Book Review: Running Wild: The Men from Battle Ridge (Romantic Suspense/ Western)
By Linda Howard and Linda Jones
Genre: Romantic Suspense, Western
Publisher: Ballantine Books (November 27, 2012)
We're in present day Texas. Carlin Reed flees her homicidal stalker. He kills Carlin's colleague, mistaking the woman for Carlin. Carlin eventually ending up in Battle Ridge, a small town in Wyoming.
Although she's tired of running, Carlin knows that she must be wary. Her stalker, Brad, is a cop with "hacker"-level computer skills. If he finds her, he'll kill her. She doesn't know what else to do, except run.
Kat, the owner of the Pie Hole eatery in Battle Ridge, hires Carlin, and gives her a place to stay. Zeke Decker is Kat's cousin. He owns a ranch an hour out of town, and needs a cook and housekeeper. Kat recommends Carlin, because she won't be able to keep Carlin on over the winter. However, Carlin overhears Zeke referring to her as a "stray", which makes her angry.
Of course, Carlin ends up at the ranch. We watch as she and Zeke use sharp banter to cover their intense attraction. Carlin settles in at the ranch. She agrees to stay over the winter, because she's running out of money.
Eventually of course, Brad comes for Carlin.
What I liked about the story
* I liked both Carlin and Zeke. Both are strong characters, with kindness at their core. Several scenes were wonderful: Carlin's terror when she thinks she sees Brad in the supermarket; her culinary disasters; Zeke teaching her how to shoot. I also liked the setting: you could feel the cold winter, and the wide open spaces.
* Zeke was all alpha male; Carlin was likable. It took them a little too long to meet. The book's initial setup scenes, between Zeke and his housekeeper Libby, and Brad stalking Carlin, took too long. However, I read the book in one sitting, and kept turning the pages with real interest;
* Humor -- the banter, and the dialogue in general, was terrific.
What I didn't like
* The "hacker" skills weren't credible, but this didn't spoil my enjoyment of the story;
* There was too much thinking. After every scene, Carlin or Deke, depending on the point of view character, would stop and think. This stopped the story dead, pardon the pun;
* As with many romantic suspense novels, the book had something of a split personality. There wasn't a lot of real suspense, and the romance could have used a little more intensity.
Quibbles aside however, I'm looking forward to reading much more about Battle Ridge. I'm a sucker for small town stories.
Rating 4 Stars (out of 5.)
Disclaimer: I was provided with a review copy.