Home on the Range
This book is the second in Susan Fox’s Caribou Crossings series, but readers need not read the first book in order to enjoy this one. It does well as a stand-alone. This is a fairly solid book that might have made it into DIK territory if the author had not resorted to more than one deus ex machina to pull her story through.
Evan Kincaid left his hometown in Canada and never looked back. Well, maybe he looked back a little, but his goal in life was to get out of the small town where he was raised by an abusive father and a drunk and neglectful mother and nothing could stand in the way of that goal. The one bright part of his childhood was Jessica Bly. As a nerd who abhorred rural nature, Evan was prime material for bullying and being ostracized. That he was not could be laid directly at the feet of Jess, his best friend since second grade. That friendship ended when hormones kicked in and Jess and Evan slept together right before he was to leave for college. He panicked and left her in a pretty brutal way and now ten years have passed since that fateful night. Evan is now a big shot investment counselor in New York and his largest client wants him to travel to Canada to check out a riding camp for investment purposes. The fact that this camp is just a few miles from Caribou Crossing makes Evan very antsy and he wants to turn down his client. In the end he does agree to go and is surprised when he arrives to find that Jess is one of the instructors at the camp.
Jessica Bly befriended Evan when she was seven years old. Over the years, her friendship turned into romantic love and she seduces Evan at the lake the summer after their senior year of high school. Evan’s reaction to sleeping with his best friend was to take the car and abandon his best friend at the lake. Then he leaves early for college so he does not have to face Jess. Obviously Jess is both hurt and angry. She also becomes pregnant from their encounter and instead of informing Evan of the pregnancy, she marries another male friend who agrees to raise the child as his own. Jess rationalizes her decision not to tell Evan because he had sworn he never wanted to have children and his lifetime goal was to get out of Caribou Crossing and make something of himself in the big city. She knows that Evan would never get out if he had a child and she thinks that by not telling him she is doing him a favor. Jessica gets on with her life and that includes her dream of opening a riding camp for serious riders (think Horse Whisperer).
Here we have the first of the deus ex machinas for this story. Of all the places in the world that Evan’s primary client would want to send Evan to research an investment opportunity, it had to be his old, very small and very remote hometown, AND of all the people who might be looking for investors, it just happens to be Evan’s old friend Jess Bly. The believability factor here is close to splitting the seams. There are a few other things that stretch credibility (such as a very smart man who grew up in the country not knowing the names of even common plants). These criticisms are mild though and despite these flaws, most of the story works.
I really liked Jess a lot…except for the fact that she kept Evan in the dark about his child. That usually is a deal breaker for me. However, Ms. Fox puts enough qualifications on Jess’s reasoning that I was able to like her in spite of this. She is a good person and happy with her life. Her ex-husband remains her best friend and they are good parents to her daughter. I liked the riding camp setting and it felt as if the author were very knowledgeable about horses. Evan took a little longer for me to warm up to, but I did come to like his character. The riding camp is the instrument for his personal growth and he does grow as a person. Once Jess and Evan are reunited, the friendship they had as children made renewing that friendship believable.
If it were still summer, I would just call this a good beach read. It is a solid story, but not something special to visit again and again. If you are looking for something light, then give this book a try.