The Love of a Lawman
The Love of a Lawman takes place in the same small Idaho town as The Love of a Stranger and The Love of a Cowboy did, but it stands alone. I loved the hero, but found the heroine exasperating – although I understood her well enough.
Isabelle Rondeau was always an outsider in Callister, Idaho. Her father was a belligerent drunk who beat her brother Paul. Paul dropped out of school and since then has been working some, drinking a lot and getting into trouble. As soon as she could, Isabelle ran off to Texas with her boyfriend, Billy Bledsoe. They had a daughter, Ava, but never married. Billy and Isabelle began a cutting horse training business and prospered. Isabelle is very good with horses and she did all the training while charming Billy schmoozed with the horse owners. But Billy liked the high life, with its drinks and drugs, and he left Isabelle for a rich blonde. Several years after she left, Isabelle’s father died, so when Billy left them, Isabelle and Ava moved back to the old Rondeau ranch in Callister with three horses that she hopes to use to begin a breeding business.
John Bradshaw was a few years younger than Isabelle, and always thought she was beautiful but she never gave him the time of day. He spent several years rodeoing, and that hard life cost him his marriage. He has no money, his wife has re-married and moved, he hardly sees his children, and he feels like a failure. John is the sheriff in Callister now, a job that pays very little, and he has lived like a monk for the past year. When Isabelle’s neighbor shoots her dog for chasing his sheep, she calls the sheriff and is surprised when John comes over. They meet several times, he offers to help her with her horses, and finally they can’t deny the attraction between them.
Both John and Isabelle are complex creatures. Both have been hurt and betrayed by their partners and are wary of commitment. Both have issues, he with his father and she with her reputation in the town, and both are inclined to beat themselves up for their pasts.
John was an easy character to like, since most of the time he acts pretty sensibly. Isabelle was harder to warm up to since her actions veered from sensible to stupid. For instance, she is short of money, but resists using her stallion as a stud since she would have to share the breeding fee with Billy. She doesn’t have the paperwork to make the stallion her sole property and doesn’t want to share any money with Billy because he didn’t like the stallion. This made no sense. Then later, Isabelle does something beyond stupid. She and John embark upon a passionate affair, and are always careful to use condoms. But at one point they have sex without protection. He is scared, since he is barely making enough money as it is and fears a pregnancy, but she goads him into another round of unprotected sex, blaming it on her inner slut. I never felt any sympathy toward her after that.
Isabelle does have some good qualities. She is a devoted mother, and really knows the horse business. Her big blind spot is her brother Paul, a bad piece of work all around – he’s not only estranged from his family but is an alcoholic constantly getting into fights. But Isabelle stubbornly insists he is a good man even when he cuts John in a fight, and then later is a suspect in the murder of a game warden. The author provides enough information for the reader to understand why Isabelle is so protective of her brother, but still, she just doesn’t think clearly when it comes to him.
For most of the book, it’s a character study filled with internal conflict, and I was enjoying it very much, but about two thirds through, the author introduces a murder and that sub-plot caused the book to zoom out of control, after which every single problem is solved by a wave of the deus-ex-romantica wand. I love happy endings as much as the next romance fan, but this was too much too fast.
There are times I have wished that a book was longer. This is one book I wish had been shorter. If the author had concentrated on the internal conflict and not tried to tack on a murder, I think it would have been much better. As it is, John Bradshaw is a wonderful hero, Ava was a great child character and the love scenes were hot and really passionate. The Love of a Lawman was good enough for the first two thirds, to end up as only a slightly better than average read.