Jessamine Bonham Elliott is not happy being a woman. It’s not the body as much as how she is expected to behave. Other than her mother, who died when Jessie was 12, the only females she’s really associated with are Finan MacDougal’s ultra-spoiled princess, Louisa, who she had to share a room with, and Sunbird, her adoptive mother. When alone, Sunbird, Finan’s second wife and daughter of the Bannock Chief, loved to sing. But when her brutish husband was near, she was quiet, withdrawn, and utterly obedient.
After her parents died due to fever, Jessie fit right in with her three brothers and six MacDougal ‘cousins’ in Texas. She was expected to do the same work as her younger brothers, and did so. She was not pleased to discover she was to be sent east to the Virginia Female Institute, the same school her mother, aunt, and grandmother attended, for two years to learn to be a lady. She agreed because she wanted to escape the ever-stronger attentions of Finan Junior, her brother Ben would be near as he was studying law, and because she and her brothers were promised the Bonham family fortunes.
She, Ben, and Ranger could use it to start their own ranch back in Montana, escaping the tyranny of the Texan MacDougals. She gives the horse she’s raised from birth, Nightwind, to her brother Ranger, knowing she will never return to Texas.
She manages to stand two years of dresses and hats, vapid men, and boring lessons knowing that she will be able to buy into Ranger and Ben’s ranch. She’s never given up her boys’ clothes, guns and hat, so she switches places on the train with a young woman eager to receive trunks of lovely clothes in return for pretending to be Miss Jessamine Elliott.
On arrival in Tanner’s Ford Ranger informs her that she must prove that she still knows how to work. After years at a finishing school, he says she’s gone soft. If she can show a trio of new arrivals how to ranch, Ranger will take her on. But she must put up with the English aristocrats who have no clue of the West.
Dressed as usual as a 12-year-old boy, Jessie enjoys taunting the leader, known as Ace. She’s leery of the tall blond one called Sin, though loves his giant black Friesian stallion, Emperor. She gets along well with Henry, however.
Younger sons of English aristocrats inherit nothing. Once the heir has a spare or heirs of his own, the men are sent into the army, the priesthood, or marry someone wealthy. Ace, Sin, and Henry met at a vicious boys boarding school where they protected each other. As none have anything to lose, they take their chances on America. Their way is mostly funded by Kenrick’s amazing ability with cards.
Kenrick “Ace” Langford, youngest son of the Earl of Denby, is determined to make the Double Diamond prosper. He won the ranch in a game of cards with a man of the lower trade class, Frederick Smythe. Ranger Elliott has been very helpful in teaching them a few things and when he suggests they hire the ragamuffin boy, though leery, he agrees.
The boy has an atrocious attitude and no grasp of the Queen’s English, but he does know his ranching. Ace is impressed, though avoid the boy as Jessie makes him feel things he has no business feeling.
Charles St. John Statham is known as “Sin” as his middle name is pronounced “Sin-Jin”.
Henry has three older brothers and five sisters. While he can, and does, do whatever is necessary, he prefers to take care of the home rather than spend days out in the cold and wet.
Jessie responds to Ace’s autocratic manner by acting even more crudely. She thinks Sin, at six foot six with muscles and blond hair, is sinfully delicious. As Henry takes care of most of the cooking and other mundane chores, she appreciates his skills. She appreciates a lot more about the three men, but has to hide it, and her femininity, from them, until Ace discovers her swimming in the hot spring, naked.
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