Christy Manning came to Cougar Point to help her sister, Taylor, through the birth of her first child, but she didn't expect the passionate feelings that were stirred up by Cody Franklin, the local sheriff and her brother-in-law's best friend. From the moment they meet, Cody and Christy's chemistry is undeniable. The only problem is Christy's engaged to another man. Not wanting to break off the relationship over the phone, Christy returns to Seattle with a promise to Cody that she'll take care of things as soon as she arrives, but she's a soft-hearted person who can't bear to hurt someone else's feelings even if it means sacrificing her own happiness. One thing after another keeps happening to prevent her from revealing the truth to her fiancé and parents, until before she knows it, the situation has gotten horribly out of control. Cody refuses to give up the woman who's stolen his heart, but can he find a way to fix the mess that Christy has gotten them into before it's too late?
The Sheriff Takes a Wife is the second book I've read by Debbie Macomber and the second in The Manning Sisters duet. I liked it quite a bit more than the first book of the series. It is a very sweet story, but it contains some elements that I know won't be very popular with many modern romance readers. Therefore, I know it won't work for everyone, but it worked pretty well for me. In fact, after getting off to a rocky start with this author, The Sheriff Takes a Wife has restored my belief that Debbie Macomber can write the kind of stories that I will enjoy.
Christy was a wonderful sister to come all the way from Seattle to the backwoods of Montana to help her sister, Taylor, who is about to give birth to her first child. That's not too surprising though, because Christy is nice to everyone, perhaps a little too nice. She's the consummate 'good girl' who always did what her parents asked of her and never gave them a moment's trouble or worry. She's newly engaged to James, an attorney in the law firm where she works, but the moment she meets Cody, there's an instant spark of chemistry that makes her realize that she never truly loved James and only accepted his proposal because he was a comfortable choice of whom her parents approved. Unfortunately though, Christy is the ultimate people pleaser who doesn't like to rock the boat and can't bear to do anything that might upset someone else even if it means giving up her own happiness, but in the process, she not only hurt herself but ended up hurting Cody too with her wishy-washy way of handling things. At first, she doesn't want to break-up with James over the phone which was completely understandable. She promised Cody she'd end the engagement and tell her parents about them as soon as she got back to Seattle, but she returns to a surprise engagement party that her mom went to great lengths to plan and her fiancé embroiled in a court case that could make or break his career. A part of me understood why she didn't want to break up with James immediately and tell her parents that the engagement was off, but another part of me felt like she was kind of allowing them to railroad her into it. Of course, the more she allows them to do without telling them the truth, the deeper she buries herself in a horrible mess. There was one point where she decided that she couldn't tell them even if it meant losing Cody, and that really started to call into question in my mind whether she loved Cody enough to make their relationship work. Quite frankly, if Cody hadn't saved the day, I'm not entirely convinced that Christy would have ever broken off her engagement. Like Cody said, if something didn't happen to stop the madness, she'd eventually have ended up married to James and have no idea how she got there, and on some level, I had to agree with him. For that reason, I didn't 100% respect Christy even though I understood how difficult it was for her to disappoint someone else.
Based on the one date Cody had with Taylor in The Cowboy's Lady, I already knew I liked him. Even though he's best friends with Russ, the hero of that story who I could barely stand, Cody is definitely not the pig-headed, chauvinistic man that his friend is, for which I was truly grateful. In fact, Cody is a sweet beta hero, because no alpha would have ever stood for all the stuff that Christy put him through. Cody was badly hurt by an ex-girlfriend who turned out to be nothing but a con-artist, and although he wants to be upset with Christy for not initially telling him the truth about being engaged and then not keeping her promise to break things off, he understands her and sees the good in her. In fact, her sweetness and kindness toward others was part of what drew him to her in the first place. Eventually, Cody found a touch of alpha possessiveness and went after Christy to save her from herself and her well-meaning but overbearing family. Without him doing this, I'm not sure they ever would have succeeded as a couple, because Christy just couldn't seem to say 'no' even though it was tearing her apart to be in love with one man and engaged to another. Cody was a good, honest, honorable man who fell head over heels, madly in love with Christy at first sight and couldn't let her go no matter what lengths he had to go to. As a result, I couldn't help but fall for him.
As a couple, Cody and Christy started out by bonding over the birth of her sister's baby. Their attraction to one another is immediate and palpable. Normally, I'm not a big fan of love at first sight, but somehow Ms. Macomber made me really sense Cody and Christy's burgeoning feelings for one another and made me believe they belonged together in spite of her being engaged to another man. They're like a couple of teenagers who can't seem to keep their hands off each other or stop kissing which was really cute. I thought it was very romantic how Cody followed Christy part way out of town when she left Cougar Point, and pulled her over with his sheriff's car to say goodbye one more time before following her the rest of the way to the county line. These two could hardly bear to be apart from one another and that was really sweet. Considering that this is a pretty short book, having them apart for even a short amount of time was difficult, because it didn't leave a lot of time for relationship development. However, the author made excellent use of the time they did have together to show just how crazy in love with each other they are.
The only downside to this story other than Christy's seeming inability to stand up for herself was the whole love triangle aspect. This is something I typically have a hard time with, especially when the third wheel isn't a jerk. Both Christy and Taylor repeatedly talk about how nice James is, although Taylor contends that he's boring and not right for Christy. This is somewhat apparent in the fact that he seems to be a workaholic who lacks the sort of passion and ability to express his feelings that Cody displays, but underneath it all, he was a good man who got left out in the cold which is something I always hate to see. Otherwise, The Sheriff Takes a Wife is a really sweet enjoyable story. The madcap race to get Taylor to the hospital to have the baby was a fun way to start the book, and Taylor and Russ play pretty significant roles. Russ still had a tendency to rub me the wrong way, but I liked that Taylor put him in his place when he needed it.;-) We're also introduced to Taylor and Christy's three brothers, Rich, Paul, and Jason who get their own stories in the spin-off series, Those Manning Men. Rich is up first in the opening book of that series, Marriage of Inconvenience, and now that I've had a much better experience with Debbie Macomber this time, I'm very much looking forward to reading that book soon. The Sheriff Takes a Wife was originally published as a stand-alone novel in the Silhouette Special Edition line, and was later republished in the single-author anthology The Manning Sisters along with it's companion book in the series.
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