Big Sky Country
What’s worse than anticipating a favorite author’s new book and then have it not live up to expectations, even disappoint? The first book in Miller’s new series is a case in point for me.
Illegitimate son of a wealthy Montana rancher, Sheriff Slade Barlow isn’t particularly bothered by his father’s demise. In fact, he’s surprised when he learns the man left him half the ranch that his brother Hutch Carmody, the man’s legitimate son, has been running.
Hutch wants to know if Slade will sell his half of the ranch, but Slade’s having such a complicated summer that thinking about his legacy is only a small part of it. For one thing, Slade’s teenage stepdaughter is coming up from Los Angeles to spend the summer with him.
For another, the girl he lusted after in high school, Joslyn Kirk, has returned to the tiny town, having sold her successful computer business. Even though Slade knows Hutch and Joslyn went together when they were teens, he hopes to get a chance to know her better and possibly hook up with her.
For her part, Joslyn is leery about returning to Montana. Her stepfather bilked a good part of the residents before absconding with their money. After the man’s death in prison, Joslyn’s been trying to pay everyone back with the profits from her business.
But little Parable, Montana, has always seemed like home to her, so she’s hoping that the bad feelings about her stepfather’s duplicity have settled. In addition, her best friend Kendra Shepherd lives there, and Joslyn really needs to reconnect with her.
Miller’s signature laconic style prevails, which is one of the reasons her fans read her works. However, because the focus centers around three main characters and three peripheral ones, Slade’s mother and stepdaughter, as well as the family retainer in Joslyn’s family, the slow pace often gets annoying when it becomes difficult to remember the various story threads.
Of more concern is the chemistry missing in the romance between Joslyn and Slade. Slade, oddly, shows more spark with his stepdaughter than with the supposed love of his life. Really glaring are the absence of reasons why Joslyn loves Slade and why he loves her. Heated love scenes have never been Miller’s forte, but this book flattens them to cyphers.
Fortunately, Miller’s love of the Western landscape comes across as strongly here as in previous books. If romance can be equated to loving descriptions of scenery, then this would be an excellent example of the genre.
That isn’t the case, however, so this first book doesn’t make me want to read the next two in the series. Am I disappointed? You betcha.