Overwhelmed by the responsibilities of running a ranch on her own, Laurel Tracey decides to hire a convict—a man who’s just scary enough to take care of squatters and just desperate enough to agree to a one year post.
The years following the war have been hard on Laurel Tracey. Both her brother and her father died in battle, and her mother passed away shortly after receiving word of their demise. Laurel has been trying to run her two hundred acre ranch as best she can.
When she discovers that squatters have settled in her north pasture and have no intention of leaving, Laurel decides to use the last of her money to free a prisoner from the local jail. If she agrees to offer him room and board for one year, he will have to work for her to pay off his debt.
Former soldier Thomas Baker knows he’s in trouble when he finds himself jailed because he couldn’t pay a few fines. Laurel’s offer might be his only ticket out. Though she’s everything he ever dreamed of in a woman—sweet and tender-hearted, yet strong—he’s determined to remain detached, work hard on her behalf, and count the days until he’s free again.
But when cattle start dying and Laurel’s life is threatened, Thomas realizes more than just his freedom is on the line. Laurel needs someone to believe in her and protect her property. And it isn’t long before Laurel realizes that Thomas Baker is far more than just a former soldier. He’s a trustworthy hero, and he needs more than just his freedom—he needs her love and care too.
My thoughts: First, the disclaimer. "I was provided a free copy of this book. All opinions are my own." That done, AN UNCOMMON PROTECTOR is the second book in the A Lone Star Hero's series, but it stands alone. I didn't read the first book A Loyal Heart and had no trouble following along with this book. I mostly read Ms. Gray's Amish series, but have read one of her historicals in the past so decided to give this one a try. It has an interesting premise. Single girl losing ranch so she hires a convict (when he's release on (sort of) parole or really sold on the auction block) to work for her to save the ranch. When Laurel brings Thomas home, her step-siblings rebel, attempting to call her bluff, and with no money or place to stay, walked eight miles to town. Laurel let them go. I didn't like the step-siblings at all. I did like Thomas' outspokenness, though he was inappropriate much of the time, and I'm glad he was a man of honor even if he did have a rather low opinion of himself. Laurel is learning to be outspoken, so she is struggling to find the fine footing between being a genteel lady and being owner of a ranch and forced to make her own decisions for herself and others. Ms. Gray isn't real big on faith messages, her books are more sweet romances with little to no mention of faith, so this book shouldn't be offensive to anyone (even if they are anti-Christian). If you like a strong faith message, look further, but if you like sweet romances, then Ms. Gray is a writer to consider. Her books are fun, imagitive, and light-hearted. Warning: there is use of God's name in vain and some soft-swear words.