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REVIEW:  The Last Renegade by Jo Goodman

REVIEW: The Last Renegade by Jo Goodman

Dear Ms. Goodman:

Your books always present a challenge for me to review because oftentimes the plot is a mystery and thus delving into the story can ruin the surprise for many readers. The Last Renegade is one of those types of stories.  Set in Wyoming Territory, 1888, Lorraine Berry answered a newspaper ad to bring a gunman to Bitter Springs because all the good men of the town are being murdered by the rancher who owns the town.

The Last Renegade Jo GoodmanThe gunman’s name is Nat Church, the name that is attached to a series of popular penny dreadfuls. Nat Church never makes it to Bitter Springs, but instead a man by the name of Kellen Coltrane appears at the train stop with a story that he will carry out Nat Church’s agreement with Lorraine Berry.  Even though Lorraine has taken the step to hire a gunslinger, when Kellen appears and Nat Church has been killed, she has second thoughts.

About all I can say is that both Kellen and Lorraine have a number of secrets and they are parceled out carefully throughout the story, like a squirrel eating nuts through the winter.  Kellen says he is a newspaperman or at least that is his cover to the townspeople.  Lorraine is a widow or at least that is the masquerade she’s maintained.  Both secrets are important to the evolution of the romance and town’s situation.

The townspeople play a big role, particularly two young boys whose energetic noisiness provide the obvious humor in contrast to Kellen’s dry wit. Lorraine is a steely saloon/hotel owner who is about the only person in town willing to take on the nefarious rancher.  The tale of how she became to be part of Bittersprings is as fitting as the town’s name.

In the beginning, the story reminded me a bit of those old westerns by Louis L’Amour, with the taciturn hero, the Old West sensibilities. (I loved LLA as a girl. I devoured those Sackett books like I would a can of Pringles after a week long fast) But it took an Agatha Christie turn in the middle as we readers were confronted with trying to suss out the killers amongst them. (Frankly this part was a little too easy as it wasn’t likely going to be any of the faithful townspeople).

Where the book stumbled was in the secret keeping. Both characters are fairly closed off and while it is revealed late in the game that Lorraine knew Kellen’s secrets without him revealing them, I wondered at her equanimous acceptance of his lack of personal revelations. Perhaps we were to understand that she understood the necessity of secrets but she divulged hers to him.  Perhaps it is just the code of the West.  The Sacketts weren’t terribly loquacious.

I was pleasantly surprised by the sensuality level of the book. Have they all been like this or was this more obvious?  In some ways, the sensuality was a good way for the two to express themselves.  Perhaps the unspoken language of love was at work here, with Kellen and Lorraine expressing through their erotic exchanges what they won’t say verbally.

The other thing that I liked were the villains.  They were brutal and cruel, but there were moments of mercy and, not kindness exactly, but decency?  or maybe humanity?  It made the ending more shocking yet dramatic.  B-

Best regards,




REVIEW: Wanted Man by Ellen Hartman

REVIEW: Wanted Man by Ellen Hartman

Rhian’s Rooftop Resolutions:
1. Write a children’s book
2. Learn to play basketball
3. Have a summer fling

Between caring for her orphaned nephew and working as a tech writer, Rhian MacGregor has spent several years perfecting the art of abstinence. But the arrival of Nathan Delaney—her gorgeous housepainter—has her contemplating a new instruction manual: Seducing Your Handyman.

She’s not thinking of getting serious, of course. She’s only got the summer to herself before it’s back to real life. Besides, Rhian doesn’t do serious, because the consequences are too painful.
Just as they will be when she finds out who Nathan really is…

Wanted Man by Ellen HartmanDear Mrs. Hartman,

I guess this is a reissue since the eharlequin website lists it with a publication date of 2007 and an onsale date of September 2011 but whatever it is, I’m glad I’m finally reading it. Oh, and I love that the cover shows the pepto bismol pink painted house that Nathan paints to get into Rhian’s life. Cover images that match what actually happens in the book – yeah!

Okay the set up for the book requires a little suspension of belief about Nathan. I know some famous authors are fairly reclusive but the lengths to which he’s gone just don’t seem like even they’d be enough. Not with today’s easy access via the Internet to everything about everybody. But I’ll just go with it and keep reading. The celebrity, tabloid “journalist” daytime show host’s decision to discover who author Chris Senso really is seems all too real though. Anything for increased ratings no matter who it might hurt or whose life it might change. That being said, the way you’ve fashioned the character of Lindsey Hall makes her sound exactly like the uber exuberant, “will stop at nothing to get the story,” “perfect hair and makeup” type of modern TV personality. Can I say I fairly much despise them? Yes, I can. And Nathan’s ex Patricia – wow, what was he thinking to get hooked up with her? The scene at the end where those two are pitted against each other is worth it though as the perfect revenge.

Nathan Delaney does have some concrete reasons why he wants privacy – both as Nathan and as his nom de plume “Chris.” Because of his bad experience as a college basketball player, I can see why he isn’t eager to be in the spotlight anymore. And why he’s initially skittish when first introduced to Rhian’s friends and her nephew Jem’s family. I like the slow, sweet build up to a physical relationship that they have but I could see the Big Mis situation coming. When one character tells another “I have something to tell you” and that telling gets interrupted for sex, the hand grenade explosion isn’t far off. Nathan loses a few points with me for his reaction to what happens and I’m not entirely sure his initial “I’m sorry, I should have believed you” is enough for me. The man had lots of chances before that night to tell the truth.

Rhian starts the book as if she’s going to turn into one of those martyrs who gives up her entire life for the service of others. I do like the relationship she has with Jem but I’m glad she is going to have most of the summer to herself and that she already plans on having some adult fun when she’s got the chance. And that she goes ahead with her dream and actually finishes it! The HFN ending to that – her being an author – is a nice change from the usual “she becomes a huge worldwide star with her first book!” epilogues I’ve read in the past.

Matt and Min – kind of sound like they’re a pair of cartoon mice, don’t they – are fun secondary characters and really help with the way Nathan resolves the whole issue of his privacy. Jem comes across like an eight year old, basketball mad little boy who hasn’t quite gotten to the independent “don’t hug me in public” stage yet. He’s in the story just enough to not annoy me.

I might not always end up reviewing all your books but I do always look at them and here I’m glad that I’ve got a chance at reading this one that’s been out for a while. Ebooks are wonderful and reissued backlists are even better. B-


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