After being sidelined by a career-ending injury while bull-riding, former rodeo star Chet Cozart took up ranching beside his in-laws. When his beloved wife died in childbirth, he also became a single father to a daughter, who is now five-year-old. He's struggled to put his wife's memory behind him and move on, but when he meets the new veterinarian in town, one of his wife's former friends, he's finally tempted to get back into the dating game. But when her life is threatened will he lose her, too?
After her sheriff father tragically died in her arms, when responding to a botched bank robbery, Sky Allen decided to return to her roots in Montana. Now a dedicated veterinarian, she's built a nice practice on the land that her father used to own and is happy living there. When she meets Chet at a local store, at first Sky is off-put by his high-handed manner. But as she gets to know him, she finds herself falling in love with him. After rescuing a pair of wolf pups whose mother was killed for bounty, she also finds herself the object of a mysterious man who makes dire threats against her and those she loves in an attempt to scare her into giving up the pups. But Sky doesn't scare easily. However, after losing her father, she refuses to put Chet in danger, too, but it may mean giving him up in order to keep him safe, something he's not so keen on allowing to happen.
Montana Sky is the second of these little Heartsong Presents romances that I've read in a row. Although not perfect, this one was much better than the previous one. It tells the story of a kind veterinarian who rescues two hybrid wolf pups whose mother was shot and killed for bounty. She's paired with a former rodeo star turned rancher who isn't too pleased with her keeping the pups, but is determined to protect her from the mysterious man who's been threatening her over them. For some reason, when I first picked this book out, I thought it was a historical (maybe it was something about the cover or the western theme), but it isn't. It's a contemporary with just enough of a suspense element for me to categorize it as romantic suspense. Overall, I did enjoy the book, but I thought it had some weaknesses, which I'll be addressing as I go.
Sky was born in Montana, but moved to Atlanta with her parents, which is where she grew up. After losing her father, who was a sheriff, in a bank robbery gone bad, she decided to move back to her roots. She's started a small, successful veterinary practice on the land that her father used to own in Big Sky Country. Sky loves the outdoors and when she's out hiking one day, she witnesses a mother wolf being shot. Realizing the two cubs are still too little to make it on their own, she risks life and limb to scoop them up and make a run for it. Back at her ranch, she sets out to care for them until they're old enough to be released back into the wild. But local ranchers have a bounty out on the wolves, and Sky begins to receive threatening notes and phone calls. Enter Chet Cozart, one of those ranchers. After learning that his father-in-law was one of the people sponsoring the wolf bounty, she's a bit suspicious of him, but he gradually wins her over and charms his way into her heart. I liked Sky's spirited, independent nature. She's definitely a force to be reckoned with and refuses to let anyone scare her away from her mission. I understood her reluctance to involve Chet or her friend, Dale, in her problems, out of fear for their lives, but I never quite figured out her refusal to involve law enforcement, especially after someone set fire to her clinic. Even then, she was insistent on handling the matter herself, which seemed foolhardy to me. So while I liked Sky and thought she was a good heroine, I felt like she took her independent streak just a tad too far.
Chet was a rodeo star for a hot minute until an injury sidelined his career. At that point, he hung up his spurs, married one of Sky's good friends, and went into the ranching business with his father-in-law. Unfortunately his wife died in childbirth, leaving him a single father to a now-five-year-old girl. Chet is rather taken by Sky's spiritedness from the moment he meets her and goes to visit her at her ranch. He figures out pretty quickly that she's hiding the wolf cubs there and isn't too pleased about it. However, when he finds out that someone is threatening her, he wants to keep her safe, although she doesn't really let him. We get very little of the narrative from Chet's POV, so I don't feel like I got to know him as well as I did Sky. He seemed like a good guy, but I felt like there were some contradictions in his character. For all his niceness and attraction to Sky's independence, he can still be a tad chauvinistic at times. He mentions at least two or three times that he's part Native American (I believe it was either his grandmother or great-grandmother who was Cheyenne), but I honestly didn't know what the point was of bringing this up as it didn't play any real part in the story. In fact, normally, Native Americans have a strong reverence for nature, but Chet wasn't really interested in helping Sky keep the wolf pups safe, only in keeping her safe. Then there was the fact that it was his own father-in-law who'd put up the bounty on the wolves and was in part responsible for the situation Sky was in. You'd think Chet would have some pull with his kin and that getting the bounty dropped would be the quickest way to ensure Sky's safety, but he refused to confront his father-in-law, which didn't make a lot of sense. So, while most of the time, I liked Chet, there were some red flags in his character that kept me from truly loving him.
For such a short book, Montana Sky was a pretty good story. It had decent character and plot development for a story of this length. However, where things started getting confusing is when the suspense element suddenly shifted from a focus on the wolf bounty to a developer pulling the strings behind the scenes. This all seemed very abrupt and I felt like I was missing something. I'm not sure if passages were edited out and then the story wasn't smoothed out around it or what, but it did disorient me. I also wasn't sure how I felt about Sky and Chet handling things all on their own, because they technically ended up breaking the law in order to get evidence on the bad guy. But then the villain never did get arrested or genuinely taken to task for anything he'd done, so this part of the story was a little unsatisfying. On the upside, the relationship was fairly well done with a decent emotional connection between Sky and Chet, and a touch of sexual tension, which I don't often see in inspirational romance. The story also wasn't preachy like a lot of inspirationals. It only had some prayer and a few scripture references, which was a plus as well, and should make it more accessible to believers of all stripes or perhaps even non-believers. Overall, I enjoyed Montana Sky in spite of its weaknesses. This was my first read by the rather prolific Loree Lough, and I found it to be good enough to make me interested in reading more of her work.
The Hope Chest Reviews on Facebook