Her Secret Texas Valentine by Helen Lacey has one of the most romantic Valentine’s Day celebrations I’ve read in a romance novel. From the flowers he sends her the day before to the night of loving on the day of, it’s the perfect commemoration of the day. They’re both floating on happiness afterwards.
Jake Brockton is the wealthy owner of the Double Rock Ranch, a large cattle ranch outside Houston. When his father died, Jake dropped out of college to work the ranch and support his mother and sister. He later finished his college online and got an MBA. However, he generally conveys a sense of being a down-to-earth cowboy, except in elevated circles. His previous failed marriage, where his ex-wife took him to the cleaners, has left him cautious to trust anyone. His requirements for a new woman in his life are someone who is organized, hardworking, passionate about her work, and independently wealthy.
Valene Fortunado works as a real estate agent in her family’s real estate agency that her father has built into a force to be reckoned with in Houston, with offices in Austin and San Antonio. She used to be a party girl in the circles she moved in. However, a failed relationship, where her boyfriend was more interested in romancing her father to get into the family business than romancing her, has left her cautious to trust anyone. Her requirements for a new man are money, a college education, and a good job.
Jake and Valene meet thanks to a dating app, which Valene decides to sign up on a whim and Jake does because he promised his sister he would try it. Their dates and daily phone calls are filled with the random, mundane things of life, yet to them even these simple things are fresh and exciting.
As the days go by, they fall further under each other’s spell. They both want to tell the other that they love them, but a belated sense of reality about the shortness of their acquaintance makes them hesitate. When perception and intellectual discernment are at odds with each other, wariness creeps in despite affection trying to swamp all senses.
Given his past history with his ex-wife, Jake is unwilling to reveal the truth of his wealth and ownership of the cattle ranch and that he is not merely a ranch hand working for someone. She is unwilling to reveal how fast she is falling in love with him, because her cautious older sister is constantly telling her to not trust so easily because he could be after the Fortunado wealth and name.
What he likes best about her is her kindness to everyone around her and her intense zest for life. What she likes best about him is his quiet strength of purpose, integrity, and confidence. As she gets to know him better, she realizes that she doesn’t care for wealth or power or career anymore. As he spends more time with her, he realizes that he doesn’t mind her impulsiveness and little spoiled rich girl behavior. Who they are as people, matters more. And in this realization, we see their growth from people with preconceived notions to ones accepting of each other just as they are.
As their relationship thrives, he tries to tell her again and again that he really is the owner of the ranch, but the timing never seems to be right. He has also not confessed to his first marriage and how his pregnant ex-wife made him feel and their acrimonious divorce. Jake is acutely aware that he is withholding information from Valene that could break her growing trust in him. He also doesn’t want her to find out from someone else and think that he’s not the honest man she tells him many times she believes. But, of course, she finds out and is heartbroken.
How Lacey has the couple pull themselves out of the shambles of their relationship back to trusting and loving each other shows her skill as a storyteller. I enjoyed discovering how she does this.