Tag: Westerns

Sunday Spotlight: The Cowboy Who Saved Christmas by Jodi Thomas, Sharla Lovelace and Scarlett Dunn

Posted October 25, 2020 by Holly in Features, Giveaways | 3 Comments

Sunday Spotlight is a feature we began in 2016. This year we’re spotlighting our favorite books, old and new. We’ll be raving about the books we love and being total fangirls. You’ve been warned. 🙂

An ex-soldier, has lost his way, and Emery, a woman running to find a new life, and five little rich girls just wanting to get home before Christmas.

When I started THE COWBOY WHO SAVED CHRISTMAS, I knew it would be a historical set in 1867, starting in a small inland port when Trapper Hawkins takes a job to haul freight. The pay is good, maybe enough to give him a start, but the cargo is five girls.

I’ve driven the roads from Jefferson, Texas to Dallas many times. But this time, in my mind, I was making the journey in a wagon with outlaws determined to kidnap my cargo, the little girls.

The story came alive in my mind and I laughed then cried, then fell in love with my characters. I learned to survive in the untamed land and fight off outlaws.

I drove as the story played out in my head. In three hours I’d covered a month by wagon while fighting storms and hunting for my supper every night.

By the time I stopped in Dallas and pulled into a hotel, my head was packed. It took me two months to write it all down and I think “Father Goose,” the story of one broken soldier and a runaway woman risking their lives to save five little girls may very well be my favorite short story ever.

Celebrate the holiday by making the journey across Texas with me this Christmas.

Jodi Thomas

Sunday Spotlight: The Cowboy Who Saved Christmas by Jodi Thomas, Sharla Lovelace and Scarlett DunnThe Cowboy Who Saved Christmas by Jodi Thomas, Sharla Lovelace, Scarlett Dunn
Publisher: Kensington
Publication Date: October 27, 2020
Genres: Westerns
Pages: 336
Add It: Goodreads
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In these Texas-set stories of romance and adventure, the Civil War is over, Christmas is coming—and it’s time for three rugged fighters to become lovers...

FATHER GOOSE by New York Times and USA Today Bestselling Author Jodi Thomas

Dispirited by war, when Trapper Morgan accepts a job hauling five little rich girls to Dallas, all he cares about is the money. He doesn’t expect they’ll awaken his spirit—or that their intriguing nursemaid, Carolina, will awaken his heart. And when danger strikes as Christmas Eve nears, he definitely doesn’t expect Carolina and the girls to risk their lives—for him . . .

THE MISTLETOE PROMISE by Sharla Lovelace

A catastrophic storm, an ailing herd, and a failing cattle ranch have left Texas rancher Josie Bancroft in danger of losing everything her father worked for. Still, she’d rather die than merge with her neighbor rancher Benjamin Mason, the man who broke her heart years ago, on Christmas Eve. As old sparks fly and secrets are revealed, however, Ben is determined to help Josie—and prove that this time around can be different. That the misunderstandings of Christmas past need not define their future...

CHRISTMAS ROAD by Scarlett Dunn

Yellow Fever has hit Clint Mitchum’s Texas hometown and taken his father and siblings, leaving Clint ever more cynical. Racing homeward to be by his mother’s side, Clint finds only a note from her, asking that he help her caregiver, a young woman named Amelia. Assuming his mother has passed, in his grief Clint ventures out to search for Amelia—and finds the best of gifts—just in time for Christmas...

Excerpt

The Cowboy Who Saved Christmas by Jodi Thomas, Sharla Lovelace, & Scarlett Dunn

Excerpt from “Father Goose” by Jodi Thomas

Trapper spent the morning preparing for his new job as if it was an assignment during the war. He studied maps, learned a bit about his employer, the girls’ father, Colonel Gunter Chapman. He’d been an officer in the Mexican–American War back in the 1840s.He was ruthless and came home with injuries. But that hadn’t stopped him from moving farther west from the protection of even the forts and starting a huge ranch.

Trapper had seen that kind of man many times in the war. A king on his land.

Trapper bought clothes for winter, a new hat and a warm coat from his winnings last night. He’d worn most of his clothes too long for them to be presentable. Now, when he got to Dallas, he’d be dressed more like a cowboy, a Westerner. And, if the raiders killed him along the way, he’d have a fine funeral outfit.

Walking toward the dock, he planned. He’d meet the little ladies, tell them the rules for the trip, and get underway. He decided he only needed three rules. One: Be ready to travel at sunup. Two: Stop at midday for thirty minutes to rest, take care of private needs, and drink water. Three: At sundown make camp. He’d cook a meal of whatever he shot along the way or use the supplies.

When Trapper had checked the wagon, he noticed the teamster hadn’t packed but two blankets, so he bought the girls each one. After all, they were little girls, and they’d need comfort.

He also added apples and canned peaches to his load.

Trapper was feeling hopeful about the journey. He’d bought two extra rifles and several boxes of bullets. He’d get these girls home safe and collect his five hundred dollars. Then he’d drive away in his new wagon with Midnight tied to the back.

A man who has a wagon, a horse, and enough money in his pocket to buy land was rich indeed. For the first time since the war he allowed himself to dream. He thought about something besides surviving one more day.

As he waited, he saw a small widow lady sitting on a bench near the dock. Trapper remembered the teamster had told him to hire a woman to travel with him, but surely he could handle five little girls.

There were so many women in black right after the war, it seemed like every woman dressed the same. Strange, he thought; the men wore blue and gray, but all the widows wore black. Mourning had no side, no color.

The paddleboat pulled up to yells and waves from the waiting crowd. As cargo began to roll off the side, passengers walked off the front in a thin line. It wasn’t long before he saw a tall woman in a light blue cape marching with five little girls behind her. She had to be the nurse traveling with his cargo. They all wore a uniform of sunny blue and white. They reminded him of a mother goose and her goslings. He guessed he was about to become the father goose.

Trapper had no doubt these were his charges. The first girl was tall, only a head shorter than the nurse. Her blond hair was tied back, as if she was trying to look older. The next two were shorter, with auburn hair. The younger and thinner of the pair wore an old wool cap and seemed to be crying. The fourth girl was probably about five and was round as a goose egg. The last one, and the smallest, seemed to be having trouble staying in line. She weaved back and forth as she kept jumping up and down as if she could see everything if she was two inches higher.

Trapper straightened and removed his wide-brimmed hat. There were several families meeting travelers, but he was the only man standing alone in front of a small covered wagon. Eventually, the nurse would find him.

The tall woman weaved her way around groups of people and the girls followed in a row. Well, all but the last one followed. The littlest one seemed to be having trouble keeping up.

Finally, the lady noticed him and headed his way. She stopped three feet from him and the girls lined up behind her. Except number five, who bumped into four and almost knocked two and three out of line.

“Are you the driver for Colonel Chapman’s girls?” The woman’s voice was cold and held no hint of a Southern accent.

“I am.” Trapper bowed slightly, not sure what to say or do. He decided to keep the poker game quiet. “I’m Trapper Hawkins, ma’am.”

“I understood there would be a nurse traveling with you to take care of the girls’ needs.”

He thought of saying he could handle them, but for the first time he wasn’t sure. Number five had lost her shoe and was starting to cry. The tall one, number one in the line, was glaring at him and the chubby one, number four, was laying her head on one shoulder, then the other, as if trying to see if he might look better from another angle.

“Mr. Hawkins, I’m sure you got the instructions. I assure you I will not be releasing my charges to you until you fulfill your part of the bargain. A woman to tend to their needs is essential.”

He thought of giving up. Letting the oh-so-proper lady take them back. They’d be safer on the boat, if the rumors were true. “If I don’t have a lady with me, you planning to turn around?”

“No. I’m going to file charges on you for breach of contract. Then I’ll notify the girls’ father and wait here until proper escort can be arranged. Colonel Chapman will not be happy if his exact orders are not followed.”

Trapper didn’t even know if there was a crime called breach of contract in Texas. They had too many murders, robbers, and cattle thieves to mess with a breach of anything.

The woman pushed out her chest and made her stand. “If the colonel doesn’t have his daughters home by Christmas, there will be hell to pay.”

Trapper had no idea what she was talking about. He was starting to look forward to the outlaws on the trail.

“I’m loaded and ready, ma’am. I’ll get them to Dallas.”

She opened her mouth to fill him in on all the facts when number five started limp-walking on one shoe and fell over her bag. Her foot went through the handle, so now she limped with one leg and dragged the bag with the other.

He just watched her. This last kid had the coordination of a day-old calf.

To no one’s surprise, the tiny girl started crying.

The chubby one, number four in line, started to help the littlest one up, but the nurse cleared her throat so loudly several people turned in her direction.

Number four looked like she might cry too, but she let go of number five.

The nurse said to him in her lecture voice, “We don’t baby our girls. Not even the littlest one. Understood? These girls are Texas princesses. Born in this wild state. They’ll grow up to be strong women, not crybabies.”

Trapper thought of pushing the nurse off the dock and seeing how strong she was, but he figured she’d file charges for that too.

Before anyone could move, a lady in black knelt down and lifted number five off the dock, freed her foot from the bag, and cradled the crying girl in her arms. “Come sit on the back of the wagon, child, and I’ll put your shoe back on. It’s far too cold a day to go without it.”

The nurse glared at the woman for a moment, then seemed to relax. “I see the traveling companion for the girls has finally arrived. She’ll be too soft on the girls and we’ll have our work cut out for us when they come back to school in February. However, it is good to see you picked a proper lady.”

As the widow tied the little girl’s shoe, the nurse stepped away to direct the luggage to be loaded into the wagon.

Trapper leaned toward the widow. “Lady, if you have the time, would you act like you’re traveling with me? Just till we get out of sight of that woman. I got to get these girls to Dallas and I’m not sure that nurse will let me do my job without a proper lady traveling with us.”

“I was going to Dallas also.” The widow’s voice was low, almost a whisper. “The stage doesn’t seem to be running this week. If you’ll let me ride along with you, I’ll play the part all the way.”

Trapper was shocked. “You would?”

She nodded. “I’d be safer with you and five girls than traveling alone. If you prove to be a not-so-honorable man, I have a weapon and will shoot you.”

He smiled. Her voice had a bit of the South in it and she could shoot. She had to be a born Texan. They understood each other. If he broke his word, she’d shoot him, no breach of contract needed.

“I’m Mrs. Adams.”

Trapper removed his hat. “I’m Trapper Hawkins. You’re doing me a great favor, ma’am.”

The nurse came back as men finished loading the wagon. “I’d like to introduce my little ladies before I leave them with you.”

She started with the oldest. “Catherine Claire, thirteen. Anna Jane, eleven. Elizabeth Rose, ten. Helen Wren five.” The nurse pointed to the smallest, still in the widow’s arms. “Sophia May is four. Colonel Chapman had three wives. All died in childbirth and none gave him a son. Poor man.”

Trapper studied them as the nurse gave instructions to Mrs. Adams and marched back to the boat. The tallest daughter, with her blond hair, would probably be from the first wife. Two and Three from a redheaded wife. And Four and Five from the third wife. He’d guess that wife had brown hair and big brown eyes.

Trapper turned to his charges. “Look, little ladies, I doubt I’ll straighten those names out in three weeks, so how about I call you in order by number?” He pointed to the tall blonde, first in line. “One.” Then the two auburn-haired girls. “Two and Three.” He smiled at the next and couldn’t help but laugh as she giggled, waiting for her number. “Four,” he said, touching her nose. The tiny one waited for her new name. “You’re Five. It’s a game we’ll play.” He glanced at the widow. “A secret game. Like code names.”

When he noticed the widow asked no questions, he added, “Only we have to call her Mrs. Adams. She deserves our respect. She lost her man in the war.”

All the girls nodded except Five. She was spinning around again like an unbalanced top.

Giveaway Alert

We’re giving one lucky winner their choice of one of our Sunday Spotlight books. Use the widget below to enter for one of this month’s features.

Bane’s Choice by Alyssa Day

Are you as excited for this release as we are? Let us know how excited you are and what other books you’re looking forward to this year!


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Summer Reading Challenge Review: Marry Me by Jo Goodman

Posted October 14, 2019 by Holly in Reviews | 2 Comments

Summer Reading Challenge Review: Marry Me by Jo GoodmanReviewer: Holly
Marry Me by Jo Goodman
Series: Reidsville #2
Publisher: Zebra
Publication Date: December 1, 2010
Format: eBook
Source: Purchased
Point-of-View: Alternating Third
Cliffhanger: View Spoiler »
Content Warning: View Spoiler »
Genres: Westerns
Pages: 447
Add It: Goodreads
Reading Challenges: Historical Challenge, Holly's 2019 GoodReads Challenge, Holly's 2019 Historical Challenge, Holly's Summer Reading Challenge, Summer Reading Challenge
Amazon | Barnes & Noble | The Ripped Bodice | Google Play Books
three-half-stars
Series Rating: four-stars

Her Heart Was Locked Away

Rhyne Abbot is fierce, brave, and used to a life of isolation on her father's spread on the outskirts of Reidsville, Colorado. But when, overcome with sickness, she collapses, she knows she must return to town if she is to have any hope of recovery. Only there is no place for her but the new doctor's home, and he wants more than just to heal Rhyne. He wants her hand in marriage.

Until One Man Found The Key

Doctor Cole Monroe's hands are already more than full with his orphaned little sister to look after, and yet somehow he can't resist the magnetic pull of Rhyne's bewitching eyes--or her tempting kiss. But convincing her to trust him won't be easy. For Rhyne's heart needs as much tender care as her ailing body. And the only cure is the thing she most fears: to let herself fall in love...

Mary Me by Jo Goodman is the second book in the Reidsville series. Casee chose this for our Summer Reading Challenge, but I forgot to review it in August. It’s been ages since I read a Jo Goodman. This was vaguely familiar, so it’s possible I’ve read it before. I can’t remember for sure, though, so I’m calling this a new read. I had a hard time getting into it at first, but it picked up by the 3rd chapter.

When Cole Monroe’s younger sister talks him into moving to Reidsville, CO to become their new town doctor, he isn’t sure what to expect. The colorful residents are interesting, and he’s enjoying himself as the only doctor to service a large area. When he meets Rhyne Abbot, he knows he has to help her.The only way to do that is to have her move in with him. Not an ideal situation, but one they make work. Only, he never expected to come to have such strong feelings for her. Her fierce independence and indomitable spirit really call to him.

Rhyne was raised as a boy, until her father could no longer ignore the fact she was a girl. Even then, she kept up the pretense with the town’s inhabitants. Now that she’s been outed as a woman and forced to move in with the new doctor, things sure are different for her. Finding her footing in this new world is difficult, but she’s managing. If only she could get rid of this pesky attraction she has for the doctor…

I really thought the romance was super sweet. I liked both Cole and Rhyne. I liked how patient he was with Rhyne and how she slowly came to trust him. Some of the medical stuff was on the boring side, but I was able to move past that. I struggled more with how quickly Rhyne seemed to overcome her trauma, but I do think it was rather in keeping with the times. Rhyne didn’t have time to become hysterical, so she didn’t.

While this isn’t my favorite book by Goodman, it was enjoyable and I’ll probably read it again in the future.

Rating: 3.75 out of 5

Reidsville

three-half-stars


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Throwback Thursday Review: Promises Linger by Sarah McCarty

Posted January 4, 2018 by Holly in Reviews | 10 Comments

Throwback Thursday Review: Promises Linger by Sarah McCartyReviewer: Holly
Promises Linger by Sarah McCarty
Series: Promises #1
Also in this series: Promises Prevail (Promises, #3)
Publisher: Ellora's Cave
Publication Date: 2004-07
Genres: Fiction, Erotica
Pages: 432
Add It: Goodreads
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four-half-stars
Series Rating: four-stars

Promises Linger By Sarah McCarty 1868 Wyoming Territory Elizabeth Coyote will do anything, anything at all, to save the ranch she loves, including marrying Asa MacIntyre, a broad shouldered, lean hipped silver eyed gunslinger with a ruthless reputation for getting the job done. Asa dreams of a place of his own, a wife, and the respect that comes with both. Marrying Elizabeth may have started as a means to an end, but nothing in Asa's wildest dreams prepares him for the excitement of unleashing the carnal woman beneath his wife's prim and proper exterior.

*****Every Thursday in 2018 we will be posting throwback reviews of our favorite and not-so-favorite books.

This review was originally posted on December 19, 2007.

The first book I read by Sarah McCarty prior to this was Caine’s Reckoning. When Casee reviewed that book, she said something about the cover being a vast improvement from SM’s other covers…At the time, I said she was crazy, because I didn’t like the cover for CR. But then I saw the cover for this one and her other Promises books and now I understand…this cover is horrid. Those people scare me. shudder

Anyway, it’s lucky I don’t judge books based on their covers. This one was a fabulous read.

Elizabeth Coyote is in a pickle. Her father died and left her his ranch, but a woman alone in the late 1800’s can’t run a cattle ranch on her own..she needs a man to help her. So she marries the first man that comes a’courtin, Brent, only he turns out to be the worst scoundrel ever. Since it turns out the marriage wasn’t legal and never consummated, she turns instead to Asa McIntyre. He’s got a reputation for being mean as spit when he’s riled, but also gentle with women and children. She doesn’t have the best opinion of men, but figures to go with the lesser of two evils and marry Asa to save her ranch.

For Asa’s part, he’s always wanted a spread of his own and a lady for a wife. So when Elizabeth proposes marriage to save her ranch, he figures this is just God’s way of telling him dreams do come true. But he’s in for a surprise, because Elizabeth isn’t quite the lady he made her out to be, and saving the ranch could be his most difficult task yet.

I’ve never been a big fan of Westerns (Sorry Sybil). There isn’t a particular reason, they just aren’t my cup-a, but Sarah McCarty is going a long way towards changing my mind about this. I love her writing voice and the way she weaves her stories.

Before I go into my thoughts on this, can just say SM really knows how to open a story. Every book I’ve read of hers (I’m on my 4th now) so far has started off with a bang. This book was no exception. I was absolutely in awe of the heroine when she marched into a saloon, held her erstwhile husband at gun point and demanded he return her money and walk away from her. And when she smacked him across the face with a stool I cheered. Talk about starting with a bang.

Anyway, I really enjoyed the story of Elizabeth and Asa. He’s tough as nails, but also caring and tender when it comes to women and children. And though Elizabeth is stubborn and independent, she’s not gratingly so. She realizes she needs a man to keep her ranch going and though she makes a mistake the first time around, she quickly realizes it and does what she can to correct it. And once she marries Asa, she does her best to be a good wife to him.

Asa was good to Elizabeth, too. Though he’s always wanted a spread of his own and a lady for a wife, he doesn’t take it for granted once he has it. He treats Elizabeth with respect and does his best to tease her into good moods. He understands that Elizabeth has had a rough time of it since her father died and does his best to take care of her and keep her safe.

Elizabeth is scarred by more than what’s happened since her father’s death, however. Turns out dear old dad wasn’t a shining example of parenthood and she’s got some unresolved issues. But she doesn’t shy from Asa..much. She tries her best to overcome her fears to please him, and I was captivated by their story.

I did have a few issues, however. The main one being the way Asa constantly shrugged aside Elizabeth’s offers of help around the ranch. She just wanted to be thought of as an equal partner, and he just wanted to keep her safe, but the way they skirted around the issue without really talking it out started to bug me. Her good friend Aaron also got on my nerves. He acted condescending and rude, and Elizabeth just shrugged it off. That might not have bothered me, except whenever her husband acted that way (or one of his men did) she got her knickers all in a twist over it. That seemed incongruous to me. Of course, it all worked out in the end, though, so the above mentioned wasn’t enough to ruin the story for me.

I’m giving this one a:

4.5 out of 5

Be sure to check out the other two books in the series, too.

four-half-stars


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Guest Review: Wildflower by Virginia Brown

Posted May 15, 2013 by Book Binge Guest Blogger in Reviews | 0 Comments

Judith’s review of Wildflower by Virginia Brown.

Colorado Kate — as notorious for her lovers as she was for her robberies. No man had ever taken her prisoner and if she had her way, no one ever would. But when she found herself looking into the relentless black eyes of infamous gunslinger Jake Lassiter, Caitlin knew her luck had run out. There was no mercy in his chiseled face, no softness in his rock hard body. Despite her reputation she had never known a man, and she was stunned by the wave of desire that rose within her at Jake’s heated caress. The green-eyed renegade was desperate to escape, but flames of passion held her body captive and left her yearning for the dangerous touch of the dark and ruthless lawman!

He’s a legendary gunslinger working for the powerful business baron she intends to bring down. When he takes her captive, desire makes a prisoner of them both.

 
Behold . . . a re-released version of a novel that made its initial appearance twenty years ago, complete with a beautiful new cover–much better than the old cover, IMHO.  What’s more gorgeous than a ripped cowboy, anyway.
So we have this a brother and sister–both leaders of a notorious gang of train robbers, taking silver shipments that come from only one mine–the one that was originally owned by their dad and mom and which was stolen from them when the present owner shot and killed them while these two siblings (just little kids at the time) watched helplessly.  Now they are grown and determined to do their best to bring this greedy evil man down.  Neither Kate nor her brother planned on being bested by a wiley gunslinger turned bounty hunter for the very man they hated.  And as their situation goes “south,” the sort-of relationship of Kate and Jake begins.  Jake is not really a very nice person, and having an outlaw woman in his custody, not realizing that she is a complete sexual innocent, means that readers will endure a scene or two that is unsavory but totally historically real.  Rape was seldom considered a crime law enforcement officers often being as cruel and without conscience as the outlaws where women were concerned.  The Old West was definitely not kind to any female of any age.  It was not a good time to be born a female.  Yet as this adversarial relationship continues on, the deeper layers of both these people are revealed.  I have to say that it is always satisfying to realize that there really are good guys that are far smarter than seemingly clever law breakers.
This novel is really well-written and as the story progresses it is not the kind of crisis resolution that one would expect.  In fact, I was fairly certain that this was going to be one of those stories that didn’t turn out very well at all.  Yet I was surprised pleasantly and as I went back to familiarize myself with aspects of the story, I was pleased at how the author developed the characters, at the hidden layers of Jake’s personality and background that were brought to light, and at the struggles and triumphs as Kate faces herself, her own demons, and her need to really grow beyond her grief and pain.
Twenty years have not dimmed the sheen on this fine novel and I am delighted that the publishers decided to make it available to readers again.  It’s well-worth the effort to read and appreciate.  I find that I am especially glad when I see publishers re-releasing treasures that deserve to be appreciated by new audiences, and I think this book it one of those.  I had moments when I was uncomfortable with the actions of Jake and some of the other characters, but when thinking further on these, I realized that the Old West was a very unfriendly place, an environment where disrespect, greed, irresponsibility, and gratuitous violence thrived.  I recommend this novel, but also add the recommendation that the reader keep a careful eye on the historical context.  I give it a rating of 4 out of 5.
You can read more from Judith at Dr J’s Book Place.
This book is available from Belle Books. You can buy it here in e-format. This book was provided by the publisher for an honest review.


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Guest Review: Unforgiven by B.J. Daniels

Posted November 19, 2012 by Book Binge Guest Blogger in Reviews | 1 Comment

Judith’s review of Unforgiven by B.J. Daniels

Under Montana’s big sky, two lovers will find their way back to one another…if an unsolved murder doesn’t pull them apart forever…. In Big Timber, Montana, land and family is everything. So when Destry Grant’s brother is accused of killing Rylan West’s sister, high school sweethearts Destry and Ryan leave their relationship behind in order to help their families recover from tragedy.

Years later, Destry is dedicated to her ranch and making plans for the future. Plans that just might include reuniting with the love of her life…until her brother returns to clear his name and the secrets of the past threaten her one chance at happiness.

Rylan is done denying his feelings for Destry. But when clues begin to link her brush with death to his sister’s murder, will discovering the truth finally grant them their chance at love or turn them against one another for good?

Years ago, when hubby and I and our four kids were living in Southwestern Idaho, I learned what it meant to live in Big Sky Country.  I have never experienced the stars and the clouds and the sense that the sky went on forever like I did then.  So when I read a book about Wyoming or Montana, I understand that sense the characters have that there is no other place on earth that can infiltrate into your viscera and hook you into its magic like the Northwestern states.

But don’t let the size or remote location of little towns and unincorporated communities lead you to believe that there isn’t a lot going on.  Where there are people there’s lots going on, even though some of it is well kept in hearts and memories.  So it is with this love story that is also a deep mystery.  It is about two lovers who are separated by the tragedy that has separated them, just when they had committed themselves to one another.  They were also separated by time–11 years of distance and unshared life experiences:  he to college and the professional rodeo circuit;  she to college and then back to once again manage her family’s ranch in Beartooth, Montana after her father’s airplane crashed and he was confined to a wheel chair.  Now Rylan has come home, but so has Destry’s brother, Carson–the man accused of Ginny West’s murder and the man everyone knows killed her.  The fact that there is no evidence to accuse him is beside the point.  So the mystery goes on and the separation between Rylan and Destry continues.

This is a tale that is all wound together like the ball of yarn that contains  many different strands.  No one can seem to unwind it, find the starting and ending of any particular strand.  It is just one great big knot.  Yet the people involved in this little community all know bits and pieces of one another’s stories but no one has been able to put anything of substance together.  All are acting on belief and supposition.  The beleaguered sheriff alone seems to be  winding his way through the assorted pieces of this and that.  Meanwhile, Destry’s brother continues under suspicion, gets into fights, drinks and gambles away vast sums of money he doesn’t have, and waits for the other shoe to drop.

There isn’t a whole lot of overt erotic loving in this story but it is filled with sexual tension.  Rylan and Destry are both miserable as they try to get past their family loyalties and make their way back to each other.  Destry’s dad and his bitter anger touch everyone in his family and many in the community.  Little by little Ginny West’s final hours and the realities of her last few weeks of life come out and others are drawn into her story in very surprising ways considering it has been 11 years since her murder.  This novel is really a microcosym of life in towns both large and small but the tiny size allows us to see more clearly the way people’s lives become so emeshed.  There are memories of great times, of happy days growing up and of lighthearted gatherings and remembered young love.  There are deep feelings of passion remembered whose fires have been banked for years and which are finally allowed to flame brightly once again.  There is betrayal and the debris of greed and ambition.  There is regret and awareness that life’s mistakes are often unable to be fixed.  Yet in the midst of this complicated tapestry of human difficulties lies the reality of a love that refuses to go away, of commitment that still binds two hears.

I have only read one or two other stories by this author but I have really enjoyed reading her stories, the way she sets up the scenes, context of characters and their pasts, and how she used an awesome creativity to resolve some of the issues in her stories.  But just as in life not everything has a happy ending, so it is with this author’s work.  Not everything works out–some situations are just left dangling.  Possibly that means there are other stories to come.  Possibly not.  Suffice it to say that this particular novel is a terrific piece of romance fiction writing with some scintillating suspense thrown in.  It’s a book that begs to be read and enjoyed and I am firm in my belief that those who like contemporary Western fiction will find this story a delight.

I give it a rating of 4 out of 5

You can read more from Judith at Dr J’s Book Place.

This book is available from Harlequin HQN. You can buy it here or here in e-format. This book was provided by the publisher for an honest review.


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