A man without memories and the cop who never gave up hope. When he wakes up in the hospital, the victim of a brutal beating, John Doe has no memory 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 12 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.
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The Rancher's Son is the second book in RJ Scott's Montana series. It picks up pretty much right after the end of book one, Crooked Tree Ranch, but with a much different tone. While the first book in the series was relatively light, with plenty of humor and only a bit of angst, this book takes a much, much darker turn into missing people, death, cops and lost memories.
Ethan is a police officer in Missoula, Montana, but he is the oldest son of one of the owners of the Crooked Tree Ranch. Ethan's younger brother Justin went missing 12 years ago, along with his best friend, Adam, the youngest son of one of the other ranch owners. The two teenagers just *poof* disappeared one day after going for a swim in a lake. Ethan has never stopped looking for Justin and Adam, wanting to know what happened, if they are still alive and if they are, what is keeping them from coming home.
When Ethan finds Adam, badly beaten and suffering from almost total amnesia in a Chicago hospital, it doesn't answer the question about what happened to Justin 12 years ago, but it does open a door to Ethan's quest to find his brother. Or does it? Without his memory, can Adam help Ethan solve the puzzle?
Ethan takes Adam home to Crooked Tree Ranch. During the long drive home, tiny pieces of Adam's memory come back back, disjointed and sometimes as part of nightmares, but the question of why Adam and Justin left is left a mystery. Meanwhile, Ethan and Adam try to rekindle a love born to them when they were just teenagers. It's hard to make that happen when there is such a gaping black hole in Adam's memories and so much time has elapsed, with each man having had many experiences that did not include the other.
Back at Crooked Tree Ranch, long-buried family secrets surface as well as the secrets of what may have happened to Justin and Adam to keep them from returning home. Many of these secrets are dreadful memories and a few very good ones. This is a brilliantly crafted story and not all parts of the mysteries that abound at the ranch are resolved by the end, but enough is revealed to have more than one HEA. There is a huge twist in the final pages to leave the reader more than eager for the next book in the series.
I suppose you could read this book as a stand-alone, but I don't recommend it. The background on the ranch and the families is built in the first book, and The Rancher's Son would be less of a story without that context. Do yourself a favor and buy both books and then marathon-read them. You may lose a little sleep because they are almost impossible to put down once you've begun to immerse yourself in the lives and loves of the people at Crooked Tree Ranch. Totally worth it. I mean, what's not to love about cowboys, SEALs and cops all in one book?
I'm adding a bit to the review after listening to the audiobook version. This was spectacular! The narrator, Sean Crisden, is one of the best voice actors on an audiobook. Most of the characters are men, making it a trick to distinguish different voices, but Mr. Crisden does an exemplary job of it. Each voice matches the character to which it is assigned. Well done.
In Book 1, we met Marcus Allen, who tended to the financial aspects of Crooked Tree Ranch, the 300 acre land in Montana shared with The Todds (see book 1) and The Starachs. We also got a small glimpse into his strained relationship with his son Ethan especially regarding the disappearance of the youngest son Justin.
Marcus’ wife died and his son Justin disappeared 12 years ago with his best friend Adam when they went swimming. Marcus’ oldest son Ethan Allen never accepted the “death” of his brother Justin and best friend Adam, and left his family’s ranch and joined law enforcement.
In this sequel, Marcus still struggles with his health and still doesn’t believe Justin is alive. His relationship with his son Ethan was still strained and the return of Adam absent answers to what happened twelve years ago added to the tension. As a police officer, Ethan had put out feelers and one day got a call about a John Doe asking for Ethan and Crooked Tree Ranch. At the hospital, Ethan comes face to face with Adam, although, now Adam is an amnesiac. Ethan brings Adam back to the Ranch to help jog his memory.
This book was more emotional and angst than book one, but I love it just the same. Ethan was a really great guy. He was so hopeful, steadfast and patient with Adam as the families tried to figure out what happened those years ago. Again, the narrator gave a masterful performance as he returned the reader to Montana with the same families, giving more detail to the subplot of the Allen’s family. RJ Scott does a great job slowly building these characters and their stories. These characters feel like people I could relate to and I definitely rooted for their happiness. I had a hard time deciding which couple I liked best, Ethan & Adam or Nate & Jay. Plus, Gabe (Nate’s middle brother) & Ashley (Jay’s sister) was an added extra dose of sweetness to this story. While this particular love story ended well, some other threads remain loose and I look forward to the author’s next book.