Source- Review copy courtesy of DCPRmedia
Publisher- MIRA/ Harleq2uin
Publication date- June 2012
Synopsis- The “First Lady of the West,” #1 New York Times bestselling author Linda Lael Miller is back with a new series about Parable, Montana-where love awaits. 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.
Review- This is my first encounter with the US country romance market since I fell in love with the Aussie rural romance genre. Big Sky Country is the first in Linda Lael Miller’s Parable, Montana series.
It alternates between the point of view of Sheriff Slade Barlow who has recently inherited a half of a ranch from his wealthy father and Joslyn Kirk who has returned to Parable to make amends for all the people her step-father ripped off. Slade and Joslyn couldn’t be more different. Slade grew up with his mother, the local hairdresser who had a fling with a wealthy rancher and never claimed Slade as his son until after his death. Slade’s half-brother Hutch isn’t too happy to be sharing his inheritance with his illegitimate brother. Joslyn on the other hand grew up in a wealthy household only to have it all taken away when her step-father cheated most of the Parable community. Slade is coming to terms with his new found wealth and Joslyn is starting from the bottom up, by moving in with childhood friend Kendra and getting an assistant position at her real estate agency.
The moment Slade and Joslyn set their eyes on each other, sparks fly. There’s an instant attraction but both are self-conscious of how they would be perceived by the other. Joslyn believes Slade would always remember her as the spoilt rich girl and Slade thinks he’s just a hick that Joslyn wouldn’t think twice about. Yet, there’s chemistry brewing when they reunite and are thrown together in various situations. There’s also side-plots with Hutch and Kendra which I assume will be explored further later in the series.
The author developed Slade well as a character and as a reader I felt I saw him with various dynamics and from various perspectives- the author, Slade, Joslyn, Hutch and his teenage step-daughter Shea. Despite a brief, unsuccessful marriage, Slade still hopes to settle down and have a family someday. Joslyn, on the other hand is lesser developed- she’s self-conscious and feeling a little lost when she returns to Parable. But I could understand her attraction to the predictable, stable Slade who doesn’t say much, but when he does he says what he means.
The tension bubbles at a nice pace throughout the novel until they both succumb and have a steamy night together. I was disappointed when this didn’t seem to move their relationship further at that point and their interactions returned to almost friend-like even though they were seeing each other on a frequent basis to train the horses. I wish the author could have explained the reasoning for this better as I felt as though it was thrown in there to allow for other sub-plots to be resolved in the story before their relationship progressed. Nevertheless, it was a very satisfying ending and I look forward to reading more from Linda Lael Miller’s cowboy series!