Monday, October 6, 2014

Evidence of Trust (Stacey Joy Netzel)

Evidence of Trust
(The Colorado Trust series, Book 1)
Stacey Joy Netzel
Stacey Joy Netzel, publisher
Fiction, Romance/Suspense
**** (Good)

DESCRIPTION: Brittany Lucas came back to the Highlands ranch in Colorado to clear her head and heal her heart. She thought she'd finish her degree and join her father's Chicago firm with Daniel by her side... until Daniel cheated on her, and her father decided he'd rather keep a promising protege than side with his own heartbroken flesh and blood. She feels more at ease in the mountains, working summers as a ranch hand and even discovering a flair for training horses, but it seems she's doomed to return to city life and city stresses after the season's over, to make good on that degree. For now, though, she means to enjoy this last summer... at least, that was the plan, before a suspicious stranger turns up, making her question everything she thought she knew about her life, her friends, and what she truly wants.
Ranger Joel Morgan rarely sleeps in the same bed for more than a few months at a time, traveling from wilderness to wilderness attempting to uphold the law beyond the reach of civilization. It's not so bad; burned first by his mother and, later, by the love of his life, it's not like he's looking to set down roots, and the few relationships he does indulge in have a built-in escape clause with his job. A poacher stalking the Rocky Mountain National Park brings him to Colorado - and right to the camp of the most stubborn, irritating, and beautiful woman he's met. If he didn't know better than to trust anyone, a girl like Brittany could steal his heart.
As Brittany and Joel fight a powerful attraction, the poacher grows more brazen, moving beyond trophies to pure thrill kills. Such a monster is only a heartbeat away from setting their sights on two-legged prey... and they may have a very personal connection to the Highlands ranch.

REVIEW: This story hits all the right notes for a romantic suspense title: two scarred characters, an unwelcome instant attraction that challenges their personal barriers, and an ongoing threat just strong enough to propel the story forward between bouts of friction. Brittany's almost exasperatingly stubborn at times, but she has a decent excuse, and she doesn't spend her time pining over how she can't commit or how much danger she might be in. Joel suspects everyone he doesn't know, which presents a problem when he's perpetually the stranger in any given town, but he eventually (and inevitably) warms up when his heart simply cannot be ignored any longer. The core relationship takes its time to build despite the requisite lust-at-first-sight sparks, each encounter ending in ambiguity or outright disaster as their insecurities trip them up. They seem fairly evenly matched in their flaws and strengths, not to mention their ability to deny themselves happiness. Meanwhile, the poacher stalks the periphery of the plot, one of a group of side characters who were mostly a tangle of names to me; there seemed to be too many ranch hands and rangers, with too few distinct personality traits or roles to keep them straight in my head. But, then, this book is primarily a romance with a side of suspense, not the other way around, making side characters intrinsically less important. Sometimes the teasing and the self-flagellation of the leads grows thick, but overall Evidence of Trust delivers on its promises.

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