In book 1 of this steamy new contemporary Western romance series by two blockbuster authors, a cowboy and a woman on the run take a stand and fight for love.
Carlin Reed lives in fear, off the grid, moving from place to place. So Battle Ridge, Wyoming, a small town in the middle of nowhere, seems like a good place to lie low for a while. But after becoming cook and housekeeper to cattle rancher Zeke Decker, Carlin suspects that she’s made her first mistake. Rugged, sexy, and too distracting for his own good, Zeke is pure temptation mixed with something deep and primal that makes Carlin feel almost safe. Soon things are getting way too hot in the kitchen.
Zeke doesn’t challenge Carlin’s terms: cash, dead bolts, and no questions. It is easy to see that she’s a woman in trouble. Problem is, he’s so blindsided by his attraction to her he can’t think straight. Zeke tries to stay all business, no complications—but that game plan is sabotaged the second Carlin gets under his skin. And when her terrifying past follows her to the ranch, Carlin faces a heartbreaking choice: run away from the man she loves, or put him in the crosshairs of a madman.
I’ve been disappointed in most of Howard’s recent releases. Though this isn’t in the same league as some of her old favorites – Heart of Fire, etc – it was a major improvement over her other recent books.
Carlin is on the run from her ex. Though he seemed a little smothering, she didn’t think he was the crazy obsessive type – until she broke up with him. Now he’s made it clear if he can’t have her no one can. When one of her friends is mistakenly killed in her place, she knows she has to fly under the radar. She lands in Battle Ridge, Wyoming where she gets a job at a local diner. Her plan is to only stay a few days, but the owner recommends her for the position of housekeeper and cook at Zeke Decker’s ranch and she realizes it might be the perfect place to hole up for the winter. An out of the way ranch where she can live off the grid will give her a chance to catch her breath and figure out what to do next. As long as Zeke realizes she may leave without notice, things will be just fine…
Zeke has given up on saving lost causes, including women like Carlin who are down on their luck and don’t plan to stay in town. He wouldn’t give her a job at all, except his ranch hands are about to revolt over the nasty food they’ve been eating since his housekeeper decided to retire. He decides to give Carlin a temporary job until he can find a more suitable – read old and ugly – replacement. Who could have predicted they’d have off the charts chemistry, though? Too bad she’s hiding something from him..and he isn’t looking to be anyone’s savoir. Or is he…
One thing Howard has always done well is sexual tension. I definitely felt that in this novel. Carlin and Zeke bicker and fight, but there’s an underlying attraction between them that comes through no mater what. I really liked Carlin’s sarcastic attitude and quick wit. I also liked how well she and Zeke fit together. He didn’t let her get away with much, and vice verse.
The stalker plot can get old, but I found this one to be believable. Carlin wasn’t with her ex long, so her reactions seemed credible. I thought the final confrontation was well done and followed well with the overall story arc. I did get frustrated with both Zeke and Carlin’s attitude about the situation at various times, however. Carlin kept wanting to run and Zeke kept wanting to ignore it at first. As the story progressed so did their attitudes, which is what made it work.
I really enjoyed the secondary characters, especially the ranch hands. They added additional flavor to the story and some much needed levity. I especially liked Carlin’s efforts to cook for them. The White Cake incident had me cracking up.
Although not perfect, I found the story entertaining and engaging. The combination of Howard and Jones writing together works well, if this novel is any indication. I’m sorry the story ended.
4 out of 5
I haven’t seen anything about a second book, but I hope they plan to write one.
This book was provided by the publisher for an honest review.