The Sheriff's Surrender
I’ve read some opinions about this book that are not complimentary, opinions that roundly condemn the hero Reese Barnett for being a cruel jerk and not at all a hero. I have also seen many laments on bulletin boards that decry cookie cutter plots and same old characters being used over and over again. The Sheriff’s Surrender is a not a cookie-cutter romance. It is different and often uncomfortable to read. But it is a book that made me think. The disagreements between Reese and Neely Madison were not silly tiffs, or Big Misunderstandings. They were differences about fundamental principles of law and justice. And yet despite all the storm, and tears The Sheriff’s Surrender was ultimately an affirmation of the immense strength of love. And I liked it very much.
Ten years ago, Reese Barnett was a deputy in Thomasville, Kansas. Neely Madison was a defense attorney there. They were in the midst of a passionate affair. Reese became friends with a waitress, Judy who showed signs of abuse. Reese tried to get her to leave or press charges against her husband, Leon. Judy did nothing until one day he beat her so bad she wanted to leave him and the town. Reese persuaded her to stay and press charges, swearing that he would defend her. The deputies botched the arrest, beating up Leon and not reading him his rights. The judge had no choice but to let him go. Leon’s defense attorney was Neely. Outside the courthouse, Leon pulled a gun and killed Judy and in the meele, one of the deputies deliberately shot Neely. Reese, torn with guilt since he had promised to keep Judy safe, walked away from Neely.
Since then, Reese has become the sheriff in Heartbreak, Oklahoma. Neely also left and became a prosecutor in Kansas City. A criminal named Forbes has graduated from death threats to attempts on her life and after the second one almost succeeds, Reese’s cousin Jace, the sheriff where Neely lives brings her to Heartbreak for safety.
Neither Reece nor Neely are happy with the situation. There is baggage between them – lots of baggage, bad blood and years of hurt. It all comes out in dialogue that is painful to read. Painful, but honest. Reese is in denial that one of his fellow deputies tried to kill Neely. He confronts her about defending known criminals. She lets him have it with the principle that all deserve representation. But Leon was guilty. But Reece’s deputies botched the arrest. And so on, and so on. Their fights/discussions are not at all the stuff of silly romantic tiffs, and they cause Neely, Reese and the reader to think.
Neely and Reese had been deeply, passionately in love. Only those who had loved as deeply as they had could be hurt as deeply as they were and still are. Neither Reese nor Neely have been celibate during the time they were apart, but with all the searching for love they had both done, they were always conscious of a missing piece. Of course the missing piece for Reese was Neely and for Neely it was Reese, but it is not till they meet again and get all the anger and hurt out that they can acknowledge this.
Don’t read this if you only like sweet stories and shy away from strong emotions. Reese and Neely are strong, they are sometimes cruel to each other, but they are not, I repeat not jerks. I understood them even as I winced at some of what they said to each other. But in the end, all the stress they went through made the happy ending that much more satisfying.
I know that The Sheriff’s Surrender is a controversial book and there will be those who will hate it. As much as I despise the alpha heel hero, I could not think of Reese as one, he was too complex a character for that. If you do not mind some strong scenes and yearn for a book that is anything but an ordinary series romance, pick up The Sheriff’s Surrender, it is not a book I will forget soon.