Stranger on the Mountain
There’s a legend about Eskway Mountain. It’s said that the descendants of an Indian princess will not find true love until the mountain lion comes back to the mountain. Years ago, the large cat was driven away by hunters and has never returned – until now. Will the descendants of the princess, the Wiltons, find true love now? Or is the whole thing just a sill superstition that Dawn Perry’s grandfather, Amos Wilton made up? This is the basis for Linda Johnston’s Stranger on the Mountain.
When the story begins, Dawn’s grandfather is missing so Dawn has the town sheriff organize a search party. Among the searchers is Jonah Campion, an ex-con who is trying to make a new life for himself after prison. Dawn, much to her dismay, is teamed up to search with Jonah. Dawn is a lawyer and Jonah has no love of lawyers since he went to prison for a crime he didn’t commit. The two irritate each other but feel a mutual attraction anyway. During the search, Jonah runs into the mountain lion. Dawn doesn’t believe this, thinking he’s mistaken, until they find her grandfather who says he also seen the mountain lion.
The mountain lion, and what should be done with it, becomes a major focus of the story, sometimes even overshadowing the romance. To Jonah, the mountain lion represents freedom and he believes that it should stay free, no matter what. Dawn is intent on saving the lion, any way she can, even if it means capturing it and having it live in captivity at The Haven, the wild animal shelter her grandfather runs, until it can safely be reintroduced into the wild. Their differing opinions are a huge impediment to the growing romance between Dawn and Jonah. While Dawn completely understands Jonah’s point of view, her first thought is for the safety of the cat. For Jonah, there are no shades of gray.
The mountain lion’s future seems to be ripping the town apart. Many people want to see it killed, while there are a few who want to save it. Dawn’s grandfather believes in the legend and wants to save it but it seems that his beliefs are also costing him a romance with Lettie, who owns the town garage. Dawn comes to a decision that goes against her nature and may cause her to lose Jonah in the bargain.
Jonah is the epitome of the “chip on his shoulder hero” – with good reason. He is drawn to Dawn and begins to imagine having a life with her. Still, he has problems with her profession and their differences over the mountain lion. While Dawn does mistrust him in the beginning, she wants to hear why he went to prison. When presented with the story, she believes him wholeheartedly. While their relationship is described as antagonistic I felt that part of the story fell a little flat. I found them both likable in a general sense, but I didn’t feel any connection with them as characters. They were pleasant, but that’s all. I didn’t feel we really got to know them, especially Dawn.
To be honest, I was more interested in finding out what happened to the mountain lion than what happened with the romances in the story. The book was a pleasant enough read, but I really didn’t connect with the book or with the characters. Stranger on the Mountain may work as a treatise on ecology, but as a romance it was somewhat lacking.