Carlin Reed lives in fear, off the grid, moving from place to place. So Battle Ridge, Wyoming, a small town in the middle of nowhere, seems like a good place to lie low for a while. But after becoming cook and housekeeper to cattle rancher Zeke Decker, Carlin suspects that she’s made her first mistake. Rugged, sexy, and too distracting for his own good, Zeke is pure temptation mixed with something deep and primal that makes Carlin feel almost safe. Soon things are getting way too hot in the kitchen.
Zeke doesn’t challenge Carlin’s terms: cash, dead bolts, and no questions. It is easy to see that she’s a woman in trouble. Problem is, he’s so blindsided by his attraction to her he can’t think straight. Zeke tries to stay all business, no complications-but that game plan is sabotaged the second Carlin gets under his skin. And when her terrifying past follows her to the ranch, Carlin faces a heartbreaking choice: run away from the man she loves, or put him in the crosshairs of a madman.
Linda Howard can be a little hit-and-miss for me. Some of her work (mostly her older stuff) has been responsible for me making good book noise, but some more recent work has made me want to scream. I was willing to put myself forward to read this because of those previous moments of good book noise. I’m glad I did, because I really enjoyed it.
You can sense almost from the get-go the extent of Carlin’s fear. You just know that she is running from something genuinely terrifying and that her life could very well be in further danger. The Lindas have done an excellent job in portraying this aspect of the story – I read a book recently with a heroine who was being targeted by a dangerous person and all she could do was bitch and moan about the fact the hero didn’t call her from the middle of a warzone. That really gave me the sh*ts.
Another really pleasing aspect of the story was Zeke and how he dealt initially with Carlin’s need for security. Despite the obvious isolation of his property and not knowing all of her backstory, he was still sensitive to her need to be secure and safe in her new environment. Even when he does find out the full truth, Zeke still has Carlin’s safety foremost in his mind.
There is a fairly obvious instant attraction between the two of them. Before they do give in (and hey, it wouldn’t be a romance if they didn’t), they both fight their desire for each other, sniping at each other to conceal their real feelings.
The suspense of not knowing when and where her stalker might strike next was well done too. All in all, the Lindas have proven themselves with this book to be a pretty good writing combination. I did have a small issue with the length of the prologue (a little long for my tastes), but in the scheme of things, it was OK – it helps set up the story.
I am really looking forward to reading the subsequent books in this series. I tell you if Kat (Zeke’s cousin and the cafe owner who first employs Carlin) isn’t the heroine in one of them, I will eat my hat.
My rating: 4 out of 5
Release Date: 27 November 2012
Note: I was provided with an advanced reader copy of this book by Ballantine Books, an imprint of Random House Publishing Group via NetGalley in return for an honest review.