The Patriot Featured
Book Review, Contemporary, Marriage of Convenience, Military, PTSD, Romance, Second Chance, Series, Small Town Romance, Western Fiction

The Patriot (Hayden Family #1) by Jennifer Millikin


I’m a soldier. A cattle rancher. A Hayden.

My family’s legacy is spread out in front of me, just waiting for me to seize it. If it weren’t for one outdated rule, I’d be the owner of the Hayden Cattle Company and my aging father could retire.

When Dakota Wright shows up to buy and develop twenty acres of Hayden land, I see more than a pretty mouth and strawberry blonde hair. I see a way around the decree keeping me from getting what I want.

And, as luck would have it, Dakota has a big problem of her own. We strike two deals: one for the land, and a second that’ll make both our problems a distant memory.

It isn’t too long before I realize I’m in over my head. I’ve convinced myself the ends should justify the means, but everything begins to fall apart when my birthright is no longer all that I’m after.

I never thought there’d be anything I could love more than my ranch and my country. 

I was wrong. Turns out, I want it all. Including her.

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My first Jennifer Millikin novel is a keeper. It has everything a reader wants: love, heavy emotion, suspense, and family. Can’t wait to read the rest of this series.

Dakota Wright has lost her mother, her money, and her self-respect. She has come back home to redeem her rebellious ways and make up for the stress and hurt she caused her family. It was that stress that she feels caused her mother’s unfortunate aneurysm. Working for her father’s architectural firm she is finally given a chance to prove herself by designing and leading a project on a land development site in Sierra Grande, Arizona. What she didn’t plan on was seeing the man who ghosted her 5 years ago after a memorable one-night stand. 

Wes Hayden loves his family ranch, but he doesn’t have a chance in hell of owning it considering he’ll never get married. After coming home from three tours overseas his life will never be the same. The nightmares are frequent and he pushes away his family. Until he sees the woman who changed his world 5 years ago. He skipped out on her, but he never forgot her. She’s back to buy some land from his family and he has a plan to keep her by his side this time.

I love Wes and Dakota’s story.  Their first meet cute is hot and centered on instantly discovering the one person who could change their world forever, but fear and doubts raise their ugly heads and the lovers go their separate ways. Five years later they meet again and the strong connection is still there, but there are so many other things in play: Wes’s family ranch, Dakota’s determination to make her family proud, and an unforeseen force that may put them in danger. The chemistry is definitely strong between these two, but they need to heal each other before they can move on. Wes’s suggestion of a one-year marriage of convenience to get possession of his family’s ranch while paying off Dakota’s debts is questionable considering he hasn’t thought through all of the consequences;  namely, family doubts, sleeping arrangements, and his feelings for Dakota. I am delighted with the growth in these two characters as Wes faces his demons by talking to other vets and opening up to his family and Dakota becomes a respectable asset to Wes’s community by working with them to build something they want for their town. There is a bit of suspense toward the end where the antagonist puts a plan in motion that places Dakota in danger and spurs Wes into using his military instincts to save her life. The protagonists work through some heartwrenching emotional turmoil in the book and it is done with maturity and communication ending in a HEA.

The Hayden family is going to make a wonderful supporting cast for the future of this series. It was heartwarming to see Wes’s dad and brothers work together and have each other’s backs. A great turning point made Wes realize how blessed he was to have his loving family. The reader is also introduced to the Sierra Grande residents which is good preparation for possible subplots.

I am delighted to recommend this contemporary western romance filled with passionate and lovable characters, beautiful settings, and the makings of a great series.

Hayden Family Series:

1. The Patriot (2021)
2. The Maverick (2021)
3. The Outlaw (2021)
4. The Calamity (2021)


The Patriot

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Jennifer is the author of nine novels, two of which have been awarded Reader’s Favorite Gold Stars. She lives in her home state of Arizona with her husband, two children, and playful Labrador Retriever. Grateful to be living her lifelong dream of writing, Jen juggles her made-up worlds with her real one of soccer practices and laundry. She’s passionate about creating multi-dimensional characters and stories that jump off the pages. Jen wrote her first book in the fifth grade, and it was titled A Gust of Wind and He Was Gone. She blames the dramatic title on her childhood soap opera habit.  

Follow Jennifer on her website, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and Pinterest.

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