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Review: An Outlaws Christmas/McKettricks Luck by Linda Lael Miller

An Outlaws Christmas by Linda Lael Miller Review: An Outlaws Christmas/McKettricks Luck by Linda Lael MillerMcKettricks Luck Review: An Outlaws Christmas/McKettricks Luck by Linda Lael Miller

My husband is starting to get a little bit disgruntled with the number of Linda Lael Miller books I read. (Cowboys again? Why do you want to read about men who are cows? he grumbled this time. What a wit he is.) But honestly, theres something so warm and cheery about Millers books, and returning to her work is a guaranteed pick-me-up. For me, shes the romance equivalent of Charles de Lint, who I read when Im after an easy-to-read fantasy novel full of friendly characters and low-stakes plots, or Haruki Murakami, whos my mainstream literature version of the same. Sometimes you just kind of want a book where nothing much happens.

Even so, Ive tried to stagger my Miller reading a little bit just so that you guys dont have to deal with a blog thats basically all cowboys, all the time (um, that said, I may have two more of these books coming up in the near future). Hence why Im reviewing'An Outlaws Christmas in February. But hey, this books a two-in-one, so on average Im reading in a seasonally appropriate manner.

Millers perhaps best known for her McKettrick family heroes and heroines, and although shes given us plenty of present-day romances involving the wealthy owners of the Triple M ranch, with her Christmas specials she tends to step back in time to the McKettrick great-grandparents. Her'previous McKettrick family Christmas special gave us the story of the impoverished Dara Rose and sheriff Clay and their marriage of convenience; this years brings us that of schoolteacher Piper St James (cousin to Dara Rose) and newly arrived marshall Sawyer McKettrick (cousin to Clay. Oh, the tidiness of these family trees!).

Things between the two start quite literally with a bang, as Sawyer is shot immediately upon his arrival in town. Piper finds him facedown in the snow and drags him into her humble shack to tend his wounds. But given the ultra-conservative small town setting, its not long before the news spreads about Pipers hosting a man in her single-bedroom home, and she fears that her reputation will be tarnished beyond repair. Sawyer apparently feels the same, so wham, we have our marriage of convenience (from memory, a similar thing happens in the previous Christmas special). But although the two are determined to pretend that their marriage is nothing more than The Right Thing To Do, theres no denying the attraction between them. Cue the Barry White music and Sawyer teaching Piper his worldly bedroom ways (yep, Piper might be a blushing, never-been-kissed virgin, but Sawyer knows whats up).

I have to admit that Im not a huge fan of the marriage-first-love-later trope, and here I didnt quite buy the reasoning behind it. But then, perhaps its because I wasnt raised in a country with puritan origins, so I dont quite grok the true nature of the scandal here. Even so, I enjoyed the simple, sweet romance between Piper and Sawyer, and the general goodheartedness of the stories that people these pages (but a warning for those of you who, like me, are tired of precocious children called Maddie: theres one in this book!). Also props for Pipers sentiments about guns: these were modern times, for heavens sake, and they were not the Old West but the new one. Indeed.

McKettricks Luck is the second of the two stories bundled into this volume, and though set in the present day, theres some thematic overlap with the presence of random blow-ins toting guns and trying to off the heroin this case Jesse McKettrick, a party-boy whos turned his back on the McKettrick business empire in order to play pro poker. (And if his five million in winnings is any indication, hes pretty good at it, too). Apparently back-room high-stakes poker in small-town Arizona is not a way to make friends. Whodve thought?

Anyway, Jesse might have a great poker face when its game-on, but theres one person whos bringing out all of his tells, and thats Cheyenne Bridges (despite the name shes not a bridge player, unfortunately, just another poker-playin lass). A would-be property mogul whos worked her way up from nothing, Cheyennes back in town with dollar signs in her eyes: her boss has told her that if she doesnt manage to buy up Jesses portion of the McKettrick property, Cheyenne will be out of a job. And with a paraplegic brother and a struggling mother to look after, Cheyenne really needs that cash.

Though a slim read coming in at just over two hundred pages,'McKettricks Luck is filled with all of the stuff you expect from a Miller novel: greasy diner food, horse rides across huge properties, good-natured teasing between family members, terrible fashion and hilarious names. (I suppose that after a hundred or so novels it must be tough to avoid repeating names without resorting to the outlandish. Also, side-note: there are pregnant women everywhere in these books. Marriage, then'wham, baby nine months later.)

Though I enjoyed the tension between Cheyenne and Jesse, I wasnt quite on board with the plot involving Cheyennes sleazy boss and the subsequent decisions that she makes about her workI didnt feel that the motivation was quite there, and that a lot of time was spent using other characters to try to force Cheyennes hand in a decision that I didnt really feel that shed ever make in the first place. The machinations around, for example, Cheyennes boss and Jesses former fling (sorry for the ambiguity, but Im trying to avoid spoilers for those who care about such things) felt a little like retrospective, fill-in-the-gaps plotting to me.

I did enjoy, however, the subplot involving Cheyennes younger brother, which reminded me a lot of a similar subplot in'Forever and a Day by Jill Shalvis, and watching Cheyenne slowly begin to see her brother not as a disabled person, but as a person full-stop. Theres some growth in Cheyennes relationship with her mother as well, which I thought was quite nicely handled given the books short length. In addition to the plots revolving around the main characters, Miller also gives us little snippets of town and family life that help round things out and will no doubt be picked up in subsequent volumes: the ghost sightings, for example, were a fun little inclusion. Bonus points for the horse called Ponyboy (presumably after the protagonist in SE Hintons'The Outsiders) and the business with the McKettrick woman keeping their names when they marry. Finally, heroines after my own heart!

In all, this is a warm and cheery volume, and a nice addition to growing my Linda Lael Miller library.

Rating: star Review: An Outlaws Christmas/McKettricks Luck by Linda Lael Millerstar Review: An Outlaws Christmas/McKettricks Luck by Linda Lael Millerstar Review: An Outlaws Christmas/McKettricks Luck by Linda Lael Millerblankstar Review: An Outlaws Christmas/McKettricks Luck by Linda Lael Millerblankstar Review: An Outlaws Christmas/McKettricks Luck by Linda Lael Miller (good)

With thanks to Harlequin Australia for the review copy

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See our other Linda Lael Miller reviews

Other books by Linda Lael Miller:

Big Sky Country by Linda Lael Miller Review: An Outlaws Christmas/McKettricks Luck by Linda Lael Miller

Big Sky Mountain by Linda Lael Miller Review: An Outlaws Christmas/McKettricks Luck by Linda Lael Miller

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One comment

  1. Your husbands comment makes me giggle. I love having palate cleansing authors. They bring the joy back to reading after sloughing through some rather bad or uninteresting books.