Review: “The Front Runner” by Elsie Silver

Series: Gold Rush Ranch, #3

Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

Steam: 🔥🔥🔥🔥

Release Date: December 3rd, 2021

Add to Goodreads | (Available on KU)

CW/TW: Mentions of domestic abuse and animal cruelty

Stefan Dalca is beautiful, brooding, and bossy. He’s also public enemy number one in this small town, with a murky past that’s hard to overlook. And I just agreed to three fake dates with him.

I may be a renowned veterinarian, but when I find myself in a sticky situation, Stefan is my last hope. I need his help to save a sick foal and what he wants in return is me.

Our time together starts out as a simple transaction, but the more time I spend with him, the more I wonder if he’s not quite the villain they’ve made him out to be. With every intimate conversation and lingering look, the tension between us builds. I’ve been drawn to Stefan since the first day I laid eyes on him. And now he’s downright irresistible.

I know sleeping with the enemy is playing with fire. But like a moth to a flame, I’m attracted to the mysterious man in a way I can’t explain—in a way those closest to me wouldn’t approve of or understand.

And the more he softens for me, the harder I fall.

But as his mysteries unravel, so do hidden truths. Truths that are bound to leave someone burned.

I just didn’t expect that someone to be me.

Disclaimer: I want to start by saying that I was so lucky to read an early draft of this book as a sensitivity reader and I am so honoured that Elsie trusted me with her story. That being said, this does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Like so many others, I wasn’t sure how I’d feel about Stefan Dalca getting his own HEA. But can we take a minute to talk about how incredible he is? Elsie Silver took a character we all muttered and grumbled about in the first two books and turned him into this sexy stud that we can’t get enough of. And if that’s not enough, she made us fall head over heels in love with Dr. Mira Thorne as Stefan fell in love with her too. I mean…I’m personally invested in everything Mira, but to see so much of her and to understand the woman behind all the horses being saved was an absolute treat.

Where do I even begin with this review?! The Gold Rush Ranch series is so special to me and to see more characters from this world completely made my life. Mira and Stefan might just be my absolute favourites from this series––which is saying a lot since Violet and Cole are my one true loves––but their journey to falling in love is one that I can read over and over again, and never tire of. 

“You are not the pawn, Mira. You are the prize.”

Mira is loved by everyone. Despite being younger and a woman, Mira is well respected and known all over Ruby Creek for the work she does with horses. She’s got a solid home base at Gold Rush Ranch and she’s best friends with Billie and Violet, plus she’s got Hank who adores her just as much. And Mira’s got supportive and loving parents (less supportive extended family members, but that’s not important) that gives her a rounded life. She’s not even missing a man to warm her bed, because she’s got a purple friend that does the job for her. I related to Mira so much, not just because she’s Indian, but because she’s so self-sufficient and sure of herself. She’s a tough woman, she knows her limits and she knows what she’s capable of. I loved the scenes where she’s working and treating horses, because you can feel the amount of love that pours through her when she’s in her element. She’s also hella sassy and feisty, her snappy comebacks are some of my favourites. Plus, Mira believes in giving everyone a second chance.

Stefan. Ah, the man of the hour. I remember thinking he was so sleazy and creepy, but that’s because Billie flat out hates him and we saw him through her eyes. To see him through Mira’s eyes? *fans self* He is everything and then some. With Stefan, what you see is not always what you get and I really enjoyed watching Mira peel back the layers of the man. He’s been through so much and he’s never let those shortcomings and struggles define him. Stefan is so much more than just a rich man in a suit, he’s kind and caring and despite what Billie (and everyone else) thinks, he loves his horses and wants only the best for them. And then there’s Stefan’s feelings for Mira. Sweet lord, this man. There needs to be a word that is beyond swoony, because that’s what Stefan is. He’s a combination of swoony, sexy, dirty and charming––and it’s distracting as all get out. But the way he feels? Man, it broke me.

Their relationship starts as a working one, then turns into three fake dates and eventually becomes the hottest and most beautiful thing on the planet. Elsie’s heroes have the best dirty talk and she also writes some really good steam, but what I loved so much about Mira and Stefan was their banter. It’s snappy, it’s funny and it’s incredibly sexy. There’s some serious pining in this book too. I know we all love watching the hero pine––and Stefan does that pretty much the whole way through––but there is just something so beautiful about the heroine pining too. And Mira’s feelings for Stefan are so confusing before she realises just what all of that means and she takes control of it. Some of my favourite scenes included Mira giving Stefan grief because he kept brushing their relationship off when she was getting so invested. I seriously didn’t think I would love these two as much as I did, but my god, they were so wonderful together. I also want to give Elsie lots of love for all the extra steam she included just for me (not really, but it’s an inside joke of sorts).

“Trust me, Dr. Thorne, if I had you up against a wall, you’d be the meal.”

Prepare for some tears too, because as you peel back Stefan’s layers and see the man beneath that broody, sexy facade, you’ll fall in love with him too. I also loved the scenes we got with Billie and Violet, because Mira’s friendship with them is so wonderful. I even loved how much of Hank we saw, because I loved him in Off to the Races and wanted more of him and I got it! I can’t wait to see what else we get from the Gold Rush Ranch world, because I’m not done with them yet!

Thanks to Elsie Silver for generously providing me with an advance copy. I am voluntarily leaving an honest review.

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