Linda Lael Miller the title "First Lady of the West," or if she decided to call herself that, but it's certainly true. She's written more than 100 novels, mainly cowboy romances, and whether historical or contemporary, her books are among the best of the subgenre. She manages to capture the feel of the West while creating believable characters and great romances. Her newest book, Big Sky Country, is the first book in a new series about Parable, Montana, and at its heart is a feud between two half-brothers who jointly inherit their late father's ranch.
Synopsis: 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. – Goodreads
My thoughts: Wait, this was a romance? I must have missed that, because it took until nearly the end of the book to see any sort of relationship between Slade and Joslyn. Worse than that, I didn't see any chemistry at all between the two of them. As a set up for a series, Big Sky Country worked well and the characters are clearly drawn and positioned for future development. As a romance, however, the book failed. By the time Slade and Joslyn managed to get together, I'd lost all interest in them.
Don't get me wrong – I appreciate delayed gratification and the role it can play in creating an effective romance. In Big Sky Country though, there's so little interaction between the two leads that I don't think it even technically counts as gratification of any sort. It's as though Linda Lael Miller was concentrating so much on setting up the series that Slade and Joslyn's romance was an afterthought.
As an individual, Slade is a fully developed character. He's the stalwart county sheriff, tough enough to handle the job but gentle enough that he'd volunteer to let the teenage daughter of his ex-wife live with him. On the other hand, I had trouble relating to Joslyn and her motivation for returning to Parable. It was a poor plot device, and though there were brief instances showing interactions between Joslyn and the town residents, there wasn't enough interaction to make this sub-plot believable. She was a fine character, but frankly not that interesting. Ultimately, the romance suffered because there was far too little interaction between Slade and Joslyn for a romance to develop, and it took far too long for them to act upon their feelings.
If I were rating this book as a romance, it would earn a D. I'm giving it a C-, though, because I am intrigued to see how Miller will develop the relationship between Slade's brother, Hutch, and hometown girl Kendra. The next book in the series , Big Sky Mountain, will be published on July 31, 2012, and Miller has set up the conflict between Hutch and Kendra well.
Publisher: HQN Books
Publication Date: May 29, 2012
Length: 384 pages
Other reviews of Big Sky Country:
Gone with the Words (3 out of 5 stars)
A Girl, Books and Other Things (2.5 stars out of 5)
Geeky Bloggers Book Blog (3.75 out of 5)
Disclosure: I received this book from the publisher in return for a fair and honest review.