Dear Ms. Rice:
I don’t remember which order I read the Lisa Marie Rice books but I do know that Woman on the Run was one of the latter books in my glom. It features a slightly different heroine (one more cosmopolitan but who ends up embracing small town life) and the standard hero (tall, dark, reticent with the stamina of a horse, assuming horses have a lot of stamina in the sex area). Unique to a LMR/EJ book, much of the story is told from the heroine's point of view, although we do get plenty time inside the hero's head as well.
Julia Duvaux became a key witness in a case against a mob boss. When said mob boss puts a $1 million hit on her head, she is shuffled off to Simpson, Idaho, under the witness protection program. There cosmopolitan, world traveler, lover of museums, restaurants, and her cat, Julia is transformed into Sally Anderson, 2nd grade teacher.
But it's either hide or die and Julia loves her life more than any of the above (including the cat) and agrees to be temporarily hidden in the tiny town of Simpson.
This book takes a bit of suspension of disbelief such as the idea that a former book editor who doesn't like children will immediately be able to take up the reins of teaching second grade children without any problem. Every child embraces her and surprisingly, Julia embraces them back.
There is one sad little child, Rafael Martinez, who had become increasingly morose within the short time period in which Julie had been a teacher. Julia recognizes instinctively that this is because of some problem at home. She sends a note home which brings not his dad to her house but one Sam Cooper.
Sam Cooper runs one of the largest and most well-known horse breeding ranches in the country. It said that the Cooper Ranch is cursed. The curse is that they can’t keep women at the ranch. They all either run off (like Cooper's wife or Rafael's mom) or they die young (Cooper's ancestors). There's even a disproportionate number of foals versus fillies born on the ranch. Cooper courses dismisses this nonsense appears but in the truth Cooper is not quite sure how to romance Julia:
[H]e'd lost the art of making a woman smile, if he'd every had it. He could rappel down from a hovering helicopter, scuba dive to 200 feet, make a two thousand yard shot, tame the wildest horse, but making a woman smile-that was another matter.
Cooper knew everything there was to know about soldiering and everything there was to know about livestock. But damned if he knew how to coax a beautiful woman into his bed.
Cooper embodies the strong silent type and while we get plenty of Cooper's musings, his conversations are laughably brief.
“Had a meeting. Flight was delayed. Had a hard time getting back."
"Well, I'm glad you're back."
His jaw tightened. "Glad to be back."
"We're redecorating here, did you know?"
"Heard that. E-mailed Bernie."
Julia was was finally able to smile. She'd almost forgotten his laconic way of speaking. "I guess you left all your pronouns back in Kentucky," she said.
"Guess so.” One side of Cooper's hard mouth kicked up in a smile.
This is story does idealize the small town but it also shows that a dying town can result in miserable people. Julia's talent for making things bright (she's also a handy interior decorator) breathes in new life to the town and Cooper. Julia doesn't seem to miss her cultural activities after all.
But if you can look past the glorification of the small town, there is a lot to appreciate. Gentle humor is suffused throughout the book. There is true admiration that Julia and Cooper share for one another. Through their eyes we get to see the other in a very positive and sexy light. You understand why one loves the other and how they fill each others spaces and gaps. Cooper's inability to understand how Julia is completely transforming his life is pretty fun to watch.
As for the erotic nature, this book relies primarily on the graphic sexual content, primarily from the viewpoint of Cooper. I thought that the men always sound like men in these books.
There is a suspense thread related to the jeopardy Julia is in that is woven throughout this story and I thought it was fairly lame. Cooper was too competent to allow anything bad to happen and at a key moment, Julia does something that is too stupid to live. But those criticisms aside, I enjoyed Julia and Cooper's love story quite a bit. B