on September 20, 2012
Okay, so I somehow got sucked into the Larkville Legacy series, and after reading the first two books, I am quite eager for the third. I don't remember reading anything by Nikki Logan before, though I do have a few of her Harlequin Romances that I picked up during the final days of Borders' going out of business sales. Glad I grabbed them now, because Slow Dance With the Sheriff pushed all of the right buttons with me. It had some humor, some sizzle, and a whole lot of powerful emotional responses from me. Why? There is a dog. He is damaged. There are two people. They are damaged. Because they both find it in themselves to love the dog, they all get a happy ever after. How freakin' cool is that? There aren't even any horses in this one, and since it takes place in a small Texas town, I expected at least one or two. Nope, just a bunch of stupid cattle.
Ellie Patterson is seeking a home. She needs someplace where she fits in, and in 30 years, she has yet to find one. It seems that her entire life is one of disappointment. She quit ballet after discovering that her wealthy father was making huge donations to the company. She couldn't live with the humiliation of knowing that he bought her place with the dance troupe, instead of earning it herself. She is still single and emotionally detached from any man, much to her mother's dismay. If she won't keep dancing, she should at least marry in the spotlight. Then, when she discovers her mother's secret, she's shocked, but also hopeful. Her mother was already pregnant with Ellie and her twin brother when her mother married, and she is doesn't share one drop of blood with her father. Even though she has never fit in with her New York family, maybe she will finally find a place to belong in Texas with the Calhouns. Without a second thought, she rents a car and drives to Texas to meet the family she didn't even know she had.
Problem? First, Jess Calhoun is on her honeymoon, and she be gone for a few weeks. Second, she is ambushed by an errant herd of cattle. Third? The oh-so-sexy sheriff who saves her is just as damaged as she is. He is distanced from everyone and everything but his dog. He likes things that way, too. After making a life altering mistake when he was in charge of the canine unit in a big city, he has sworn off emotional entanglements. He is happy being the sheriff of a small town, patrolling his county and keeping the law and the peace in his little corner of the world. Life is quiet. Life is calm. Life couldn't get any better. Until he has to save Ellie from that errant mass of bovine stupidity.
What I liked best about this story is how both characters, despite their overwhelming fear of emotional, and in Ellie's case, physical, contact, both pushed each other to take risks. These were baby steps, but each successful nudge pushed them closer together, until they had developed a strong bond, with trust firmly at the foundation. Jed's strength allowed Ellie to feel comfortable and content for the first time in her life. Ellie's wariness and vulnerability, coupled with her unbridled joy at finally discovering the courage to get out there and live, gave Jed a much needed push to start living himself. Even when he takes the overused plot devices to heart and tells Ellie that theirs is just a temporary attachment, you know, to the depths of your soul, that Jed is only fooling himself. Once he and Ellie begin to trust each other, you know that it will only be a matter of time, despite the rages and the denials, before they stop fighting and recognize how perfect they are for each other. Add the unshakable approval of one traumatized police dog, and Jed and Ellie really had no chance to escape from that devious thing known as true love. Their chance of escape? Zero percent.
I immediately connected with the protagonists, and I constantly urged them to overcome their fears, to stop fighting against the inevitable tide that would eventually buffet them together. Plot devices that normally drive me nuts worked here, without question. And interwoven through everything was Deputy Dawg, that poor battered soul who needed nothing other than a warm pat and a kind word. I think that this sliver of the story touched more more deeply than it would have otherwise, because I know how comforting and soothing a dog's presence can be. Now that it's not there, I know how devastating it is when it's not there. At the end of this story, when all Ellie and Jed wanted was love and forgiveness, all they had to do was look to Deputy for an example of how that is done. Nothing can bridge that chasm of unconditional love and forgiveness like a dog.
I was occasionally jarred out of the story by some unfamiliar, and to my ears, awkward turns of phrase. Both Ellie and Jed are supposed to be American, but they didn't always sound like it. This is my one nitpick. Nikki Logan is Australian, and every now and again, her characters sounded like they were too. I wasn't expecting this deep in the heart of Texas, so I do feel obligated to mention it.
So, volume two in the Larkville Legacy has kept me engaged in the continuity of the series. Curse you , Harlequin! Check back for my review of the next book in the series, Taming the Brooding Cattleman.