HEA USA Today Reviews: Once Tempted, a Silver Creek story by Laura Moore
I’m a longtime fan of Laura Moore’s writing, and I’m excited about the new Silver Creek trilogy. Book one, Once Tempted, satisfied this city girl’s fascination with cowboys and the ranch lifestyle. When I read Laura’s books, I’m transported to the peaceful countryside with ranch homes and barns dotting the landscape. Once Tempted has all that and more.
Tess Casari has been through a brutal year. She found out her marriage was a sham and her ex-husband, David, was dying of a brain tumor. Her ex-in-laws, though they loathed Tess, paid her to stay by David’s bedside until he died and to disappear before the funeral. She took the money but only to put it in trust for the institutional care of Christopher, her severely autistic brother. Tess leaves New York and her event-planning job to drive to California. She arrives at the Silver Creek Ranch to apply for a job just in time for her used car to break down and spew smoke. Ward Knowles, oldest son of the owners, is outside when she arrives. For safety reasons, he turns off her car, and it dies. Tess calls Ward a car killer, and this first scene with them is hilarious. I love smart-mouth banter, and they both have the talent for it!
Ward is a pure alpha male but is so nice and gentlemanly, although he does enjoy needling Tess. She tries to avoid him at all costs because she is done with men for now. Ward and Tess have undeniable chemistry, and it’s a matter of time before they give in to it. Ward and Tess decide to embark on a no-strings relationship, but as they work together and share quiet morning afters, their bond strengthens.
There is a wonderful cast of characters. Tess ends up working for Ward’s mom, Adele, who uses her best matchmaking tricks to throw Ward and Tess together. Ward’s brother, Reid, is a charmer, and his sister, Quinn, is a force with a great sense of humor and a soft heart for rescuing animals. The first time Tess meets her, Quinn is wearing a shirt that says, “There are more horses asses than horses in the world.” As event planner for the ranch, Tess works well with the staff. Just as Tess is starting to believe that life can be fulfilling and that she deserves to be loved by Ward, both their pasts come back to haunt them. It will shake Tess’ fragile comeback and Ward’s trust, but the ending is very satisfying.
I enjoyed the banter, the humor and learning new Italian phrases. I had to know where Laura learned these so I asked her!
Where did you learn all those Italian curses … I mean, phrases that Tess taught Roo, the pastry chef?
Laura: I learned them from a combination of sources. I have a sister-in-law who’s half Italian, and she has an impressive vocabulary. My older brother also lived in Italy for a number of years, and he shared some choice “expressions” with me. Writing is often a group project! I love to pick people’s brains for all kind of gems.
I love the bucolic settings of your novels. I picture miles and miles of white fencing with beautiful horses grazing. How do you balance that with the fact that a farm is a 24/7 concern and there is always something happening?
Laura: Good question! There is always something happening — some crisis to deal with — on a large farm or ranch when, especially, animals are involved. It’s an amazingly hard life, and I have nothing but the utmost respect for those who are committed to preserving this way of life. It takes grit and courage. These days, it also takes money to run a large operation. In Once Tempted, Ward Knowles’ parents recognized that in order to keep Silver Creek Ranch they’d have to open it up to paying guests. This decision allowed them to maintain the kind of ranch they wanted and to hire the extra wranglers they needed to care for the stock they raise.
You write about this setting so well. I get so immersed in it. Did you ever live this life?
Laura: I’ve worked with horses, and I’ve also spent time on a sheep and horse farm, so a lot of the ranch descriptions came from my personal experiences. There is nothing in the world like being on a sheep farm during lambing season. It’s around-the-clock work and so glorious to behold. I also had the good fortune to travel to a working ranch in California last summer so I could get the details right.
I’ve loved all your books, but this is the first one that had the serious issues but also made me laugh a lot. The banter between Tess and Ward is so amusing. I lost it when she called him a car killer, and he said her car was gasping and the mechanic wept! How did this new direction come about?
Laura: For me, Tess is a real New Yorker, which means that she hardly ever drives at all. And when she meets my hero, Ward, she’s so unnerved by his, um, masculine appeal that when he points out that her car is dying, she gets all snippy. I have to admit I had a great time writing that scene between Tess and Ward — it’s one of my favorites. You see, Tess is actually a funny person, and I wanted to bring that out and have Ward respond to her on that level. I also wanted to show this other side to her because when I introduce Tess to the reader, she’s at the lowest point of her life, deeply unhappy and lacking confidence in herself. Being able to trade zingers with Ward shows her backbone. After all, he’s a guy who rides tractors as well as cutting horses. But in terms of being able to write true comedy, I don’t think I’m ready to enter Kristan Higgins’ or Jill Shalvis’ league! I’m still at the novice level.
For more info about Laura and her books, please visit www.lauramoorebooks.com.
Author of this post:
Mary Grzesik got her start reading cereal boxes. She loves tennis, reading books, talking about books and writing about books. She can’t decide which is her favorite thing: her e-reader or her tennis racket.