Liberty Starr by Rebecca E. Grant is the (rare) kind of romance that had me both shaking my head and laughing by the end of the first chapter, then captured me in spite of myself. Under a layer of silliness and several clichés there is a solid romance here, and the author is definitely one to watch.
On a highway in Colorado, a woman gives a lift to the nearest town to a stranger whose car has broken down. She is Liberty Starr, who runs an inn in Stone Hill, and Rafe Cabrerras is a cowboy who wants to ride at the local rodeo. Impulsively, Libby offers him a job at the inn. Now begins the silliness: Libby just happens to be the daughter of nudist hippies, so she likes doing her stable work in the nude, then going for a ride in the nude (the inn cum stable is at the edge of town, but I guess it would have to be very much on the edge of anywhere for the local teenage boys not to catch on), riding her horse under a waterfall and pleasuring herself lying on the back of said horse. I kid you not. And wait, there’s more: Rafe happens to follow her because he wants to talk about his future employment, and first gets to watch her under the waterfall and then he runs into her back at the inn in her covered walkway. He both kisses her and talks about the details of this job – with her still in the nude. They have hot, luscious sex in chapter 2, on the second day of their acquaintance, and while it is refreshing to read about a couple who are so relaxed about their sexuality, it did seem a bit out of place they never discuss contraception or STDs even once.
As I said, it gets better from here. Caleb Hamilton, a former boyfriend of Libby’s late mother, who has been acting like a father to Libby for many years, divulges he is suffering from terminal cancer, and after naming Libby his heir, he demands she move to his huge ranch to be introduced into his various businesses while there is time. Rafe comes with her to look after her horses, but it is clear from the start that he has a hidden agenda. Libby catches him spying on Caleb and searching the house, but lets him stay on the farm and carries on her affair with him.
Here’s what I liked: Although hero and heroine hop into bed (or into meadow – lots of outdoor sex here) on day two, the romance between them develops slowly. Each has issues with trust and intimacy – Libby less obviously than Rafe – and it takes each a long time to really open up. Then there is the matter of loyalty. Libby is deeply loyal to Caleb, but at the same time she is prepared to let Rafe investigate the old man. I also liked the secondary characters, like Caleb’s stepdaughters, who appear just money-grabbing at first but reveal some depth later.
I also enjoyed the sex scenes in spite of the soft porn feel of those first two chapters. They are frequent, and they are integral to the relationship’s development. In addition, Rebecca E. Grant spends far more effort on creating locale and mood than on tab A and slot B, which made the sex scenes all the more delectable.
With all its merits, the book is not perfect. Rebecca E. Grant makes use of several well-worn plot devices in a not particularly innovative manner, and some scenes are just overdone. Caleb Hamilton especially became Too Much for me at some point (to reveal more here would be spoilers).
But while I rolled my eyes during some moments, all in all I enjoyed Liberty Starr. It is a subtle story about a relationship with some less-than-subtle elements, and I am planning to watch out for this author’s next romance.