Fourth-generation cattleman Ty Parker looks into his childless future and wonders what will become of the ranch he’s worked so hard to preserve. His answer might be a five-year-old boy abandoned on DCF’s doorstep, but only if the rancher convinces a jaded social worker that he’s good father material on a two-week cattle drive through Florida’s version of the Old West.
I have to admit that my story about a cattle drive set in Florida raised some eyebrows when I first pitched the idea as a Harlequin American Romance. Cattle? In Florida? A state more known for its orange groves and theme parks didn’t seem like the best setting for a story about a fourth-generation rancher. And yet, it’s more fitting than a lot of people might guess.
Cattle ranching has been a staple of Florida’s economy for a long, long time. I think it’s fair to blame Ponce de Leon for that. He brought seven head of Andalusian cows with him on his second visit in 1521. People have been ranching here ever since.
Did you know that today Florida is the third-largest beef-producing state east of the Mississippi? Or that 1.1 million head of cattle graze its pastures?
We use term “Florida Cracker” when we’re talking about someone who was born and raised in the state. The term harkens back to the days when cowboys would snap long, braided whips over the heads of the cattle they were herding. “Crack!”
The cattle drive in Rancher’s Son, my December release for Harlequin American Romance is pattered after an old-fashioned drive that takes place across the state each spring. Over the next few months, we’ll talk more about Rancher’s Son and why Florida makes the perfect setting for a book about ranching.