by Joan Johnston

April 2002
ISBN: 0-44023-472-7
Reviewer Graphic Button Dell Publishing
Mass Market Paperback

Since this is the final book in the trilogy that includes The Texan and The Cowboy, I am almost hating to write this review, because it means that a series I have grown to love is ending. However, becoming embroiled in the ongoing war between the Blackthornes and Creeds and Coburns quickly overshadows all else.

After being gone for two years, Bad Billy Coburn is back in town. No longer "Bad", his first stop in town is to get milk for his eighteen-month-old son, Willie. Immediately he meets the man responsible for running him out of town, Jackson Blackthorne, his real father. Jackson gives him twenty-four hours to leave town, but Billy can't run this time. He has come home to take care of his dying mother and pregnant sister. He is also running back home to try to hold onto custody of Willie, as the boy's mother is demanding money he does not have to let him keep Willie. Since Billy won't leave, Jackson moves to take away all he has accomplished, arranging for him to lose his job, then not be able to find another, or deal with anyone in town. There is no one in town that does not owe allegiance to Jackson Blackthorne.

Only one person defies this order, Jackson's daughter, Summer. Though she is not truly his blood daughter, Summer has been raised as such, and she has always loved Bad Billy. Though he hurt her by leaving before, she marries him now to help him have a stronger position in court and to be able to give him the money he needs. No one supports their union, but they are determined to hold on to it, even though they try to keep it platonic.

On another front, Jackson has finally freed himself of the hold that his evil wife, Eve, has on him, and will now pursue a life with his beloved Ren Creed. However, Eve is not about to let that happen, and sets in motion the most evil plan she has ever concocted to stop them, no matter the cost. Finally, Ren's handicapped son, Sam, finds a chance at love with a woman who can give him what he never thought to have, but when her secret comes out, he is prepared to make a noble sacrifice that could ruin all of their lives.

From page one, I was riveted. Having read all the previous books in the series, I cannot say if a new comer could read it alone. They are all so good, each progressively better, that I would not advise it. Passion sizzles between all the couples. Eve joins the ranks of the most classic villainesses, and is perhaps the most evil woman I have ever seen in literature. Heartbreaking choices are made, yet somehow, there is always the hope that it will all come together for a happy ending. If there is anyway to return to this series, I sincerely hope that it is done.

Reviewed in March 2002 by Amanda.

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