.
Besides the instantaneous & simultaneous orgasms, my other big issue with the sex is that every single character hates & refuses to use condoms. One of the women is on the pill, but everyone else is “clean” and the women are all in a “safe” time of the month. I really wanted to suggest they drive by the nearest parochial school and ask the moms picking up those kids how many of those kids are there despite the “safe” time of the month.
There are so many coincidences sprinkled throughout these books that it makes the mind reel. So many of the veterans in this town were people who served together in Afghanistan. According to the Washington Post, 775,000 men and women served there. Not sure what the odds are that so many of these soldiers would end up in this little town many years later, with some of them having served together, too. It all seems pretty far fetched to me. But what do I know.
There is also a bit of confusion about the wealthy family in town. Early in the series, we are told that over the years they fostered some children who are now grown, and are still helping them out. Later in the series, it turns out these children were adopted. There are four of them, and we really don’t learn anything about them until book 8 when the oldest daughter comes home. Then we learn that three of them are in the military, and the fourth is in drug enforcement (DEA.) He shows up in the last book.
That’s a whole of complaining about a series of books that I still managed to read. I believe these books are best read in order. They are formulaic as hell; change the names, swap out the ranch or occupation, and everything else pretty much stays the same. I never thought I would like a series that is so formulaic with such bad sex scenes, but I overlooked all that because I did like these stories. I liked the respect for the military. I liked how strong these women were, even if they occasionally lapse into helpless female on rare occasion. I always like small town romances, and I really liked this small town that revolves around helping veterans. I liked the men; how strong they were, the work they do, the way they treat one another and their women. There was enough good there to keep me picking up book after book, even if I can’t quantify it exactly.
That said, I doubt I’d read anything else by this author (or any of her pseudonyms.) There is one storyline that hangs over all these books, concerning Shay’s abusive father. As he starts recovering from his stroke, he is determined to take back the ranch from his daughter. He files a lawsuit but it is not resolved; it’s just hanging over all these characters and books. I’m hoping there will be another book that finally resolves that. But it’s looking doubtful – the last book in this series was published in 2020.
Finally, I wanted to add that I read all of these books on Hoopla, an app that is available through libraries. If your library doesn’t offer it, ask for it! I don’t love reading in the app, it’s not nearly as seamless as my Kindle but it works and I read these all on my iPad. They offer ebooks, audiobooks, comics (graphic novels,) movies, TV series, and music; pretty much any kind of streaming material. My library allows patrons to borrow 18 items per month, but your mileage may vary. Oh, and the content changes at the whim of Hoopla, libraries have no say in it beyond suggestions. So just because I found all these books there now, they may not be there next month or next year. What I like best about Hoopla is that whatever they have is always available. If you are used to borrowing ebooks through Cloud Library or Overdrive, you know you have to reserve popular items and wait. That doesn’t happen on Hoopla – what you see is what you get.
The series in order:
1. Wind River Wrangler (Wind River Series Book 1) by Lindsay McKenna
First in the series from the bestselling author. “The ever-present sensuality is a magnetic force that propels the novel forward amid simmering suspense.”—Publishers Weekly
From the moment Roan Taggart picks up the pretty redhead at the Jackson Hole airport, his training and experience tells him she is spooked. She’s left New York City to visit the Wind River Ranch, where Roan is a wrangler, and just as he can pick up a horse’s mood, he can feel the tension coming off her body. And that vulnerability is triggering all his protective instincts . . .
2. Wind River Rancher (Wind River Series Book 2) by Lindsay McKenna
A Marine veteran finds a chance for redemption and romance in this novel from the New York Times–bestselling author of Wind River Undercover.
Not so long ago, Reese Lockhart was commanding a company of Marines. Now his life is spiraling out of control. The Bar C ranch outside Jackson Hole, Wyoming may be his last chance to save himself . . .
Shaylene Crawford, an Afghanistan veteran herself, knows all too well the demons of PTSD—that’s why she’s determined to turn her family’s cattle ranch into a place where wounded warriors can work, find a home, and rebuild their souls. Her embittered father nearly drank and gambled the place away, but with help from a small crew of vets—including the newest arrival, the quietly compelling Reese Lockhart—she intends to hold on to her dream. And when someone tries to destroy that dream, Reese will do whatever it takes to defend her . . .
3. Wind River Cowboy (Wind River Series Book 3) by Lindsay McKenna
Two veterans reunited at a Wyoming ranch reignite their passion for each other—from the New York Times–bestselling author of Wind River Undercover.
Kira Duval was part of a Special Forces team that got caught in an ambush—leaving only two wounded survivors: herself and Weapons Sergeant Garret Fleming. Losing her team was traumatic, and in the chaotic aftermath, as the Army moved them from hospital to hospital, she lost Garret too. But she never lost her secret yearning for him.
Finally, she gave up trying to track him down back in the States. But as she settles in at the Bar C cattle ranch in Wyoming, a place where veterans can find a home and a place to heal, she’s introduced to her sandy-haired, hazel-eyed housemate: none other than Garret Fleming.
They’re a long way from Afghanistan—and a long way from the people they used to be before tragedy changed their lives. But as Kira earns her keep by caregiving for the ranch owner’s bedridden, alcoholic father—a task that sometimes feels more challenging than any black ops mission—she finds that even in peacetime Garret still has her back, and that in this warm, welcoming place, the passion she resisted in the heat of battle may finally have a chance to flourish…
4. Wrangler’s Challenge (Wind River Series Book 4) by Lindsay McKenna
Two military veterans find solace, and each other, on a horse ranch in this romance from the New York Times–bestselling author of Wind River Undercover.
For Noah Mabry, it’s easier sometimes to relate to the dogs and horses he trains than to other people. Ever since his marriage became a casualty of the war in Afghanistan—torn apart by the PTSD he brought back with him—he prefers to be on his own. At the Bar C Ranch in Wyoming, where he works with a crew of fellow military vets, his gentle patience helps tame even the rowdiest mustang—but he’s about to meet a woman who needs a healing touch he’s not sure he can give.
Dair Wilson, a half-Comanche ex-Marine who lost a foot to an IED, has been hired on to assist Noah, but her deepest wounds aren’t visible. Growing up in an abusive home, she learned not to trust men, even ones who seem nothing but kind. After a wild horse sends her sprawling, the attentive care she receives from the Bar C family—and especially from Noah—is enough to convince her she’s found a place she can finally breathe easy. But one angry, damaged man poses a threat not only to Dair and Noah, but to everyone who’s built a new home at the Bar C…
5. Lone Rider (Wind River Valley Book 5) by Lindsay McKenna
A Wyoming ranch holds the future for a combat medic and a photographer in this romance from the New York Times–bestselling author of Wind River Undercover.
As a combat photographer in Afghanistan, Tara Dalton saw things she won’t ever forget, as much as she would like to. And after returning Stateside, she can’t fight her way past the PTSD that’s haunted her ever since. Desperate to make a change, she joins her old friend Shay at the Bar C Ranch, where a group of ex-military vets are putting their lives back together one step at a time—including one strong, gentle bear of a man who makes her feel safer than she has in years.
Harper Sutton fell farther than he ever imagined after his tour of duty as a medic was up, and he’s not proud of it. But at the Bar C, he’s doing work that means something, and he’s training to be a professional paramedic. That’s enough to concentrate on, until Tara comes to share his place at the ranch. The shadows in her eyes are darker than simply memories of war, and every moment he spends with her opens up parts of himself he’d thought long dead. But as Tara’s troubled past threatens the present, it will take trust in each other to fight for a future together…
6. Wind River Lawman (Wind River Series Book 6) by Lindsay McKenna
A small-town sheriff gets some backup in more ways than one from a Navy veteran turned rancher in this romance from a New York Times–bestselling author.
After serving as a Navy medic, Dawson Callahan is back in the States and ready to start over. Leaving his native Texas, he heads for the wide-open spaces of Wyoming, where he finds work as a wrangler. True, he’ll mainly be wrangling chickens—and wrangling Sarah Carter’s granny, who’s still spry, but in need of a little caregiving. But ranch work is ranch work, and it’s hard to turn down a job offer from the beautiful Sheriff Carter—especially when she deputizes him as one of her lawmen.
Sarah loves her grandmother, but with her law enforcement career keeping her busy, they could both use some help from a strong, steady man. And policing Lincoln County has only gotten tougher since a merciless drug lord arrived in the area. When Sarah takes a bullet on the job, it’s Dawson who comes to her rescue—and though they both thought they left war behind in Afghanistan, they’ll do whatever it takes to protect what’s theirs, even if it means facing down traumas they’ve buried for years. Because love isn’t for the faint of heart…
6.5 Kassie’s Cowboy (Wind River)Novella by Lindsay McKenna – Kindle Edition
A Christmas blizzard reunites a Marine veteran with his high school sweetheart in this romance novella from a New York Times–bestselling author.
A brutal blue norther is battering Wind River Valley in Wyoming just in time for Christmas when retired Marine Travis Grant spies a driver spinning out of control on black ice. It’s probably a tourist who doesn’t understand the deadly conditions, and Travis knows he has to help. The last person he expects to find behind the wheel is his childhood love, Kassie Murphy. She’s injured, but alive. And now, for Travis and Kassie, this snowy silent night will be one last chance to put the painful past behind them—and treat the wounds only love can heal.
7. Home to Wind River (Wind River Series Book 7) by Lindsay McKenna
An ex-Marine and an Army nurse discover the strength to love again on a Wyoming ranch—from the New York Times–bestselling author of Wind River Undercover.
After a harrowing tour of duty in Afghanistan, Army nurse Lily Thompson escapes to Wind River Ranch to find herself once more. Working as a caregiver to foreman Jake Murdoch’s elderly mother, Lily almost feels at peace—except for the unsettling presence of Jake, a tight-lipped, intimidating man everyone calls Bear. But one look in the powerful ex-Marine’s eyes and Lily glimpses a vulnerability that shakes her soul: a hurt she understands all too well—and longs to heal . . .
Jake is ready to rail at the fates when Lily moves into his home. Everything about this captivating woman calls to him, demanding that he abandon his solitary stance and start to live again. But Jake is a man who knows that no one can save him from the past that stalks his heart and mind. Not even sweet, achingly beautiful Lily. Still, that doesn’t stop his longing to pull her into his arms—and keep her there forever. Will time, and patience, bring them the courage to make their connection real?…
8. Wind River Protector (Wind River Series Book 8) by Lindsay McKenna
The new novel from the bestselling author of Home to Wind River.
Real love is worth every risk . . .
Ex-Air Force pilot Andy Whitcomb loves nothing more than the wide blue skies, but when a helicopter crash fighting forest fires in California leaves her injured and shaken, she’s ready to return home to the peace of Wind River Ranch. The good news is, there’s a chance for her to fly helos for the county sheriff’s department. The bad news? The person in charge is none other than Dev Mitchell, an ex-Army Black Hawk pilot—and the rugged, sharp-eyed man Andy has never forgotten after five days together running from the Taliban after a nerve-wracking near-miss in Afghanistan.
Dev can’t believe his eyes when Andy walks into the interview. She’s as strong and sexy as he remembers, and every bit qualified for the job, which she clearly wants. Unfortunately, if he’s going to be her boss, their relationship has to remain strictly professional—a regret Dev fights to keep hidden as they begin to work together. But when a chance encounter with violent drug traffickers forces them into survival mode, both of them will fight to hold on to the connection they can’t ignore—and the chance of a future together.
9. Wind River Undercover (Wind River Valley Book 9) by Lindsay McKenna
)The new novel from the bestselling author of Wind River Protector.
Hide in plain sight.
For native Guatemalan Anna Navaro, nothing is more satisfying than capturing drug traffickers for the U.S. DEA. Her career has always been her focus, but just as she’s beginning to yearn for something more, she’s given a brand-new assignment with DEA agent Gabe Whitcomb. In his well-worn Stetson and boots, he’s part cowboy and part law enforcement, a combination Anna finds irresistibly sexy. But desire has no place on a job as dangerous as this one, because the drug lord they’re after is the violent fugitive who killed her father . . .
Gabe’s worked some treacherous assignments in the past, but this one raises every alarm—and not just because his partner is a gorgeous woman with the grace of a cat and a sniper’s deadly aim. He and Anna are being sent to the Wind River Valley where he grew up—and where his adoptive parents still own a ranch just eighty miles from the Elson family, who have been recruited into the ruthless Gonzalez cartel. Posing as new ranch-owners and ingratiating themselves with the Elsons to uncover evidence, Anna and Gabe can only fight the heat flaring between them until they realize that building a life together, here in Wind River, is worth risking everything for . . .