Desert Isle Keeper
Tall, Dark, and Cowboy
I’m not much on beta heroes, mostly because they often turn out so wimpy that it’s hard to imagine any strong woman liking them, much less loving them. That’s why I was surprised and impressed with Joanne Kennedy’s hero in this book—he’s beta, but he’s wonderful.
Trophy wife and former cheerleader Lacey Bradford discovers that her older husband has been a crook all his life. Now that he’s skipped town and Wade Simpson, his partner in crime, is threatening her unless she tells him where her husband is, she’s definitely got to leave town. But where can she go? She’s never been on her own before, having gone from high school to marriage without a stop.
She remembers the best part of high school, Chase Caldwell, the shy boy in love with animals and farms who always seemed to be around to help her when she needed it. Using Facebook, she locates Chase in a small Wyoming town. Getting in her old Mustang instead of one of her husband’s fancy cars, she decides to go see him, not necessarily for his help, but if he extends it, she won’t be against accepting it.
But the Chase she remembers isn’t the Chase she finds. Today’s Chase is a rancher who also owns a used car lot in a broken down little town. His single-mother and sister Pam is a waitress in the town’s café. Oh, yes, and Chase, who secretly loved Lacey until she kissed him and then broke his heart by getting engaged the next day, hates her.
Finally forced to stand on her own amid the crisis of her disintegrating marriage and Wade’s malicious pursuit, Lacey must decide who she is and what she really wants. Here is where Kennedy’s book really shines. Although Lacey accepts Chase’s help and they become closer romantically, Lacey actually makes decisions about her life and courses of action she is committed to take. While getting together with Chase sounds wonderful, she realizes that she’s let her father and her husband make all her choices in the past and won’t be doing that in the future.
It’s only through compromise that she and Chase will have a chance of happiness together. And Kennedy not only makes Lacey strong enough to change, but portrays Chase as the kind of man who encourages her to do so. Chase’s laid-back style and beta personality don’t demand but ably abet Lacey every step of the way.
What could have been a predictable, easy-going romance here has a bite to it as Lacey and Chase must honestly deal with their relationship, and Pam and her daughter must face the reality of the open-hearted waitress’ affair with a mysterious chef. Also adding depth to the novel is the subplot of a bitter, pugnacious rancher, one of Chase’s neighbors, who lost his son and unfairly faults Chase for his misery.
Ever since her wonderful One Fine Cowboy, Kennedy has been an author to watch, and this book just adds to her string of hits.