Reviewed by Tracey
Favorite Quote: “He broke off and withered under his mother’s stare. “Until you work in a man’s world without a penis, you can hush about it. You can think about that while you help Clementine clear up and wash the dishes.”
Blurb: The Bodine ranch and resort in western Montana is a family business, an idyllic spot for vacationers. A little over thirty thousand acres and home to four generations, it’s kept running by Bodine Longbow with the help of a large staff, including new hire Callen Skinner. There was another member of the family once: Bodine’s aunt, Alice, who ran off before Bodine was born. She never returned, and the Longbows don’t talk about her much. The younger ones, who never met her, quietly presume she’s dead. But she isn’t. She is not far away, part of a new family, one she never chose—and her mind has been shattered…
When a bartender leaves the resort late one night, and Bo and Cal discover her battered body in the snow, it’s the first sign that danger lurks in the mountains that surround them. The police suspect Cal, but Bo finds herself trusting him—and turning to him as another woman is murdered and the Longbows are stunned by Alice’s sudden reappearance. The twisted story she has to tell about the past—and the threat that follows in her wake—will test the bonds of this strong family, and thrust Bodine into a darkness she could never have imagined.
Nora Roberts has been a favorite of mine for over twenty years. She has honed her craft to a razor-sharp edge over the years, and you know you will always have an enjoyable read when you pick up one of her books. Yes, some are better than others, and in this book, she takes a step away from the usual sweet romance, and takes the reader to a much deeper and darker story. There is a slow building friends to lovers romance, there are some side romances thrown in the mix too, but the main plot of the book isn’t romance. This is a romantic suspense book…heavy on the suspense.
The story revolves around the Bodine-Longbow family and their ranch/resort in Montana. It begins with a flashback to 1991 and Alice Bodine, the black sheep of the family, is returning home after running away at 18. Now 21 and down on her luck (Hollywood didn’t make her a movie star) she has tucked her tail and headed home. Just a few miles from home, she makes the worst mistake of her life when she accepts a ride from a man who she figures is just a neighbor. He is a neighbor, but not the type you want to know. He abducts her, and keeps her prisoner for 20-plus years. This story should probably be avoided by anyone with violence triggers, the reader spends a lot of time with the man that Alice only knows as Sir. I have always loved Nora’s J. D. Robb books, and she borrows a lot of the edgey darkness from those books for this story.
At nearly 500 pages, there is a lot going on in this book. Roberts pulls you into the story fast, and manages to weave all the pieces and parts together smoothly, as only an accomplished writer can do. When we flash to the present, the focus is on Bodine Longbow, the niece of the kidnapped Alice. Bodine runs the Resort section of the ranch, and as we are told by everyone in the book, she does it very well. Her childhood crush, Callen Skinner has just returned home from a successful Hollywood career of wrangling horses for western movies. Cal is Bodine’s brother’s best friend, and she followed the older boys around as a child, mooning unsuccessfully over a clueless Cal. She was a little young for Cal to ever notice, but that changes quickly when he returns home.
I won’t go into all the plot points, there are just too many to cover. There are two dead women, an old childhood enemy of Cal’s with a serious grudge, unspoken feelings being held against Alice and the different sideline love stories going on. This story contains all the great emotions that Roberts is known for. Love, forgiveness, grief, hopefulness, redemption and happily ever afters. There are many emotional moments, but most of these moments focus on the Alice story, not so much the romance. Roberts draws all the characters so clearly, that you do feel deeply drawn into the story and into the feelings of the characters.
I only had a couple of issues with the story. One of which is the amount of information given in running a Resort/Dude Ranch. I honestly feel, after reading the book, that I could probably run out and start my own resort. She gave us A LOT of information….way, way too much. Don’t get me wrong, it was interesting info, but really only needed if you’re researching a business plan. I don’t really care about what kind of placemats and cakes they serve at a glamping event (glamorous camping). I didn’t want to know Bo’s daily schedule down to every 15 minutes of her day. This part did make the story drag in places. Everyone always going on, and on about how Bodine really was the big boss, how she was the one who made the final decisions, and that she was the only one who could solve all the problems. I would probably have picked up on this info after the first 7 or 8 people stated the fact.
The other issue is have is the dialogue that is used to portray western and/or ranch life. I seem to have issues with this, because I actually live on a ranch. I call it the “done dealing” syndrome.
“I’m done lighting out, done needing to.”
This is how Cal explains that he will be staying at the ranch. Just because someone lives on a ranch, it doesn’t mean that bad grammar, or cutesy old fashioned sayings are used. My grandparents may have used a few of these words and phrases…but, in real life, I can’t remember ever having heard them. That part of the dialogue just sounded stilted, as if it came out of a spaghetti western. There were a few ranch issues which struck a discordant note with me, like running a shod horse on a paved road and describing a horse as 17 hands. I have trouble seeing Cal gracefully slipping into the saddle of a 17 hands horse, that’s not happening unless Cal is around 7’ tall, does lots of yoga and is wearing jeans with a good amount of lycra.
The love story between Bodine and Cal moves at a very, very slow pace, and I mean glacial. And, who would have thought it, but I found this rather endearing after all the insta-love books I’ve read lately. Bo is a strong and tough woman and she definitely holds her own against Cal. They were very evenly matched, and she actually came across as more alpha than he did. The heat builds extremely slow between these two, and somehow it seems more real because of the time span. Robert’s writes some pretty snappy and funny dialogue between Bo and Cal, enough that a favorite quote from the book was hard to pick. There were some good conversations going on. Readers know, in a Nora Robert’s book, that the romance will be there. The suspense was a nice surprise, even though the bad guy was easily picked out about midway through the book.
I would recommend this book to anyone who enjoys a nice, long romantic suspense read. I usually factor into my review how easily I put the book down, and how anxiously I try to return to the story. This one was easily put down, but also easily picked back up. It’s worth the investment time for a book this long.