Desert Isle Keeper
While some of Roberts’ newest releases have rubbed me the wrong way, I have quite a few of her books sitting on my keeper shelf. One of those is Montana Sky, a terrific romantic suspense thriller set on a picturesque cattle ranch in Big Sky country. With three romantic interests, a chilling mystery, and a gorgeous backdrop, this book shouldn’t be missed.
When wealthy cattle rancher Jack Mercy dies, people come from all over to gawk at his enormous house and the three daughters he had with three different wives. Tess is daughter number one and she flies in from LA to collect her share of the wealth. Lily is number two and, while she couldn’t care less about the money, she is happy to have a place to hide from her abusive ex-husband. Willa is the youngest who, because her mother died shortly after she was born, grew up on the ranch with her father. She wants nothing more than to continue working the ranch, only now in the operator position. Nobody is more deeply hurt than she when the will is read and all learn that the three half-sisters must live together on the ranch for a full year before each of them are entitled to one third of the assets. If any of them leave for longer than a week or cut out of the deal before the year is up, each of them receives one hundred dollars, and that’s it. To add insult to injury, two of Willa’s fellow ranchers must act in a supervisory capacity to make sure that the ranch is running smoothly.
Tess is enraged that she’s being coerced into staying on a cow ranch in the middle of nowhere, but there is no way she’s giving up her share of a 20 million dollar inheritance. She very grudgingly accepts her new chores and life on the ranch, but finds a pleasant diversion in the form of one of the supervisors, Nate Torrence. Lily is grateful for the chance to hide out. Her ex-husband, Jesse Cooke, has found her the past several times she’s moved – she still has the bruises from her latest encounter. But she’s also happy to be around her new sisters and enjoys spending time with Willa’s half-brother, Adam, who has a very calming effect on her. Work becomes an escape for Willa as she deals with the emotions caused by her father’s death, the will, and her new house guests. Of course, fighting with her neighbor, Ben McKinnon, helps too and she’s gets plenty of chances now that he is supervising her work.
Someone else in the area is set on making things more difficult for Mercy Ranch. It starts with a mutilated steer, then a cat is grotesquely displayed on the porch. The enemy’s confidence grows, however, and soon a cowboy is murdered. Willa is terrified that these events will scare Tess and Lily into leaving, costing her the ranch. But everyone buckles down and learns to rely on and trust each other during the ensuing nightmare. The suspense is gripping, with a wonderful build-up that had me glued to the pages. There’s also a very clever twist at the end that made me grin.
I simply can’t do the storyline justice with just a couple of paragraphs. So much goes on in this book and it’s all done without any wasted pages. Every scene means something and furthers the story somehow. The thing that captured me the most was the emotion of the book. Roberts beautifully and convincingly describes the emotional upheaval of all the different characters. It’s wonderful to watch Lily become stronger, Tess learn what’s important, and Willa soften.
Watching the boys is fun too. The three hunks compliment each of their women nicely. Tess’s and Nate’s relationship was the least developed and had me scratching my head a bit at the end, wondering when love came into play. Adam and Lily were very sweet in a dreamy, starry-eyed kind of way. And Willa’s and Ben’s antics had me laughing. Theirs is the central romance and the most interesting. They butt heads quite often, sometimes literally, so watching them bend and fall in love was a treat. There’s also a lot of witty, snappy dialogue between some of these characters.
Montana Sky is, quite simply, a wonderful read. I loved many of the scenes, whether they were emotion-packed or downright funny. This is the type of Nora Roberts book I adore. Now that it has been made into a movie, I’m going to have to see if it does the book justice. It’ll be tough, but I’m crossing my fingers.