Monday, June 25, 2012

Book Review: Big Sky Country

Print // Kindle // Linda Lael Miller

The illegitimate son of a wealthy rancher, Sheriff Slade Barlow grew up in a trailer hitched to the Curly-Burly hair salon his mother runs. He was never acknowledged by his father-until now. Suddenly, Slade has inherited half of Whisper Creek Ranch, one of the most prosperous in Parable, Montana. 

That doesn't sit well with his half brother, Hutch, who grew up with all the rights of a Carmody. Including the affections of Joslyn Kirk, homecoming queen, rodeo queen, beauty queen-whom Slade has never forgotten But Joslyn is barely holding her head up these days as she works to pay back everyone her crooked stepfather cheated. 

With a town to protect-plus a rebellious teenage stepdaughter-Slade has his hands full. But someone has to convince Joslyn that she's responsible only for her own actions. Such as her effect on this lawman's guarded heart.

I admit I'm not a big fan of cowboys, but I've read most of Miller's 90's historicals and her paranormal romances were some of the first I read.  She also introduced me to the idea of a 'connected' series with her Springwater Creek books.  She wrote stuff I was intrigued by and interested in, but I fell out of reading her stuff after I began reading Regency Romances more earnestly.

Big Sky Country was a good gateway back into her novels I think.  This is a contemporary, set in a state I'm none to familiar with and is part of a connected set (book 2 Big Sky Mountain is due out in August), so guaranteed more reading time with these fine folks of Parable.  The brothers Slade and Hutch were classic Miller--gruff, rough around the edges, impulsive when challenged (by each other mainly) and reckless when they can't handle their feelings.

There's also a healthy dose of 'Luck Shines Down' in terms of how things turn out.  Joslyn's incredible luck in selling her software company for enough money to pay everyone back and settle down without worrying about finding another full time job, the ridiculous way(s) the brothers try to settle who owns the ranch, the kind of unbelievable amount of happenstance that occurs throughout.  I don't have a problem with any of these things, but what I would have waved off as a teen now stands out to me and jars me out of the story as I try to figure out HOW that is possible.

The chemistry between Slade and Joslyn is palatable, so there isn't much in the way of a triangle.  I appreciated though that Miller didn't make it a bitter parting of ways for Joslyn and Hutch.  They were adult about it (with each other at least) and proved that not everything always has to be a drama fest.

My one big complaint about this book was that Miller paid equal attention, or almost equal (probably more like 60% Slade, 40% Hutch) attention to both brothers.  This probably wouldn't bother me as much as it does if I didn't know, without a shadow of a doubt, that in Book 2 the book will focus primarily on Hutch and his adventures.  This cuts Slade's involvement in the books to a small fraction and offers Hutch a larger role overall.  I doubt Miller meant it to be this way, but that's a problem with connected books that continue the story from one to the next as openly as it is here.