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My Need to Read

I love to explore genre fiction, and while I usually go for books with a romantic thread running through it, I just love great character and world building. And since I can hardly stand to let go of my favorite characters, I like series.

Big Sky Country - Linda Lael Miller (Originally posted at Book Lovers Inc:)Nailing down the core of this book was a bit of a toughie for me. Big Sky Country has much to say about coming to terms with (and ultimately and taking control of) one’s lot in life. Main character Slade Barstow has to deal with both his role as a newly legitimized son and a reintroduction into his former step-daughter’s life. Joslyn “Joss” Kirk is back in her hometown (for reasons even she doesn’t understand), reflecting over her former life of luxury and privilege before her subsequent fall from grace.Beyond that? I spent much of my time trying to figure out the overall direction of the tale. There was no true driving force going through the story. Things just…were. (Maddening vagueness, right?) I couldn’t quite tell why the heroine was in Parable at all; heck, even *she* didn’t know why she came back to the town. ^_^ I must admit that I read through most of the book as quickly as I did because of an *anticipation* for exciting, gripping twists, rather than because of the actual *occurrence* of intriguing developments.There is surprisingly little interaction between the two main characters–for a contemporary romance, anyway. Now, I definitely liked the characters on their own. Both Slade and Joss spend most of the story doing a lot of soul searching. But I must be honest and say that they didn’t really do much for me as a potential couple. No cosmic forces really keeping them apart or forcing them together. Sure, each muses internally about a vague attraction to the other, but there is none of the sublime tension that usually makes a romance a page-turner. It wasn’t until well into the book that a cumulative effect started to develop. (There was a scene near the end of the story, at a horse auction, that was really sweet and showcased some of that heartwarming romantic spark that I was hoping for throughout.)In fact, I found there to have been more dramatic romantic intrigue between two supporting characters, Kendra and Hutch, even though the details of their own shared history was left largely to mystery. *This* dynamic was where some of that compelling magnetism existed. Every scene that featured the two of them left me eagerly awaiting the next encounter, when a stolen glance or an offhand comment would provide a sliver of juicy context with which to frame their fractured relationship.Big Sky Country does feature a nice, solid narrative voice, though. Characters came off as believable and relatable, for the most part. I enjoyed being in Slade’s and Joslyn’s heads–which is fortunate, because the author put a lot of detail and nuance into fleshing out their individual personalities. The dialogue between the larger cast of characters was comforting as well, authentic-feeling (Jessie, Slade’s step-daughter, and Opal, Joss’s former housekeeper, were true gems–though for opposite reasons). A couple instances of minor exasperation at character behaviors notwithstanding (Joslyn seems to lose her appetite for the most *trivial* reasons! ^_^), this story does bring the cast alive and endears them in the reader’s heart.Almost a character of its own, the setting of Parable, Montana, was very enjoyable. I could almost feel the hot summer afternoons around town and the cool, relaxed nights. The local general store with its old-timey feel, and the open plains perfect for horseback riding. Big Sky Country did a good job of invoking visuals of its namesake state.Bottom Line: Overall this was a pleasant, if slow-going, reading experience. For a contemporary romance, there wasn’t a whole lot of gripping romantic intrigue (between the main characters) for much of the book. As such, much of one’s reading satisfaction is derived from the cozy setting and the memorable cast. Heartwarming? For sure…just in an different way. I like to think of this story as a piece of contemporary fiction with category romance elements. ^_^ All told though, it’s certainly worth the read.