The Real Thing, by Tina Ann Forkner

Manda Marshall is ready to leave heartache behind when she marries Keith Black, a champion saddle bronc cowboy and man of her dreams. But going from the serenity of small town Tennessee to the exhilaration of the rodeo, nothing can prepare her for being a cowboy’s wife. Becoming the new stepmom to Keith’s little boy and teenaged daughter has Manda relying on her deep sense of longing for a family and budding love for her stepchildren to strengthen their bond.

Manda’s desire of being a rodeo cowboy’s wife begins to take second place as she works to reinvent a life for herself and new family, but when mysterious phone calls from Keith’s missing ex-wife dredge up the past, Manda finds her marriage and family in an unusual and heart wrenching dilemma. The life she had worked so hard to build is suddenly redefined and her commitment to her husband and family is tested.

What Manda discovers has the power to heal or break her family in this emotional tale of cowboys, rodeo queens, and what it really means to ride beside a cowboy and his family, no matter the risk.
(Synopsis courtesy of Amazon.)

Having read and reviewed Waking Up Joy, also by Tina Ann Forkner, I was looking forward to her latest novel, delving deep into the world of cowboys and rodeos, and the women who are the support system to that lifestyle. There is so much that goes into it, not only from a relationship perspective, but also from a celebrity perspective. In many circles, Keith Black is famous. Being the wife of a well-known saddle bronc cowboy isn’t always easy, especially when Manda is dealing with baggage from her own past.

What starts out as an adjustment period for Manda, quickly turns into much more than she could have ever bargained for, when the missing ex-wife suddenly becomes the forefront of the family circle, a circle Manda has been working hard at solidifying. I felt as though the circumstances surrounding the break-up between Keith and his first wife was shocking, something I’d have never imagined. Definitely outside the box, but believable and relatable.

The Real Thing is a beautifully written story about unconventional families, and how important they are, even if they don’t make sense to the outside world. Having been in a situation where my own familial status wasn’t the norm or the ideal, I could completely understand where Manda’s heart lies, doing all she can to support her husband and the family she’s always wanted. Sometimes, it’s in the most unusual of circumstances where you’ll discover who you really are, and the strengths you never knew you possessed.

Reviewed for Chick Lit Central

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