(The Birch Creek Ranch, #1)
Publication date: November 30th 2021
Genres: Adult, Contemporary, Romance, Women’s Fiction
Two widows, six kiddos, and a will that leaves them a massive cattle ranch, but only if they work it for a year.
Abigail and Amanda may have married brothers, but they have almost nothing else in common (and really, they never did get along very well). After their husbands both pass away, they have no reason to interact. Their connection drops to an awkward phone call on birthdays and an exchange of holiday cards.
Until an eccentric uncle of their husbands’ leaves a massive cattle ranch to the women’s minor children. . . if they work the ranch themselves. A ranch that’s located near a small town on the border of Wyoming that isn’t too keen on outsiders.
They’re both going to turn the bequest down, clearly. It’s not like either of them could properly raise their kids or find love again in a backwater province like Birch Creek. But when things at home change dramatically—for both moms—they decide to give it a try. . . just for the summer.
What could possibly go wrong in a mere three months? (Or more importantly… what might go right?)
Wall Street Journal and USA Today bestselling author Pamela Kelley said, “B. E. Baker takes you right to the heart of the small town that two widowed sisters-in-law land in very unexpectedly. Can they survive the year they need to spend there to keep it? I really enjoyed reading Bridget’s romantic women’s fiction debut.”
“Mrs. Brooks? Mrs. Nathaniel Brooks?”
I haven’t been called Mrs. Nathaniel Brooks in more than a year, not since before Nate died. It catches me by surprise and leaves me almost unable to speak.
“Yes,” I manage to say. “That’s me.” I clear my throat.
“Good.” The man shuffles some papers. “My name is Karl Swift.” Something about his voice, perhaps the wobbly timbre, makes me think that Karl is quite old.
“What can I help you with, Mr. Swift?”
“Er, well, it might be more correct for me to tell you what I think I can help you with.”
He sounds like Bilbo Baggins at his birthday party.
“I’m actually a lawyer as well—I found your name on your law firm website from a simple search. I’m calling to notify you that last night, I formally read a will that had been posted in all the local papers and online.”
“A will for whom?” I still have no idea why he called, and I’m beginning to think he was improperly named–he’s definitely not ‘swift.’ Spit it out, Ol’ Man River!
“Jedediah Brooks passed away almost two weeks ago.”
Brooks. He’s related to Nate, then. The name finally registers. “Nate’s uncle?”
“Even so,” Mr. Swift says.
“I’m very sorry to hear that Uncle Jed passed,” I say, rotely. I didn’t meet Nate’s uncle more than a handful of times, and even then we barely exchanged a handful of words. He had a full head of white hair the first time we met, nearly twenty years ago at my wedding to Nate. He must have lived quite a long life.
“Thank you. His death was quite a shock, but at least it was quick. Jed always said he wanted it to be fast, not drawn out.”
My hand trembles where it’s holding the phone. Nate’s death wasn’t quick at all—and it was so fast I could barely think straight. “Is that why you called? To let me know that he’d passed?”
“Not precisely,” Mr. Swift says. “You see, as I understand it, both of Mr. Brooks’ nephews, Nathaniel and Paul, predeceased him.”
I murmur my assent. They were both so young. It still sounds so wrong to agree that they’re both dead, even now.
“In that case, there is quite a substantial bequest made to your children, Mrs. Brooks.”
“Jed owned a three thousand, two hundred and eleven acre cattle ranch out here, on the northern side of Utah. It’s one of only six properties in the state that have stayed with the same family continuously, all the way back to the original land grant. In fact, portions of the property are actually in Wyoming, but it’s mostly in a place called Daggett County.”
“Are you saying that my children’s great-uncle left them a three-thousand acre ranch?”
“Yes, but it’s not quite that simple.”
I wish Mr. Swift would cut to the chase. For a lawyer, he certainly lacks in clarity. “What does the will say, then?”
“Specifically, it provides that the ranch and all its appurtenances, including the home, a guest house, two large barns, an outbuilding for storage, and some three hundred and fifty head of cattle should be left to your children and the children of Nathaniel’s brother, Paul, per stirpes.”
I wonder what something like that is worth. Maybe Ethan could get his Razr after all. “Well, that’s unexpected.”
“However.” Mr. Swift rustles more papers. “In order for the bequest to vest, the heirs or, in the case that they’re minors, their appointed guardians, must adequately and actively operate the Birch Creek Ranch for a period of one full year.”
“Operate it?” I ask. “Meaning, we can’t just sell it?”
Bridget loves her husband (every day) and all five of her kids (most days).
She’s a lawyer, but does as little legal work as possible. She has three quarter horse geldings, a Holsteiner (jumping) horse, and she spends too much time riding and not enough time writing. (Or too much time writing and not enough time riding, depending on your perspective!)
She has more chickens than she’ll admit to having, two lions head rabbits, a cat, two dogs (one bouncy and one yappy). She makes cookies waaaaay too often and believes they should be their own food group. In a (possibly misguided) attempt at balancing the scales, she kickboxes daily.
So if you don’t like her books, her kids, her horses, her chickens, or her cookies, maybe don’t tell her in person.
B.E. Baker is the romance/women's fiction penname for Bridget E. Baker, who also writes fantasy, end of the world, and dystopian books that add a little magic to the world.
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