Spoiler Alert: this review will probably contain some minor spoilers
It's been months since I read the first in this trilogy. I really didn't like the first installment in the series, Tate, but fortunately, this one was much, much better.
Linda Lael Miller continues with her hit-you-over-the-head lecturing about animal welfare as well as the obvious McKettrick/Remington pairings. But at least this one didn't contain a history of infidelity--something that is on my short list of plot elements that turn my stomach.
It could be I enjoyed this book more because the characters were less self-involved. Julie is a high school drama teacher and Garrett is a senator's aide. At the beginning of the novel, they each have their own careers--their own lives. There is no deep, dark, tortured history between the two--although they are familiar with each other through the previous (failed) romances of their two respective siblings.
Garrett McKettrick has just experienced a personal and professional crisis. His boss, the US Senator from Texas, has just publicly announced that he's throwing over his wife for a twenty-something pole dancer. With his faith in politics shaken (yeah, he's naive) Garrett goes home to the Silver Spur to get away from the media circus and regroup. Upon arriving home, he discovers Julie Remington (his brother, Tate's, future sister-in-law) has moved in temporarily with her young son, Calvin, while her rented cottage is fumigated.
Various crises appear throughout the book to add some suspense to the story. There's some cattle rustling. There's the reappearance of Calvin's biological father. There's yet another crisis involving the senator.
I found Calvin to be a bit too stereotypical and unbelievably precocious. Calvin is reading proficiently already in kindergarten. He wears glasses. He has asthma. I just found the reliance of fill-in-conventions a bit too annoying. Just because he's academically advanced for his age should not mean he has to wear glasses and be physically 'weak.'
I thought the romance between these two to be very sweet. Kind of a mutual awakening to possibilities that existed but never materialized due to circumstances and lack of proximity. And the concerns Julie feels as a mother do not prevent her from trying to have a life. I found that a refreshing departure from the themes we typically see in Miller's work.
I did have one other complaint. It involves this line:
"Her surrender to Garrett was a gift, and not a fulfillment of any desire she possessed."I don't find that appropriate or sexy that the heroine is thinking that sex should be a gift and not a mutually shared pleasure. Just my ever so humble opinion.
The biggest, and nicest, surprise (spoiler ahead) is that for once, it is NOT the woman who must give up her career to make the romance work. Garrett leaves his career for life as a rancher. No big financial sacrifice, sure, but it is a surrender of a career he'd been building for a decade. That's a nice change from the more standard (and annoying) need for the heroine to somehow change or give up her career.
I did find one persistent typo in the galley I read. Trunks (as in swimming) was misspelled repeatedly as truncks. Hopefully that gets corrected before publication.
My Grade: B