Desert Isle Keeper
Rocky Mountain Devil
Rocky Mountain Devil is book number ten in the Six Pack Ranch series. Luckily, for those who haven’t yet discovered this Canadian Rocky Mountain set series, each book is easily read as a standalone without a broad continuing story arc (other than some weddings and babies for previously profiled couples). As a fellow Canadian, I appreciate that the author has centered her series in Western Canada, where she also lives. While her characters are fictional, it wouldn’t surprise me if some of them have a foothold in reality. The Coleman extended family is the backbone of the series, and this particular story is all about Rafe Coleman, one of the so-called ‘Angel Colemans’ ; though being the most likely to get into trouble, Rafe was always thought of as a little devil. So it’s only natural that he’d be paired up with preacher’s daughter Laurel Sitko in this delightful and heartwarming friends-to-lovers romance.
Rafe and Laurel have been friends since she and her family moved to Rocky Mountain House when she was in kindergarten. From their first meeting, it was clear they were kindred spirits and they got into enough scrapes over their school years to cement their bond. When Laurel went off to Bible College for three years, Rafe couldn’t wait for her to return. They’d fooled around a little bit on graduation night but had an understanding that while separated – if the right person came along, they wouldn’t hold themselves back from a relationship. Laurel’s return and subsequent job at the library (and more importantly her single status) is all the impetus Rafe needs to start his slow and steady seduction to show Laurel that their relationship is ready to move onto the next stage. But Laurel has some baggage from her years away that she isn’t sure she’s ready to share. And even though Rafe knows he wants things to proceed with Laurel, his own family upbringing makes him hesitate to promise more than just right now. Can the move from friends-to-lovers also mean a chance at forever?
There are a few things in this story that stand out, resulting in a memorable read. One of these is the treatment of religion. Now, this isn’t an inspirational romance by any means. There are enough sex scenes to dispel that notion. But as a small town romance, the faith life of the community can’t be ignored like it can be in a big city romance – especially with the heroine being the pastor’s daughter (and yes, there is a Footloose reference in the story). But unlike that movie, Laurel has a very good relationship with her parents. They are the type of pastor and wife that you’d want to have in your community – caring and thoughtful people. Laurel’s experience in Bible College included a failed relationship with a young man, Jeff Lawson, one of the consequences of which resulted in her leaving the college early and going to a different school. Her faith is in question and that’s part of her journey in this story, finding her spiritual path again after circumstances have caused her to have doubts. I think the topic is treated in a realistic manner and is important to understanding Laurel’s character and her life choices.
The conflict in the novel comes from a surprising source. Jeff has come to Rocky Mountain House to consider a position at Laurel’s father’s church. In his mind, his breakup with her was temporary, and he’s keen to have her back in his life. It’s the opposite of Laurel’s experience. She doesn’t want anything more to do with him. Her parents, knowing nothing of what happened in bible college think he’d be a good match for her, a more appropriate one than Rafe (though they don’t say that outright). Rafe knows he’ll never be the perfect match for Laurel in her parents’ eyes, but he doesn’t give himself enough credit, and fortunately they are smart enough to see the good, solid man that he really is. Rafe’s relationship with Laurel’s parents is part and parcel of his relationship with her and the scenes with him on his best behavior are gently amusing.
Rafe knows some of what happened between Laurel and Jeff, but not all. His confrontations with Jeff are polite but edged with the knowledge that Rafe isn’t going to let Laurel go without a fight. However some of what Jeff says to Rafe about who would be better suited as a marriage partner for Laurel hits its mark. Rafe’s father Ben has become a bitter and angry old man since the death of Rafe’s younger brother, and while his mother puts up with it, it’s made Rafe’s relationship with his father very fractious. He worries that he’s got the hereditary makeup to become like his father and that what he and Laurel have now could go sour. This is what makes him go slowly with Laurel and not push for a future commitment, preferring to take things one day at a time. He takes his time on the bedroom front, wanting to take Laurel out on proper dates, and building up to a sexual relationship. This slow burn of sexual tension is deliciously crafted and it’s Laurel who finally pushes Rafe to give in to their mutual desires. Becoming lovers doesn’t change the strength of their friendship; it just adds another layer to their relationship. But soon Rafe realizes that he wants it all.
As the tenth book in a series, it’s expected that there will be multiple scenes involving other characters. The author manages to do this in a subtle way, not overwhelming the reader with a whole bunch of people all at once, but gradually showing some of the relationships Rafe has with his family in smoothly flowing scenes throughout the story. For those who have read previous books, it’s a welcome catching up of sorts with old friends. For new readers, it’s enough of a taster to want to find out more. Plus, like any good series, there are some hints of what’s to come next. Rafe’s brother Gabe and sister-in-law Allison play a fairly prominent role (as do both sets of parents) and for Laurel it’s a boon to have some of Rafe’s family treat her as such, too. I like this family – they are not perfect and are a good reflection of the ups and downs of normal familial relationships. There is also a handy family tree at the start of the story to see where everyone fits in. Rocky Mountain Devil is a lighthearted read with its fair share of emotional moments, put together with a dash of Canadian country charm and starring a sexy couple destined to have a happy future together.