by Lori Handeland

November 2001
ISBN: 0-8217-6742-7
Reviewer Graphic Button Zebra Books
Mass Market Paperback

Can a spirited woman escape her less-than-innocent past and make a new life for herself in a little western town? Can she establish a new identity and make a success of the saloon she won in a poker game? Will any of the men in Rock Creek forgive her for encouraging their two “ladies” to start a dress shop?

As far as Rico Salvatore is concerned, the answer to all these questions is a resounding “yes”, because Rico knows that Lily Fortier is something extra special, no matter what secrets from her past may haunt her. Lily’s voice and her love of music have helped keep her sane in times of horror, and now they help her make a new start and new friends in Rock Creek. As the legitimate owner of the saloon (quickly renamed the “Three Queens”), Lily realizes for the first time in her life she has a place of her own. Rico, on the other hand, watches Lily and realizes for the first time that Lily might be able to give him something he’s always wanted – someplace to belong.

If you haven’t considered western romance as part of your reading experiences, I encourage you to take a couple of days and spend it with the men of Rock Creek! Rico is a wonderful character, warm, very sensual, and amazingly sensitive. It’s a rare writer who can produce a man who is able to stand toe-to-toe with the bad guys, guns and knives at the ready, yet hug an abandoned little girl when she needs it, and touch a lonely big girl’s heart with his words! Rico is a fascinating blend of emotions, many of which he doesn’t understand himself!! Lily, on the other hand, is easier to read – she’s a woman who has fought for every thing she’s ever had, and it’s going to take a lot of loving for her to overcome her past!

Watching Lily and Rico is a pleasure – they love, fight, and love again, drawing closer until they are past the limits of physicality and well into the realm of true love. As the story draws near its conclusion, both Rico and Lily act on impulse, and the impulse is to put the other’s safety and happiness first. The climax is a ‘stand-up-and-cheer’ kind of scene, and the happy ending is all the better because of the bittersweet experiences that have strengthened their bond.

The Rock Creek guys are one helluva bunch of cowboys – it may not have been how the West was won, but I’m sure it was how a lot of Western women were won! Don’t miss it.

Reviewed in March 2002 by Celia.

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