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Big Sky Country
By Dorine Linnen
May 25, 2012 - 8:00:00 AM
At thirty-five years old, Slade Barlow, the sheriff of Parable, Montana is about to experience one life-changing-event after another. The reading of his father's will starts it all. As the unrecognized illegitimate son of the man who owned the largest ranch for miles around, Slade is used to fading into the background and keeping his temper under control. Not so true of his half-brother, who isn't very pleased when the family lawyer states that Hutch Carmody now shares half of his father's entire estate, including the ranch he loves, with the son his father never acknowledged. Oh, Hutch had heard the rumors and if looks were any proof, Slade Barlow was the spitting image of his father, so there isn't any doubt that Slade is definitely John Carmody's son. Proof or not, Hutch isn't about to give up his rights to what he's always considered his alone, without a fight.
Joslyn Kirk returns to her hometown of Parable after selling her software company. She knows she won't be accepted by most in the town, but Joslyn hopes common sense and forgiveness prevails in some. Years ago, her stepfather cheated most of the town in a shoddy investment scheme, which was the cause of Joslyn and her mother leaving town in shame after her stepfather's conviction. Having died in prison, her stepfather never made amends, but Joslyn can't let it go without some restitution to those who lost their savings to a man who seemed like a good neighbor.
Within the first twelve pages of this novel I laughed out-loud at two ornery cowboys butting heads over the fate that was handed them. Immediately, I felt their animosity toward one another and a lifetime of bad feelings that went along with it. Still, there was a humorous sarcasm and realistic dialogue that popped off the page and instantly engaged me in their story. Make me laugh and I'm in for the long haul, but lucky for me, the bold-as-brass quick quips scattered throughout the unfolding serious story kept on coming. This perfect combination that instantly connects you with the characters is a writing quality to be cherished. It's real. It's honest. And it's inevitably endearing, sucking you right in, hungry for more.
Next, Joslyn finds a starving homeless dog that just happens to be the adored pet of the recently deceased John Carmody. No one has been able to catch the dog since his master died, so the fact that he has attached himself to Joslyn tells us there's more to this mutt than eyes can see. He's certainly full of personality and makes sure that Joslyn runs into Slade Barlow. Slade tries to return the dog to Hutch, but the wily dog promptly refuses to belong to anyone but Slade. By that time I was sunk. Hunky cowboys at odds with one another, down on their luck critters and a heroine with a passion to mend her family's past. And that's just the beginning. How can a reader resist?
BIG SKY COUNTRY is exactly what you expect from a western romance, layered with plenty of engaging moments, scattered with animals who are just as quirky as their masters, thrown in with an audacious teenager who keeps her stepdad on his toes, combined with a few very deserving lonely hearts hoping for love. This novel ambles along very nicely, relaxing and enjoyable, just like sipping lemonade under a shade tree on a sunny afternoon. It doesn't need angst or suspense when the characters are so likeable that you're sure they'll find their way to love somehow. I enjoyed being wrapped within Linda Lael Miller's very capable story-telling prose for a few hours. And I'm sure you will too. Great beginning to a new series!
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