Thursday, April 3, 2014

Against the Ropes by Cindy McDonald Spotlights Farm Manager Character--Cool Switch!

When Punch's father had left his mother with children to feed without any warning, Eric West took the boy under his wing. He gave him jobs at the farm to earn a paycheck, and he saw to it that Punch continued playing high school football with his elder son Mike...
The Wests were Punch's second family. His loyalty to Eric and the clan ran as deep as Reardon's Run. They always had each other's back--because that what families are made of....
The bumping and bouncing in the cab of his truck and the slight rock of the heavy pallet piled with cement blocks was no longer Punch's focus...his gaze fell upon an old Honda Civic smashed against a tree. Ashen steam billowed out from under the hood that curled back almost to the cracked windshield. The driver's side door hung open... Surely whoever wrecked the car couldn't be very far...Emerging from the brush he came to a dead stop as if someone had splashed him in the face with a bucket of ice water. He gulped down a thick slug of saliva. Warily, he inched his way to the broken and rotten boards barricading the entrance to the abandoned bridge where a man stood on the other side of the rusted railing.
The man's eyes were fixated on the gushing water far below. His huge hands clenched the rickety railing. Sweat dripping down through te mass of golden curly locks on his head to saturate his red face. In shock, he seemed frozen even though he didn't look injured...Punch assumed he belonged to the wrecked Honda. The man on the bridge looked fraught with indecision and angst... 

Against the Ropes:
The Unbridled Series
By Cindy McDonald

"Ooh, you want me to talk you out of it?" Punch lifted a beefy shoulder. "I dunno--seems like you've got your mind made up. Right?" He leaned against a rusted flaking bracket and folded his arms over his broad chest...
Punch half-smiled. "Nice knowing ya, Eugene." With that Punch grabbed the large man's hand and yanked him toward the inside of the railing.

Even though Punch was thirty-three,
he wasn't ready for that heavy relationship
Truth be told, if he were to consider a serious
relationship, Zoe would be his pick, except Punch
felt as though she deserved better...
McDonald has her series in an on-again; off-again theme which I'm greatly enjoying. By moving into the lives of different characters, she has built the story around that particular individual and allowed her main characters, the Wests to become background. It's very effective in not only introducing her secondary characters, but, I would think, is used beneficially to keep the series moving ahead in a strong and engaging fashion...I'm greatly enjoying each and every one! 
This book spotlights Punch who is now the Farm Manager, but who has been on the Farm since he was young, growing up with the family as if a member... Because of the music mentioned for this character, I thought of my up-close-and-perfect encounter with 
Zoe loved big men--the bigger
the better. Punch was a huge
black man with broad shoulders,
massive chest, and arms that
bulked out of the sleeves of his
T-shirt. His sheer size was
daunting, but he was nothing more
than a tender-hearted softy...
Charlie Pride at Branson years ago when I was in the front row and he came over and sang to me...YooHoo! So he's my pick for stand-in Punch! Now the West family members, as well as another blond in the book, Zoe, are all trying to play matchmaker but so far, he's avoiding the issue, usually quite successful...LOL But I figure the standin I picked was going to win! Don't you think???

In fact, he had just come from talking to Zoe who had quickly confirmed he was going to the dance that week! On the way home is when he came across a car smashed again a tree and then the man who obviously had been driving it on the bridge looking down at the water. Punch realized and then confirmed that the man might be thinking about suicide and quickly took action...

By the time he was finished, he had talked Eugene into coming back to the ranch with him and even Eric into letting his stay a little and do some odd jobs. Punch was used to bringing home strays--animals including humans, but the Wests weren't so sure about this guy, especially since he knew nothing about horses and already had caused confusion with the animals. Actually, there is a group of men looking for him and his real career was on the ropes...literally... and Eugene was keeping everything about his past away from the family! He did explain that he had earlier worked on construction, so Punch started working with him on one of the out buildings wall that needed replaced.

In the barn office, Mike was feeling
desperate. There was no way that
Charlatan was staying at Westwood.
The last time that ornery sonofabitch
was at Westwood, he did nothing but
cause Mike a whole love of aggravation
and a whole lot of extra work. Just
what Mike always needed: extra work.
In the meantime, Coco from Book 2 comes back to provide more torture! By sending back Charlatan to the Ranch without prior notice! This was the horse that was a Houdini in escape of his stall and causing trouble in the barn! Mike was furious when he got the news and declared there was no way he was staying! But then one of them remembered about the use of peppermints...
And then Punch had his own thinking to do...he figured he'd introduce Zoe to Eugene at the dance and maybe get her interested in him! Eugene wasn't too excited about that idea and quickly mentioned he couldn't dance, although the main reason was that he wanted to stay out of town when possible...
So hearing that excuse, Punch quickly told him he'd teach him to dance!
Eugene wasn't exactly sure what Punch wanted, so he pumped his arms up and down He looked like a chimpanzee entertaining the crowd at a zoo.
Punch's eyes widened in horror. "Whoa, don't get carried away, dude. Keep them level." Punch snapped his fingers to the beat, with his arms bent at his elbows near his waist. When Eugene mimicked his movement. Punch said, "That's better." Eugene was beginning to relax. He was starting to feel the beat, even though Punch danced more like Michael Jackson, and Eugene resembled one of The Three Stooges.
The music was suddenly silenced when the radio slammed to the floor. "What the hell are you doing?" Burke yelled....
"Took us a while to find you, Eugene, but I never thought I'd find this..."

Eugene immediately knew he was in trouble but he still wasn't willing to tell Punch the truth. The men had found him, but they had been chased off, at least that first time. While they all tried to get back to work, the family, including even Punch, were concerned about what was really going on. But Punch didn't realize that he should never had introduced him to Zoe at the dance!

There are other details happening about the ongoing activities at the Track. Kate was already too involved with the new Vet, even though Eric had thought he was a good man. But the tampering with the horse races were still happening and a tighter squeeze on those involved was moving closer! Don't miss the next book (review coming tomorrow) when a horse named Shady Deals turns the West's world upside down!

I enjoyed watching Zoe handling Punch in this book...a woman after my own heart! You've just got to read what happens, 'cause I'm sure not tellin'...! LOL Other than to say, this is highly recommended!

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