Trail Boss and the Brat (Farthingdale Ranch #6) ~ Jackie North
Updated: Mar 29
It was a strange experience to be opening the first page of the last Farthingdale Ranch novel. There is no way I would have ever guessed after the first book in this series that I would become so invested in the people who find solace and love on the Ranch.
I have been anticipating the enigmatic Quint’s story for a while now, knowing that there was much more to the seemingly hard and surly trail boss; his interactions with Brody and Kit alone demonstrated that his hard shell was simply that, a shell.
“He’s my son.” Then, after a pause, he added, “Brody’s my son as well. I have two sons.”
"Kit, along with Brody, was the son he’d never had a chance to have."
Jackie North, the crafty writer that she is, had a surprise for us and created a backstory for Quint that is simply heartbreaking! The trail boss who has, up until now, been presented as a cowboy travelling from rodeo to rodeo before settling down at the Ranch, is So. Much. More! A twist for this final book is that it is two hearts that need to heal in this story. Quint is as broken, if not more so than Ashley, who has his own troubles to sort out.
“I’ll take him on,” said Quint. “He can stay with me. He needs this. He needs us.”
“You’re always saying how the ranch transforms people, staff and guests alike. You always say there’s magic to be found here, and while I don’t believe in magic, I can see the effect of the ranch all around me. If there’s room for an ex-con or a drifter or a lost boy, then maybe there’s room for a kid who might seem like he’s got all the advantages in the world, but who really just needs a break.”
With echoes to the prequel, Honey from the Lion, it seems once more the magic of Iron Mountain and the asteroid shower is at work bringing echoes of John and Laurie together again. I'll admit I became more than a little teary as Ashley revealed more and more knowledge of John and Laurie, and when it's finally revealed how he knows the story of Old Joe and his little red fox, well I had to grab tissues! One of the most emotional scenes (in a good way) was Ashley’s interaction with Bill over the Old Joe story; it certainly brought a tear to my eye! My guess is that those who haven't yet read Honey From the Lion will certainly be seeking it out. For what it's worth, grab the audio for the ultimate experience!!
"There was a crack in those words at the other end of the line, like something had splintered inside of Ashley, painful and sharp, and he had to pull himself through it. “I’m supposed to start a new job tomorrow, on the board of directors for my family’s company. We run hotels, you see.”
Jackie North is a master of imagery, and these skills are put to use in The Trail Boss and the Brat. The Ranch is now familiar after five books in this series, each with their beautifully detailed descriptions of the landscape. However, in Trail Boss, we see the Ranch in less than favourable conditions. First, the awesome power of the flash flood (which was a little close to home for some of us in Australia right now), and then depictions of the devastation the waters caused upon the landscape. Not all is lost, though, as what is left behind is also the key to the land's regeneration.
"But if the signals told Quint something entirely different, that what they’d shared in the cave had not merely been an act of survival, he would reach out and pull Ashley to him so hard, the air would snap with it. How long had it been since he’d wanted anyone like this? How many years had he been alone? Forever and forever and forever. Maybe."
To me, the flood was a perfect metaphor for Quint's life. Quint was caught in his own flash flood by people he should have been able to trust, putting into motion actions that he could not have predicted. The resulting devastation leaves him floundering until he chances upon Brody. Quint's regeneration begins with Brody, then later Kit. Ultimately, it is Ashley that completes his healing, but he would not have been open to Ashley without Brody and Kit. Together the four of them are a whole, a family.
“Okay,” they said in unison, walking off together, if not hand in hand, then shoulder to shoulder, each an echo of the other as they crossed the road. His love for them followed like a ribbon, slender but strong, something he marveled at each and every time he felt it, which was all the time. All the time."
It is such a bittersweet experience to turn the final page of what has been a unique and remarkable series. The heart of the Farthingdale Ranch is its characters, and the men of the Ranch have been so beautifully developed that they live and breathe on the page, and after six books, they are very real indeed.
"During the day, he focused on work rather than what his body wanted, what his soul wanted, what his heart wanted."
"Fingers crossed, hand over his heart, he would make it worth it to Ashley. For Ashley.'
The Trail Boss and the Brat is a fitting end to this series, and it is my hope that the author will someday return to this world in some form. Jackie North is to be commended in creating an engaging story arc in a captivating world with genuinely lovable characters that had had a powerful impact, at least on this reader.
The Farthingdale Ranch series:
Book 1 - The Foreman and the Drifter is available from Amazon
Book 6 - The Trail Boss and the Brat is available from Amazon
The Farthingdale Ranch series is also available via Kindle Unlimited