Jack Mercy had been a bastard in life. Three wives, two divorces (the third wife died before he could divorce her), and three daughters (each with a different wife), two of whom he’d discarded (along with their mothers) because they weren’t boys, while he couldn’t really get rid of the third because of her dead mother. Yet he never treated Willa Mercy like a daughter, but more of a nuisance, never showing her the ropes, slapping her both figuratively and literally.
And now, after his death, he’s delivered the ultimate slap. The ranch that is her home, where she grew up, that she considers her own, could easily be taken from her. Because Jack Mercy’s will dictates she and her two sisters (whom she’s never met) live on the ranch together for a year. Failure to do that results in the land being forfeited.
While she could manage that, it’s a large house and even larger land, to not have the two women underfoot, her dead father has named two overseers for the one-year period. Two neighboring ranchers, his lawyer and the owner of the second largest ranch in the county, Ben McKinnon, the bane of Willa existence.
But as soon as the three women start living under the same roof and Willa just might tolerate Ben McKinnon enough not to punch him, something dark and twisted is stirring on the land, bringing with it heartbreak and death.
Wow. That’s the first thing I thought after reading this book. Just wow.
I loved the characters. The three sisters, so different, yet somehow so similar. I loved how their relationship progressed and grew throughout the year they spent together on the ranch, how they got to know each other, admire each other, respect and love each other. And I loved how each of them changed during that year, throughout the seasons. Some mellowed, some grew a backbone, but inexorably each of them ended up where she was supposed to end up.
I’d like to say no, that they had no correlation with the change in the three sisters, but yes, the boys helped as well. Adam, Nate, and Ben were also instrumental in the changes in their women, and in Ben’s case, Willa helped in changing him (for the better as well).
I loved these three guys. Steady, resilient, protective, they were the metaphorical rocks sheltering the girls from the storm, offering support, offering friendship, and offering their love. Adam helped Lily in overcoming her insecurities and her fears, Nate helped Tess smooth out some of the rough edges, and Ben and Willa, well, everything.
I know this was supposed to be the story of three sisters finding their way together, finding love in the heart of Montana, but for me, this was the story of Willa. She was Mercy ranch, she was the one who brought it all together, she was the one who held it all together, and she was the one who ended the nightmare. But she wasn’t alone, there was Ben, right beside her through it all.
They circled each other, wary of traps, determined to keep it light, keep it friendly, but you know what they say about the best-laid plans. ;) These two had no hope whatsoever in keeping it light, and as similar in disposition as they were, it was a pleasure reading about the growth and change of their characters romance-wise.
And what a wonderful romance this was. Fun and light in the beginning, slowly morphing into a hot affair, and finally into a (reluctant) acceptance of their deeper feelings. Ms Roberts doesn’t do explicit scenes, but that’s what makes them more potent in my eyes. The words are there, the descriptions are there, painting the picture, but she doesn’t tell it all, she shows the basics and leaves it up to the reader (at least this particular reader and her imagination) to do the rest. I find her sex scenes very sensual and hot in their “simplicity”, and it doesn’t get more sensual or hotter than the scenes between Willa and Ben. To me, theirs were the sexiest, hottest love scenes so far. Slow and sexy, or fast, hard and sweaty, there was just the right vibe, just the right feel...They were just right, and they never put either of them out of character. It was always Willa and Ben. Either dressed or burning up the sheets, they threw off the same amount of spark.
And I loved how they stayed “in character” throughout the end as well. No mushiness, no sappiness, even in that last scene, their characters, their nature shone through.
I liked all three romances, but these two were my favorite couple (since also receiving most of “screen time”).
The suspense provided a nice balance to the romance. They weren’t sidelined, but “walked hand in hand” throughout the story, complimenting each other, perfectly balanced. Dark and light, good and evil, love and hate. Yin and yang.
The suspense aspect was incredibly well-written, twist-y and turn-y, offering scarcely and clues as to the identity of the knife-happy villain. The intensity was slowly rising from the first incidents, climbing to a fever pitch in the last confrontation, the feel of lurking danger was ever-present with the added benefit of a possible second villain, the motive was as elusive as the identity...And although it all happened rather quickly in the end, I never got the feeling it was rushed or easy, since the pacing of it all was rather frenzied at that point.
Suspense of the highest order indeed.
What I also loved about this story, what Ms Roberts is master of, were the vivid descriptions of the ranch, life on it, and its surroundings. I could see the Montana as it was described, the fields, the pastures, the forests, and high country. I could see men running wire, herding cattle, training horses...It was like I was there. Picturesque, vivid, and peaceful.
And then evil trickled in, and that peace was shattered, and the storm brew anew.
Wonderful writing and characters, spot-on pacing, intense suspense...Loved it.