A Town Called Valentine
North of Denver, Colorado, there’s a little town called Loveland where every year before February 14th the post office is swamped with mail to be stamped with the official love postmark. Cane’s fictional Valentine Valley located near Aspen is the romance novel equivalent of Loveland.
San Francisco divorcee Emily Murphy returns to Valentine Valley after her mother’s death to refurbish and sell the business property her mother owned there. At the neighborhood bar after she gets into town and her car breaks down, she drinks a little too much and nearly has sex on the pool table in the back room with rancher Nate Thalberg, the town hunk. After they both realize what a mistake making love in public would be, Nate assumes the unpleasant duty of telling and showing her the building she owns is uninhabitable.
To make up for his behavior in the bar, Nate drives her to his grandmother’s boarding house and finds her a room there for the night. While Emily is a little disconcerted by his taking control of her life, she’s grateful to have somewhere to stay.
The next morning, however, when she meets Nate’s grandmother and her friends, she learns just how uncharacteristically Nate acted in the bar but how characteristically he acted afterward. Nate is the town’s rich do-gooder, who helps run the family ranch and aids anyone in need. His grandmother sees his middle-of-the-night rescue of Emily as promising since he’s definitely of marriageable age.
Both Emily and Nate are the kinds of characters romance readers love to experience. Both are earnest, good people who are not looking for romance and especially not love. They’ve both got baggage, but it isn’t debilitating. Both are also strong, independent people. So their journey toward each other, while steamy at the beginning, is much more realistic thereafter.
Equally endearing are Nate’s grandmother and her cronies. When Emily discovers that her flighty mother’s husband wasn’t her father, but someone in Valentine is, the older women pitch in to help her discover her real father. The older women are the town’s chroniclers, preserving and remembering the important details that make the town unique and that help point to Emily’s biological father.
If anything is weak about the story, it’s that finding Emily’s father and then reconciling with him even though he now has a family of his own are so easy. Everyone involved has no problem coming to terms with a stranger suddenly becoming a relative. This whole part of the book is much too simple and quick for everyone, especially Emily who has nothing but love for the man who acted as her father when she was growing up.
All in all, however, this romance is an enjoyable entrance into Cane’s Valentine Valley series. I look forward to reading and enjoying the next book.