American fiction is rife with Western heroes, stories that have enriched this country's citizens for hours of pleasurable reading as well as irrevocably shaped the culture of the land even to this modern day. The cultural hero: The Strong Silent Type, was further enshrined in the American subconscious through the 20th century movie diet of heros that were brought alive by John Wayne, Gary Cooper, Clint Eastwood, James Stewart, to be joined by a myriad of television actors of note. In decades past, writers like Mark Twain, Zane Gray, John Jakes, and others have spun the tale of the Western hero, the American cowboy who more often than not was astride his trusty horse, seeing to the health and welfare of his ranch, serving the community as a reluctant lawman, or the roving cattle drover/dispenser of justice as needed.
Now we encounter a different kind of hero, one that is living in the contemporary century and time, who has been shaped by the traditions of the American West, but who has paired that cultural input with a top notch university education in one of America's finest educational institutions. Practicing law first in Boston and then Denver, Steven Creed is now taking up residence in Stone Creek, AZ, opening a new law practice to serve those who may not be able to afford a competent lawyer. He has also taken on the task of raising the orphaned son of two of his best friends who have been killed and left their son in his care. Why Stone Creek? As a member of the Creeds of Montana, he is well-aware that even though he is far from his father and mother, he is closer to his McKettrick cousins, providing family connections for himself and his little boy.
Steven Creed is a true Western man having purchased a run-down ranch with an eye of making a home for himself and his son. He is working through the issues of being a new dad, dealing with a very bright five-year-old who is a little confused about the absence o f his parents, and trying to understand how to relate to this kindly and caring man who was his parents' best friend. He is also gradually drawn into the beginnings of an affair with the local district attorney, a woman who sees the letter of the law as being more important than the spirit of the law. Their relationship is placed in danger when a local teen is suspected of a series of burglaries which puts Steven and the district attorney on opposing sides of the case.
This is a compelling story of a man who must make some important decisions about his relationship with his little boy, the small community in which he is hoping to make his home, his future relationships with his relatives, the McKettricks, and a possible permanent relationship with a woman who has his emotions powerfully unsettled. Like all Miller novels, this is not just a story for the sake of the story. It is about real people with real problems and real dilemmas, about living day in, day out with their own flaws as well as the flaws of others. It is romantic and challenging, with a plot and story line that keep the action of the story moving forward, yet not giving away any upcoming surprises. Like all human drama, there is the unexpected, the unsettling, the not-so-nice people who keep individuals and society on our toes. And like all good fiction, these characters are forced to face themselves, forced to face their imperfections and find ways to increase their capacities for meeting life's challenges.
I always find Linda Lael Miller's novels compelling and greatly appreciate her ability to craft characters with whom a reader can relate. She has done so in this literary offering and the lovers of Western romance will be delighted with this novel. I give it a 4.25 out of 5.
This novel is being released by Harlequin in February, 2011.