Monday, December 15, 2014

Joan Johnston -- The Loner

Joan Johnston -- The Loner

Rated: ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥   {5.00}
Action: ♠♠♠ / Emotion: ♣♣♣♣♣ / Romance: ♥♥♥♥♥ / Sensuous: ♦♦.♦ / Suspense: ♠♠♠♠
Action: 3.0 / Emotion: 5.0 / Romance: 5.0 / Sensuous: 2.5 / Suspense: 4.0  //  Laughter: 4 / Giggle: 2 // Tears: 8 / Teary: 3

Setting:       Bitter Creek, Texas
Era:             Present Day (2002)
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The Loner, Joan Johnston's third book in The Bitter Creek Series was one of those books that is impossible to put down after reading that first sentence.   This over-nighter, un-put-down-able book was so engaging, intriguing, and emotionally moving that it was impossible not to give it the highest rating -- five stars.   This book "spoke" to me for two particular personal reasons.

First, believe it or not, it was impossible not to empathize with the heroine, Summer Blackthorne, (who was previously perceived (and labeled) as just a "spoiled little rich girl") because my personal experiences have mirrored the feelings and insecurities Summer was exhibiting.   And Johnston did such an incredible job of portraying Summer's feelings, though action and word, that it was impossible not to identify with her at times.
"You were always a spoiled brat.   I see you haven't changed."   (Billy, page 17)
Second, whenever an author develops a character, like "Bad" Billy Coburn, who was dumped on his entire life, and still comes out fighting (in that masculine, 'fighting the world with a chip on his shoulder'-way, which hides a responsible and caring nature), that character wins my utmost respect and admiration.   Not only that, but Billy was all masculine, macho, alpha male -- and what romance reader does not melt when the "Bad Boy" walks through the pages of a book and ultimately reaches his victory.
"He's a fighter, Jackson.   You'll never put that boy down for long."   (Lauren, page 229)

"I want a man, Billy.   Geoffrey is a boy dressed in grown-up clothes.   You're so much more than he could ever be.   You're determined and courageous and you never, ever give up."   (Summer, page 315)
One other aspect of this book that makes it a must read (but only after reading the first two books in this series, The Cowboy and The Texan) is that Johnston {1} back-tracked and fixed a glaring error revealed in those two books and {2} successfully included two mini-romances in the background of Billy's and Summer's story, without taking too much time away from the main characters (as she did in The Texan).   Johnson interwove these three love stories together in a very clever and, yet, endearing manner, which successfully tied three families together: the Blackthornes, the Creeds, and the Coburns.

The Loner takes place two years after the closing pages of The Texan.   If you will remember, Billy had to make a very difficult choice at the end of that book: he could stay in Bitter Creek and continue to spend time with Summer, the love of his life, or he could move away where he would be offered the opportunity of a lifetime -- a job as a field agent for the Texas and Southwestern Cattle Raisers' Association.   But, really, Billy had no choice.   He took the job and ended his friendship with Summer, who threw angry words of hate at him for choosing money over friendship.

Billy, being all macho man that he was, moved to Amarillo, consoled himself with a faceless waitress, Debbie Sue Hudson, and ended up with a son that he loved above all else.   Billy loved his job and was an outstanding agent who won the respect of his superiors.
"He did have quite a reputation with the TSCRA.   His boss had twenty fits when I said I wanted him fired.   Told me I was a jackass for depriving the Association of someone as talented and whip smart and steadfast as Billy Coburn.   Not a 'bad' word about him," Blackjack admitted.   (Blackjack, page 229)
But Billy had to return to Bitter Creek because his nineteen year old sister, Emma, called him to explain that she needed help tending both the Coburn family's C-Bar Ranch and their dying (of cancer) mother, Dora Coburn.   Billy had no choice but to return to Bitter Creek.   As expected, (since this is Billy's and Summer's story) Billy ran into his biological father and Summer at the Armadillo Bar, where he stopped to get some milk for his crying son, Will.   Naturally, Summer followed Billy from the bar to talk to her friend -- even though she was getting married in two weeks.

Eventually, Jackson "Blackjack" Blacktorne and the inconsequential fiancé, Geoffrey, joined Billy's and Summer's conversation in the parking lot, which set the line of dominos in their carefully orchestrated lives teetering.   Several important truths were reveled before Billy punched Geoffrey in the nose and left.   Blackjack, Billy, and Summer each had to act on the ultimatums that were eventually presented to them.

First, once Blackjack learned that Summer had known for the past two years that she was not his biological daughter, he was relived because he could now file for a divorce from his embittered, blackmailing wife.   Since Johnston had been telling the story of unrequited love between Blackjack and Lauren "Ren" Creed during the previous two books of the series, it was impossible not to silently cheer because now Blackjack and Ren were going to get to be together after all.

But even as you were cheering for Blackjack, you were also wanting to smack him because of his lack of compassion for his own son.   Why was Blackjack so virulently opposed to Summer being with Billy?   Yes, we all really know why -- that nobody is good enough for a man's daughter, especially the town's bad boy!   Because Blackjack wanted Summer to marry Geoffrey without a hitch, he issued an ultimatum to Billy.   Get out of Bitter Creek within twenty-four hours or I'll take back the job that I got you two years ago.

After seeing Billy, Summer knew she couldn't marry Geoffrey, because, of course, she didn't love him.   Summer has never understood why she had never been able to develop strong feelings for any of the men that her mother and father had paraded before her as potential husband candidates.   Naturally, all of us romance readers know why.   Summer was unwilling to admit to herself that she loved her friend, Billy.
She'd decided there must be something wrong with her, since she couldn't seem to care deeply for any of the men who'd proposed marriage to her over the years.   The man she liked best was Billy . . .   (Summer, page 26)
Blackjack and Summer go home to the Castle, where Summer tells Geoffrey she can't marry him and Blackjack and Eve have another full-volume, rip-roaring fight when Blackjack tells Eve he's getting a divorce and heads out to Three Oaks to be with Ren.   Because Evelyn "Eve" DeWitt Blackthorne is a selfish, manipulative daughter of satan, she issues an ultimatum to Summer.   You marry Geoffrey and I'll let you be mistress of Bitter Creek (the desire of Summer's heart) or I'll divide Bitter Creek into little bitty pieces.

Johnston began to flesh out Summer's personality in such a manner that it was easy to identify with the fickle feminity that resides inside women.   When Summer breaks up with Geoffrey, she wonders why he accepted the ending of their relationship so calmly.
What she felt inside was that awful ache in the center of her chest.   If he'd loved her so much, why hadn't he fought harder to keep her?   If he'd loved her so much, why hadn't he said something sooner about her apparent defection?   If he'd loved her so much, why wasn't he here holding her in his arms, demanding she love him in return?   Why had he simply given up?   Wasn't she worth fighting for?   (Summer, pages 31,32)

Billy had done it two years ago.   Asked her to marry him, then walked away without a backward look when she refused.   Now Geoffrey had done the same thing.   Was she so unlovable?   So little worth fighting for?   (Summer, page 32)
At the same time Johnston throws more weight upon Billy's broad shoulders.   When he gets to the C-Bar Ranch, he feels guilty because his sister, Emma, is pregnant and the father has fled the scene.   (And, yes, it's pretty obvious who the father is.)   Johnston also begins to show readers that Billy has a very strong sense of responsibility and knows how to hide the hurts that his childhood inflicted upon him.
Hugs were awkward things between Coburns.   He made sure Johnny Ray didn't beat up on Emma, but that didn't mean she'd gotten any affection.   (Billy, page 47)

Billy knew what it felt like to be unwanted, and he'd been determined no kid of his was going to suffer that fate.   (Billy, page 49)
Johnston wrote a really touching homey-style scene as Billy tended Will while he was discussing with Emma the problems they were facing along with possible solutions.   This impressive scene was used to contrast the differences in the familial connections that Billy and Emma shared as compared to the coldness at Summer's home.

After Billy and Summer spent restless, worrisome nights, they ended up at the pond where they used to meet to contemplate their respective futures.   Whereupon Billy and Summer decided they would embark upon a marriage of convenience to solve each of their problems.   What is interesting here is that, again, Billy admits (to himself) that he loves Summer and has always wanted her and that he can use her $25,000 inheritance to pay off greedy little Debbie Sue Hudson and retain custody of Will and help his mother and sister, but Summer, in her typical, blind, juvenile manner chooses to marry Billy for a frivolous reason.   (Naturally, romance readers everywhere know the real reason Summer married Billy was because, deep down, she loved him and wanted to be with him.)
she had felt things for Billy Coburn that she hadn't known it was possible for one human being to feel for another.   Frightening feelings.   Terrifying feelings.   Billy had touched someplace deep inside her that she'd hidden from everyone, even herself.   (Summer, page 55)

She hated being manipulated even more than she wanted Bitter Creek.   (Summer, page 55)

she couldn't help feeling hurt.   She'd told Billy she was marrying him to thwart her parents, but she hadn't been able to keep herself from romanticizing the situation.   (Summer, page 94)
Thus it was that Billy brought Summer home to the C-Bar Ranch to tend to Dora and Will while he sought work since Blackjack took his job as a TSCRA field inspector.   And you have to give Summer credit -- she may have been a spoiled little rich girl who had no clue how to cook, wash clothes, or tend a baby, but she won hearts with her whole-hearted efforts to do so.

Johnston cleverly twisted events to include a moving, yet brief tale of love that developed between Sam Creed and Emma Coburn.   When Billy brought Summer home, Emma issued him an ultimatum.
"She has no talents to speak of.   What were you thinking, Billy?"
"Either she goes or I go," Emma threatened.
In the few hours she'd spent in Billy's home she realized that there was a feeling of family here she'd never found at the Castle.   And she wanted to be a part of it.
"You can go anytime you want, Emma," Billy said at last.   "Summer stays."   (Summer, page 127)

"Your new wife won't last a week without all the luxuries she's used to having.   Let me know when she takes off, and I'll come home."   (Emma, page 130)
Sam was in the same boat as Emma.   When he found Blackjack, his father's nemesis, ensconced in his mother's house, he was determined to stay away to let them know how violently he was opposed to their relationship.   Emma showed up at Sam's home in answer to his advertisement for a housekeeper.   Johnston did an excellent job of detailing Sam's feelings about being considered less than a man simply because he was confined to a wheel chair.
He knew that she, like so many other women, had taken one look and decided that being tied to a wheelchair kept him from being either a physical or a sexual threat.   He hated being dismissed as a man simply because he didn't have the use of his legs.   He still felt desire.   He still needed to be held.   He still needed to be loved.   (Sam, page 143)

it would be hell looking at Emma Coburn every day, wanting her to notice him, and being ignored in return.   (Sam, page 144)

He wanted her to confide in him.   He wanted to know everything about her.   He wanted to help her.   He wanted her to see him as a whole person.   Hell.   He wanted her to see him as a man who could protect her and care for her and solve her problems.   (Sam, page 148)
Even though Johnston did a phenomenal job of engaging the readers emotions as she told Sam and Emma's growing love story, it is too bad that the book was not longer so that more time could have been spent with Sam and Emma without taking away the time needed to fully develop Billy's and Summer's story.   Just as Johnston regaled readers with why Sam's was so attracted to Emma, she also revealed why Emma was so drawn to Sam.
Emma had needed someone to hold her close, to tell her everything would be all right, to remind her she was a good person and would be a good mother.   Sam had offered her a job, and in the short time she'd worked for him, proceeded to do all that and more.   (Emma, page 295)
Johnston finished up the story she had been building across the previous two books of this series of the estranged relationship between Blackjack and Ren.   Blackjack and Ren were both given point of view voices in the book and Johnston did an excellent job of tying readers to these two characters on a deep emotional level as Blackjack and Ren joined together for some heated romance and some heartfelt conversations about their respective children.

During the telling of Blackjack's and Ren's backstory, Johnston also corrected the mistake she'd made when it came to the ages of Trace and Callie (The Cowboy).   Johnston corrected this mistake as she revealed that the miscarriage that Ren suffered shortly after she had married Jesse led to the discovery by their respective spouses about the love that existed between them.   Seeing Blackjack and Ren together in the Bitter Creek Regional Hospital underlined {1} why Jesse was so jealous and spewed his hatred of Blackthornes, and Blackjack in particular, to his children and {2} why Eve evolved into such a selfish, embittered wife.

Johnston also gave readers a unique and interesting twist to the story by giving evil Eve a brief point of view voice to explain why she was so adamantly opposed to Blackjack's reunion with that woman.   And even though it was explained that Eve suffered shame and embarrassment when her father divorced her mother when she was thirteen, there had to be a screw loose in Eve's makeup all along for her to take out her unhappiness on her own children.   If Eve had not been totally unlikeable because of the way she manipulated {1} Blackjack, {2} Dora and Johnny Ray Coburn, and {3} Russell Handy, she was detestable for the way she treated her children -- Owen and Summer, in particular.   The way that Eve played her final card of retaliation against Blackjack and Ren was incredibly clever and added greatly to the suspense and enjoyment factor of the storyline.

As the story progressed, Billy's and Summer's marriage of convenience evolved into a marriage of passion.   Somehow Johnston always manages to instill a sizzling sensuality into the lovemaking scenes between her characters.   The scenes are not seriously graphic, but they are so well told that the reader cannot help but enjoy their inclusion into the love story growing between Billy and Summer.

Another reason The Loner was such an outstanding read is because Johnston engaged the readers on such an emotional level that she brought forth laughter, giggles, that tight throat feeling, and tears.   How does she do it?   One minute the characters are interacting and then, bam, all the sudden the tears are flowing.   Look at the scene between Billy and Dora near the end of the book as they discussed his relationship with Summer.

In closing, The Texan, Joan Johnston's third book in The Bitter Creek Series, is the kind of book romance readers dream of reading.   A book that included: {1} Billy Coburn, the town bad boy, who overcame an incredibly disastrous childhood to became a man of strength, responsibility, and compassion; {2} Summer Blackthorne, the spoiled little rich girl, who showed that she experienced the same confusing emotions as every other woman underneath her attitude of entitlement; {3} Jackson "Blackjack" Blackthorne, a less than perfect man, who suffered the same pangs of love underneath his hard-hearted exterior; {4} Lauren "Ren" Creed, a soft-spoken, kind, empathetic woman, who had an unlimited supply of compassion and love; {5} Sam Creed, a paralyzed man, who hated and loved in equal measures; {6} Emma Coburn, a beautiful, struggling young lady, who just wanted to be loved; {7} a tale with enough action to keep the story moving at a swift, steady pace; {8} a powerful undercurrent of emotion that enabled readers to identify with the characters with laughter and tears; {9} a strong sense of romance permeated all three of the love stories that were told; {10} a potent aura of suspense kept the reader wondering {a} when Billy and Summer were ever going to speak of their love, {b} how Blackjack and Ren were going to live in peace, and {c} how Sam and Emma were going to overcome their issues to find happiness; {11} a sizzling sensuality filled the well-written lovemaking scenes; and {12} the inclusion of interesting secondary characters that added a rounded-out flavor to the story.   This book will remain on my "To Be Re-Read" list.
--Vonda M. Reid (Sunday, December 14, 2014 : 8:30 p.m.)     [351]

Books In The Series: "The Bitter Creek Series"
# Date Title Hero Heroine
01.02-2000The CowboyTrace Blackthorne: eldest sonCallie Creed: eldest daughter
  secondary story:Jackson "Blackjack" Blackthorne: family patriarchLauren "Ren" Creed: family matriarch
02.03-2001The TexanOwen Blackthorne: Texas RangerBayleigh "Bay" Creed: veterinarian
  secondary story:'Bad' Billy Coburn: dirt poor, town bad boySummer Blackthorne: only daughter
03.03-2002The LonerBilly CoburnSummer Blackthorne: only daughter
  secondary story:Jackson "Blackjack" Blackthorne: family patriarchLauren "Ren" Creed: family matriarch
  secondary story:Sam Creed: eldest sonEmma Coburn: Billy's sister
04.03-2003The PriceLuke Creed: Houston attorneyAmy Hazeltine Nash: high school sweetheart
05.09-2004The RivalsDrew DeWitt: playboySarah Barndollar: deputy sheriff
06.09-2005The Next Mrs. BlackthorneClay Blackthorne: new Federal JudgeLibby Grayhawk
  secondary:North Grayhawk: Blackthorne arch-rivalJocelyn Montrose: socialite
07.07-2007A Stranger's GameBreed Grayhawk: FBI AgentGrace Caldwell: framed for murder
08.01-2010ShatteredJack McKinleyKate Grayhawk Pendleton
  secondary:. . .. . .
09.04-2012Texas Bride [1]Jacob "Jake" CreedMiranda Wentworth
10.01-2013Wyoming Bride [1]Flint CreedHannah Wentworth McMurty
10e03-2014A Bitter Creek Christmas. . .. . .
11.01-2014Montana Bride [1]Karl NorwoodHetty Wentworth
12.05-2014SinfulConnor Flynn: widower, Delta ForceEve Grayhawk:
[1]   These books are listed as a Historical Romance Sub-Series entitled "The Mail Order Brides".

Characters Found In "The Loner"
Character Description
Billy Coburn[Hero] smoked cigarettes; 6'4"; shoulders broader than Blackjack's; leaner of hip than Blackjack; bastard son of Blackjack (1) field agent for the Texas and Southwestern Cattle Raisers' Association for past 2 years (2) labeled Bad Billy Coburn; grew up in Bitter Creek fighting everyone and everything; even if you weren't looking for trouble, Bad Billy Coburn would give it to you; became a respected and respectable man in past 2 years; a TSCRA field inspector, a lawman who carried a gun and hunted down bad men; drove battered Dodge pickup (8) grew up in derelict ranch in dirt-poor surroundings (11) large, workworn hands (12) loved his job; had a definite knack for it (15) hated Blackjack (16) 27-y-o (20) black hair; eyes so dark a brown they were almost black; corded muscle and sinew (57) whiskey-rough voice (58) straight white teeth (59) good-looking; shaggy black hair falling over his forehead; dark eyes filled with humor; twin dimples in his cheeks (59) had the same chin, hair, cheekbones as his half-brothers (163) meanest junkyard dog in town (168) triumphed in spite of all the trials he's suffered; talented; whip smart and steadfast worker at TSCRA; a fighter (229) always a hard worker; always took care of his mother and sister; carried a chipp around on his shoulder and dared anyone to try and knock it off (268) strong, generous, loving man (269)
Summer Blackthorne[Heroine] long slender neck; soft blond curls fell over her shoulders (3) was not the biological daughter of Blackjack (4) wounded look in hazel eyes; soft pouty lower lip; petal-soft cheeks; silky golden curls (7) wore tailored white Western shirt, belted into skintight Levi's; favorite pair of tooled red leather cowboy boots, which cost more than Coburns used to spend on food in six months (9) wanted to run the Bitter Creek Cattle Company (10) spoiled brat (17) the one thing she'd ever wanted out of life was to be mistress of Bitter Creek (22) 23-y-o (25) favorite red boots with Circle B brand hand-tooled into the leather; cherry-red Silverado her father had given her as a 21st birthday gift reminded her of Billy (55) used to getting her own way; not used to being ignored (60) didn't have a college degree; couldn't cook or sew; couldn't sing or play an instrument; knew nothing about babies (96) never gave up without a fight (108) rich; self-centered; selfish; inconsiderate; pampered brat looking for fun and games (113)
. . . . . .
Jackson "Blackjack" Blackthorne[Secondary Story Hero] 6'3" (1) cold gray eyes (7) rough hands; silver-tipped black hair (22) had life-threatening heart attack 4-y-o (27) wasn't known for showing mercy (40) ruthless (68) strong, solid body; haunted eyes; 57-y-o; bypass surgery 4-y-a (74) wasn't used to being told he couldn't have something he wanted (77) a big man; a powerful man (136)
Lauren "Ren" Creed[Secondary Story Heroine] married Jesse Creed 37-y-a (23) shoulder-length hair (74) 53-y-o; still gracefully slender, with warm gray-green eyes and auburn hair that was graying at the temples and smelled like lavender (80) kind; sympathetic (262) petite (263)
. . .. . .
Sam Creed[Secondary Story Hero] Lauren's eldest son (73) vowed to murder Jackson Blackthorne if Ren pursued any relationship with his father's nemesis; hated the Blackthorne's more than ever (76) 32/33-y-o; had been in a wheelchair since he was 18, when Owen had tackled him at football practice and broken his neck; bigger, broader, stronger; powerful arms and shoulders (88) his stubborn, bullheaded father all over again (89) corded muscle on forearms where his Western shirt was rolled up (90) from the moment of his birth, he'd been taught to tend the land (141) unable to father children (143) a recovering alcoholic; sober 4 ys, 2 mos, 16 days (143) made himself strong from the waist up; spent enough time in the sun to toast his skin a warm brown; muscles below the waist had atrophied from disuse (241) a great deal stronger than he looked; his upper body reminded Emma of sculpted stone, muscle and sinew and bone chiseled out precisely by some master artesian (295) often made jokes when he could see others were uncomfortable with his disability -- a defense mechanism to hide the hurt (298) large, calloused hands (299)
Emma Coburn[Secondary Story Heroine] Billy's sister (9) 19-y-o (39) impressionable; adoring sister (40) 6' tall; slender as a reed; pregnant (41) 7 years younger than Billy (47) a freak in high school, way taller than most of the boys and skinny as a bed slat, with a head of garish red hair (47) she'd grown into her body and was now downright beautiful (47) too pretty (142) 2 years behind Luke in school (142) heart-shaped face; shiny, fire-engine-red hair; huge, vulnerable eyes; lithe body (145) as stubborn as Billy (172) funny; smart; good cook; a kind and loving woman (297)
. . . . . .
[Bayleigh] "Bay" [Creed] [Blackthorne][Brief Appearance] [Heroine of Book 2 / The Texan] Lauren's daughter; married Owen Blackthorne 2-y-a; living happily in Fredericksburg; twin sons (77) pregnant again (235)
Callie [Creed Blackthorne][Brief Appearance] [Heroine of Book 1 / The Cowboy] Lauren's daughter; married Trace four years ago and had taken their two children and moved with him to a cattle station in Australia; had another daughter (77) pregnant again (233)
Clay Blackthorne[Brief Appearance] [Hero of Book 6 / The Next Mrs. Blackthorns] Summer's brother; attorney general of Texas (54) Owen's twin (56) black hair (57) had been elected the youngest ever attorney general of the state of Texas and spent his days prosecuting criminals in the courtroom; he looked younger than Owen, but his gray eyes were no less piercing and his over 6 foot body looked just as hard beneath a blended wool suit pants and white Oxford-cloth shirt that had been unbuttoned at the neck, with the conservative striped tie pulled down to make his office uniform look more appropriate for the outdoor occasion (162) had father's ruthless gray eyes of a predator (163)
Eli [Munroe] [Creed] [Blackthorne][One Appearance] Blackjack's and Lauren's grandson; Trace and Callie's son; lived in Australia (77) 15-y-o; looked like the Blackthorne he was (233)
Evelyn "Eve" DeWitt Blackthorne[Major Secondary Character] Summer's mother; Blackjack's wife; arranged marriage between Billy's parents; paid them to keep Billy's paternal roots a secret (3) blackmailed Blackjack to keep him for getting a divorce 2-y-a (23) spent 18 months in sanitarium; cure hadn't worked (32) hated Lauren (33) selfish (68) ageless, unlined face (71) brought 50,000 acres of good DeWitt grassland to her marriage as a dowry (81) 4-y-a in jealous resentment of Blackjack's love for Ren, asked lover to kill Ren (87) usually hidden away in her studio at the end of the hall on the second floor, creating another masterpiece; her acclaimed Western oil paintings were featured in galleries all over the country; painted the world as it might be, rather than it was (95) still a beautiful woman; blond hair was cut short in current fashion, soft and beguiling around her face; striking blue eyes; figure trim and spare; father divorced her mother when she was 13-y-o (155) full of hate and envy (224) love manipulating people, using them without regard to the pain she was inflicting; as vicious, cunning and heartless as a wolverine (257)
Hannah [Monroe] [Blackthorne][One Appearance] Lauren's granddaughter; Callie's daughter [with Nolan Monroe (from The Cowboy)]; lived in Australia (77)
Harry Blackthorne[One Appearance] Blackjack's lawyer; worked at DeWitt and Blackthorne (76) Blackjack's cousin (140) older man; as tall as all the Blackthornes; had ice-blue eyes; full head of silver-gray hair (310)
Henrietta "Henry" Blackthorne[One Appearance] Blackjack's and Lauren's granddaughter; Trace and Callie's youngest daughter; lived in Australia (77) 3-y-o (233)
Jake BlackthorneOwen and Bay's twin son (77) 18 months old (235)
James BlackthorneOwen and Bay's twin son (77) 18 months old (235)
Owen Blackthorne[Brief Appearance] [Hero of Book 2 / The Texan] Summer's brother; a Texas Ranger (54) Clay's twin (56) black hair (57) married Bay Creed 2-y-a; living happily in Fredericksburg; twin sons (77) had spent his life outdoors hunting down bad men; his features were weathered from the sun and his jeans and shirt were worn and soft from a thousand washings; a five-pointed silver star was pinned above his pocket and he had a Colt .45 strapped high on his hip; piercing gray eyes; over 6' hard body (162) had father's ruthless gray eyes of a predator (163)
Trace Blackthorne[Brief Appearance] [Hero of Book 1 / The Cowboy] Summer's oldest brother; inherited a cattle station in Australia (54) black hair (57) eldest Blackthorne son; married Callie four years ago and had taken their two children and moved with him to a cattle station in Australia; had another daughter (77) forced Sam to sober up; renovated house for Sam (233)
Mrs. Caputo[No Appearance] lady in apartment down the hall from Billy in Amarillo; treated Will like a grandson (44)
Dora Coburn[Important Secondary Character] Billy's mother; showed up at Blackjack's back door unwed and pregnant; only revealed to Blackjack that Billy was his son after Blackjack and his ranch hands beat Billy so bad he was hospitalized (3) dying of cancer; wanted Billy's forgiveness (14) lost 30 or 40 pounds; with the loss of flesh, her face had wrinkled in on itself; her brown hair had turned completely white and she wore it in an untidy bun at her nape; dark eyes look sunken behind black plastic frames; knobby elbows protruded from the short sleeves of a faded, rose-colored chenille robe that had not only seen better days, but better years (111)
Johnny Ray Coburn[No Appearance] Billy's father; paid to marry Dora and keep Billy's paternal roots a secret (3) drunken stepfather often left bruises with his fist; marriage to Dora had been arranged, and the deed to the ranch where they lived, along with a monthly stipend, had been payments for keeping the truth from Blackjack (5) resented all the things about Billy that reminded him of the man who sired him (6) died driving drunk 3-y-a (49)
Will Coburn[Secondary Character] Billy's son; result of sleeping with bar maid; beautiful; dark curls (12) 15 months old (38)
Creighton Creed[No Appearance] [Heroine of Frontier Woman] married the first Blackthorne against her son's wishes which started the feud that lasted until present day (76)
Jesse Creed[No Appearance] married Lauren 37-y-a; dead for 4 years (23)
Luke Creed[Brief Appearances] Lauren's son; restless and rebellious; 21-y-o; headed to some godforsaken African nation with his National Guard unit 5 months ago (74) looking fit and tanned; taller than Sam at the same age and a lot more lanky; dark brown hair; gray-green eyes that were old beyond his 20 years (305) father of Emma's baby (307)
Elizabeth "Liz" DeWitt[No Appearance] Summer's aunt; Evelyn's step-sister; had 3 sons and a tomboy daughter; sons had dark hair; died 5-y-a (243)
Ellen DeWitt[One Appearance] Summer's aunt; Evelyn's sister; had two sons Summer's age; both blonds (243) in the kitchen baking, wearing an apron that covered a simple cotton print dress, her feet stuck in furry pink house slippers (271)
Max [DeWitt][No Appearance] Summer's uncle; Ellen's husband; died 2-y-a of a heart attack (273)
Geoffrey[Brief Appearances] Summer's fiancé; his family was friends with Blackthorne family (10) strong, aristocratic chin (19) the best in a long line of prospective husbands thrown at Summer (25) a good man; someone who listened; loved Summer; chestnut hair (28) attorney at DeWitt & Blackthorne in Houston, Texas (314)
Grady[One Appearance] Sheriff; arrested Blackjack for Eve's murder (230)
Russell "Russ" Handy[One Appearance] Summer's biological father; Eve asked him to kill Lauren Creed, his bullet hit Jesse instead; loved Eve; had taken all the blame for the murder and was serving a life sentence in Huntsville (32) Eve's lover; Blackjack's foreman (87) had the wiry frame and weathered features of a man with spent his life working outdoors on horseback, but he had developed a nervous twitch in his right eye and his hands were never still; dark eyes (280)
Flossie Hart[One Appearance] organist for the Bitter Creek First Baptist Church; always late (346)
Debbie Sue Hudson[No Appearance] Will's mother (45) didn't want to marry Billy, nor have a baby (49) now married; didn't want Will, wanted money, suing for custody (49)
Joe[No Appearance] managed the grocery store in town; told Billy that Emma was working for Sam (172)
Wade Johnson[One Appearance] one of Billy's high school friends; attended the Circle B barbecue (159)
Harvey Kemper[One Appearance] rancher that Billy was working for; leathery sun-browned neck (192)
Maria[Brief Appearance] the Castle housekeeper (198)
Dr. Robert Truman[One Appearance] pastor of Bitter Creek First Baptist Church; called Pastor Rob (347)
Randy Tucker[One Appearance] Bitter Creek Cattle Company helicopter pilot (216)

Locations, Organizations Found In "The Loner"
Location / Organization Description
Armadillo Barlocated in Bitter Creek; where Blackjack confronted Billy about returning to Bitter Creek (1)
Amarillowhere Billy had been living for the past 2 years (2)
Bitter Creekbook setting; isolated cow town in the middle of South Texas (5)
Bitter Creek Cattle CompanyBlackthorne ranch (10) map of the original ranch boundaries drawn in 1864 hung in a place of honor over the fireplace in the parlor, each succeeding Blackthorne had purchased, procured, or, in some cases, purloined more land; an empire that ranged over 800 square miles, making Bitter Creek as large as some small northeastern states (24)
Bitter Creek County Jailwhere Blackjack was being held for trial (261)
Bitter Creek First Baptist Churchwhere Summer and Geoffrey were to be married (27)
Bitter Creek Regional Hospitalwhere Ren had been taken when her horse stumbled and she was thrown (81)
C-Bar RanchCoburn ranch where Billy grew up (16) derelict ranch in dirt-poor surroundings (11) mortgaged to the hilt; Johnny Ray had run it into the ground (51)
Castle, the30,000 square foot would-frame house which generations of Blackthorne had called home (27)
Circle BBitter Creek Cattle Company brand (159)
DeWitt and BlackthorneBlackjack's lawyer; offices in Houston (76) the firm had offices in every major metropolitan area in the United States and the capitals of several foreign nations (244)
DeWitt rancha ranch nearly as large as Bitter Creek, and each of the three DeWitt girls, Eve and Ellen and Elizabeth, had been named as one another's heirs to ensure that the land stayed in one piece; Aunt Ellen was now the sole owner of the DeWitt ranch (243)
Fredericksburgwhere Owen, Bay, Jake and James Blackthorne lived (77)
Huntsvillewhere Russell Handy was serving a life sentence for killing Jesse Creed (32)
Hunstville Prison Unitformerly known as "The Walls" for its infamous red brick walls, was among the oldest Texas prisons.   In 1848, it had been built on farmland, so inmates could work the fields.   It could now be found smack in the middle of downtown Huntsville (279)
Three Oaksthe Creed ranch; a small island, a mere hundred square miles of land, in a sea of Blackthorne grass; Blackthornes have been trying to buy it, or take it forcibly from Creeds, since the Civil War (76)
TSCRATexas and Southwestern Cattle Raisers' Association: Billy's employer; Jackson Blackthorne arranged for Billy to become an agent two years ago (2)

"The Loner" Quotations
6"Everybody in town knew what was going on in that house.   Anybody could have stopped it."   (Billy)
16he didn't need help from anybody.   (Billy)
22She'd struggled for two years with the realization that her dearly beloved father wasn't even related to her.   She was neither fish nor fowl.   Not a blood relative.   Not adopted.   (Summer)
49Billy knew what it felt like to be unwanted, and he'd been determined no kid of his was going to suffer that fate.   (Billy)
50Judges listened to what you had to say, then did what they damn well pleased.   He didn't trust a one of them.   (Billy)
61His eyes looked haunted, like a starving animal that sees the cheese laid on a trap, and knows that if he reaches for it, he's liable to get hurt, but still so hungry that he takes the risk.   (Summer)
64As simple as that, the bond that had been broken when Billy had left two years before was mended.   Summer knew what he was feeling, and he knew how much she cared, without a word being spoken.   (Summer)
69"This is my life.   I'm going to live it my way."   (Summer)
77she'd learned a long time ago that you couldn't always have what you wanted, even if you wanted it very badly. (Lauren)
100She had always yearned for her mother's approval, strived to earn it, yet somehow never quite measured up.   That didn't mean she didn't love her mother, and respect her.   (Summer)
125She wanted to be loved by someone -- anyone -- the way Billy loved Will.   It must be wonderful to know you were the total focus of someone's life, that his every thought concerned how to make you happy.   (Summer)
143He knew that she, like so many other women, had taken one look and decided that being tied to a wheelchair kept him from being either a physical or a sexual threat. He hated being dismissed as a man simply because he didn't have the use of his legs. He still felt desire. He still needed to be held. He still needed to be loved. (Sam)
147He couldn't afford to let himself care.   Not when he knew he was asking for heartbreak.   (Sam)
164All the unfairness of his situation, all his antagonism toward Blackjack for taking away his livelihood, toward Debbie Sue for blackmailing him, toward his mother for getting sick and his sister for getting pregnant, and the sexual frustration of lying night after night beside a woman he wanted but couldn't have, needed an outlet.   (Billy)
171He would never give up.   But it was getting harder to believe he would be able to drag himself out of the bottomless pit into which Jackson Blackthorne had shoved him.   (Billy)
175He didn't want to make love to his wife.   He didn't want to give her any more of his heart than she already had.   He needed a little of it to get through the rest of his life what she was gone.   (Billy)
175But the truth was, he had reached the end of his tether, and something had to break.   (Billy)
190It seemed she had been trying to prove herself all her life -- first to her father and now to Billy -- and always came up wanting.   (Summer)
191She tried to imagine herself living Billy's life, being knocked down over and over and getting up every single time to fight again.   In the same situation, would she have kept on slugging?
Summer understood Billy's defiance far better now that she'd walked a mile in his shoes.   (Summer)
213His eyes were tormented.   "She wasn't a good mother," he bit out.   "Why the hell does this hurt so much?"   (Owen)
252"All being a Blackthorne has ever meant to me was a bloodied nose or a punch in the kidney.   I don't want any part of it.   And neither should you.   There's not a drop of Blackthorne blood in your veins!"   (Billy)
252"I'm what Blackjack has made me," Billy said.   "And so are you.   The way I figure it, that makes us pretty much the same.   Nothing and nobody."   (Billy)
268"I want to be a respected member of the community.   The kind of man other men tipped their hats to.   The kind of man women don't cross to the other side of the street to avoid.   Money can't buy me that.   I'm not sure I can ever have that if I stay here in Bitter Creek."   (Billy)
268"And nobody beat you, Billy.   Nobody.   Not even Blackjack."   (Summer)
270"I want to be my own boss.   I want my own place, with enough of a nest egg to be able to support my family and still have time to play catch with my sons and go riding with my daughters and make love to my wife."   (Billy)
276"Divorces can do a lot of damage," Billy agreed.   "Almost as much damage as two people staying together who ought to get the hell away from one another."   (Billy)
315"I want a man, Billy.   Geoffrey is a boy dressed in grown-up clothes.   You're so much more than he could ever be.   You're determined and courageous and you never, ever give up."   (Summer)
330"You don't choose who you love.   And you can hide your feelings, but they never really go away."   (Lauren)

"Joan Johnston -- The Loner" Review and Information Links
Rated Posted Site Notes, Comments, Etc.
----Joan Johnston's WebsiteAuthor
----Joan Johnston's FacebookAuthor
. . . . . . . . .. . .
4.5003-xx-2002A Romance Review--Amanda // good: brief synopsis and brief review
C+ / Warm03-25-2002All About Romance--Ellen Micheletti // excellent synopsis, cute, entertaining review
3.79 average{33 reviews}Amazonas of: December 15, 2014
4.24 average{45 ratings}Barnes & Nobleas of: December 15, 2014
----Fantastic FictionList of Joan Johnston's Books
----Fict FactList of Books In The "Bitter Creek" Series
----Fiction DBList of Joan Johnston's Books
Article06-24-2014Fresh FictionJoan Johnston -- The Challenges of Writing a Series
4.12 average{676 ratings}Good Readsas of: December 15, 2014
3.83 average{26 ratings}Library Thingas of: December 15, 2014
39--Mrs. Gigglesextremely snarky and unkind {as is typical of Mrs G}
3.90 average{161 ratings}Paperback Swapas of: December 15, 2014
----Order of BooksList of Joan Johnston's Books
4.22 average{9 reviews}Shelfarias of: December 15, 2014
5.0012-15-2014Wolf Bear Does Booksshorter post on Amazon, Fiction DB, Good Reads, Library Thing, Shelfari

♥   Disclaimer:   I Purchased This Book
♥   Very Subjective Rating

Personal Observation:
After years of reading romance books and online reviews, it has become increasingly obvious that many, many times the reason a particular reader loves or hates an author's work is because of how the book "speaks" to the reader.   It is obvious that each and every unique reader out there has personal experiences that elicit reactions to the words, the plot, and/or the actions of the characters that have emerged from the imagination of talented authors.

The Rant:
After reading The Texan, I went to Good Reads to see what my fellow romance readers thought of this wonderful book and happened upon a review that, quite honestly, pushed my buttons.   I thought, "How dare this incredibly judgmental person find so much fault with such a gifted author's work?"   I figured that reading this book must have just pushed some of this reviewer's buttons.

But after reading The Loner and again going to Good Reads to see if other reviewers loved this book as much as me, there she was again, tearing Joan Johnston apart for things she found fault with in The Loner.   My first thought was, "For Pete's Sake, if you hated The Texan so much, why in the world would you pick up the next book in the series?"   I don't know about you, but if I read a book that set my teeth on edge so badly that I verbally ripped it apart (at great length, mind you), why would I pick up the next book in the series and read it -- especially when it was obvious I was going to encounter those same, apparently moral-less characters, in that next book.

Much to my dismay, not only did she pick up the next book in the series, but her review of the book was even more judgmental and negative than the one before.   I was wondering if this young thing was still too young to have made a few mistakes of her own -- to have not yet realized that, "hey, we're all human and humans make mistakes."

Then I looked to see, if maybe, she only had hated Joan Johnston's books.   But, no, this must be one unhappy young lady.   After scrolling through three or four pages of the books this young lady has read, it was to see not one book was rated above three stars.   So, I thought, surely she must like something, so I clicked on her favorites and found one four-star rating.   The rest were rated two or three stars.   This struck me as being particularly sad.   What kind of person reads book after book after book -- just to find fault with each one of those books!

Anyway, this rant is because it seems so unfair that authors have to endure such reviewers.
Just saying!

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Joan Johnston -- The Texan

Joan Johnston -- The Texan

Rated: ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ . ♥   {4.85}
Action: ♠♠♠♠ / Emotion: ♣♣♣♣♣ / Romance: ♥♥♥♥♥ / Sensuous: ♦♦.♦ / Suspense: ♠♠♠
Action: 4.0 / Emotion: 5.0 / Romance: 5.0 / Sensuous: 2.5 / Suspense: 3.0  //  Laughter: 1 // Tears: 3 / Teary: 2

Setting:       Bitter Creek, Texas / Big Bend National Park, Texas
Era:             Present Day (2001)
= = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = =
Joan Johnston is a favorite author because of her talent at weaving a fascinating tale that draws the reader into the lives of the characters who are walking through the pages of her books.   Even though The Texan is only the second book of The Bitter Creek Series, Johnston has managed to make the complex characters she is developing in the background as she tells readers about the current hero and heroine to such a degree that they stay with you, making it almost impossible not to pick up the next book in the series to find out where Johnston is taking these feuding families.

The Texan is a well-written story that provides hours of entertainment as Johnston weaves an intriguing tale of romance that develops between Owen Blackthorne, another son of the almighty Blackthornes, and Bayleigh "Bay" Creed, the daughter of the struggling Creeds.   And while Owen and Bay are walking through the pages of their book, Johnston continues to develop the personalities of the secondary characters who were introduced in the first book of the series, The Cowboy.   Johnston has used her gift of storytelling to ensure that readers are going to want to continue reading each book of The Bitter Creek Series to see what is going to happen next.

If there is one drawback with the way Johnston is spending so much time developing her secondary charters, it is that it took time away from regaling readers with Owen's and Bay's childhood and backstories.   Owen and Bay were so spellbinding when they were briefly introduced in The Cowboy that it was difficult to not to pick up The Texan as soon as the last sentence was read.   One could not help but want to know how Owen became such a strong, driven man after growing up with a mother who obviously didn't care for him and having to deal with the mental anguish of paralyzing a team mate on the football practice field.   And then there was Bayleigh, the apparently strong-willed woman who was not afraid to stand up for the rights of her family.   Bay was a member of the bitter, beleaguered Creed family, yet not -- because she had been away, studying to be a veterinarian at Texas A&M University.

The feud between the Blackthornes and the Creeds continues to take center stage as the second story in this saga takes place eighteen months after Trace and Callie left for their cattle station in Australia at the end of The Cowboy.   The book opens with Texas Ranger, Owen Blackthorne, having to deal with the vituperative attitude of eighteen-year-old Luke Creed, who is at the Armadillo Bar trying to purchase a drink and accuse Owen's twin brother, Major Clay Blackthorne, the commanding officer of Bravo Company, 186th Combat Engineer Battalion of the Bitter Creek National Guard with the theft of the missing VX nerve gas mines that Bravo Company had been transporting.

One loose thread that continued to turn up periodically throughout this story was how certain characters became members of the Bitter Creek National Guard.   For instance, how was it that Clay Blackthorne, the youngest ever attorney general of the state of Texas, a man who had no time for his identical twin, came to be the leader of Bitter Creek's National Guard.   Especially since Clay didn't even live in Bitter Creek anymore.   And how did young Luke, with a humongous chip on his shoulder for all things Blackthorne, come to be a Private under the command of a hated Blackthorne?   It was easy to imagine that these two men (although Luke is not yet mature enough to be categorized as such), who were tied to their lands for generations, joined the Bitter Creed National Guard to serve as had the men in their families before them.   But the one member of Bravo Company that was hard to swallow without some kind of explanation, was 'Bad' Billy Coburn.   It would have been nice if Johnston had somehow explained how it came to be that these characters served with the national guard instead of just plopping them all into Bravo Company for the sake of the story.

Since Owen came across as an angst-filled alpha hero type when introduced in The Cowboy, it was endearing to see that he was not only a gorgeous hunk of alpha male, but that a compassionate heart beat underneath his muscled chest.   It was easy to fall in love with the hero of this book, especially when Owen tried to cut Luke some slack because he understood his anguish.
He knew what it was like to rage against circumstances over which you had no control.   He knew what it was like to hurt inside because someone you cared for was gone forever.   (Owen, page 2)
Johnston does a great job of introducing sparks of romance between Owen and Bay when she shows up at the Armadillo Bar to try and keep her brother from getting into more trouble because of the chip on his shoulder.   The sparks and romantic interest are obvious between Owen and Bay as Bay marches up to Owen, a man head and shoulders taller than her, and pokes him in the chest and declares:
"Why don't you pick on someone you own size."   (Bay, page 7)
That spark of interest between Owen and Bay permeated the entire story as Bay blackmailed Owen with guilt and false leads to force him to take her along with him when he went to Big Bend National Park to search for the villains who stole the extremely deadly VX virus.   Because Bay kept bringing up events that occurred to the Creed family in The Cowboy, it is recommended that one read that book before reading The Texan to understand why her accusations carried such weight.   Reading The Cowboy would also help to understand how immersed in hatred the Creeds were for the Blackthornes.   Jesse Creed, Bay and Luke's father, was extremely vocal in his adamant avowal to his children that all Blackthornes were to be hated and not trusted.
Bay felt the same unwelcome reaction looking at Owen Blackthorne that she had felt last night.   A fluttering in her stomach.   An erratic heartbeat.   And a hot flash of awareness . . .   (Bay, page 30)

He couldn't understand how she was having this effect on him now, when their situation was so fraught with danger.   (Owen, page 143)
Bay insisted on traveling with Owen to Big Bend National Park because Luke, in his youthful zeal to bring one of the mighty Blacktorne's to justice, had disappeared in Big Bend and Bay wanted to make sure that Owen didn't shoot first and ask questions later.   And although there was a lull in the story at one point, Johnston included several exciting and entertaining action and adventure scenes as Owen and Bay traversed Big Bend National Park.   Johnston did an excellent job with her research as she included details about the park that added authenticity to the story.

Not only did Johnston regale readers with harrowing events, but she inserted some humor into Owen and Bay's travels.   Bay, who apparently is a chatterbox when she is nervous, displayed a lack of skill, that a woman who grew up on a working ranch should have had, when it came to traversing dangerous desert terrain.   The scene where Owen accused Bay of trying to incite him to lust with her actions was particularly entertaining and thoroughly enjoyable.

Johnston also did a great job when it came to inserting sensuality and sizzle into the lovemaking scenes.   When Owen and Bay made love, the passion, heat, and emotional connection came though the pages.   And even though Bay was more resistant to opening her heart up to a Blackthorne than was Owen to a Creed, at least Bay's reasons for rejecting Owen as a mate held a bit more value than Callie's.   It was a relief that Johnston didn't have Bay continue to reject Owen with the same long perseverance that readers were subjected to in The Cowboy.   But, again, it was Owen that had to persuade Bay to give the relationship a chance.
"It's okay, Red.   We'll figure something out.   This doesn't have to be the end of things between us."   (Owen, page 273)

"Damn it, Red!   Don't you dare give up on us!   Don't you quit!"   (Owen, page 283)
Another enjoyable aspect to the story was the way that Owen's and Bay's personalities were slowly revealed during their sojourn through Big Bend.   Again, even though it would have been nice to have more background details about each protagonist, Johnston did an excellent job of showing that Owen's and Bay's feelings complimented one another and allowed them to work together to overcome the odds that were stacked against them.
"Why didn't you became a lawyer like your brother?"
"I hated the thought of spending the rest of my life in an office.   I like the wide open spaces."
"I can appreciate that," Bay said.   "I feel the same way."   (Owen and Bay, page 73)

"My job doesn't allow for mistakes in a crisis," he said.
"Neither does mine."
He eyed her assessingly, "I suppose that's true.   Why would you choose a life-and-death job like being a vet?"
"I focus on the life part of the job," she said.   "And do my best to limit the deaths."
"Me, too," he said.   (Owen and Bay, page 114)
Naturally, since this is a romance novel, Johnston finishes with a big finale, in which Bay realizes she may die before she tells Owen, that, yes, she does love him.   And then readers are gifted with a true fairy-tale type ending in which Bay is blessed with the gift of her dreams on her wedding day.

One skill that Johnston has established in her books is her ability to include secondary characters that are so well-written and developed that they steal the spotlight from the main characters when it is their turn to walk through the pages of the story.   The Texan features quite a number of such secondary characters.   In fact, Johnston is so successful at adding more depth to several important secondary characters that she has ensured that readers will voraciously read the next books in the series to learn more about these people.

There are two secondary couples that are given voices in Owen and Bay's story.   The first couple, Jackson "Blackjack" Blackthorne and Lauren "Ren" Creed, are very much involved in a relationship, much to the dismay of their respective children.   Johnston paints such a vivid picture of the passion that exists between Blackjack and Ren that it is impossible not to hope that they will eventually be able to overcome the serious obstacles that are blocking their path to "happily ever after" land.
even a blind man could have sensed the yearning between his father and Lauren Creed whenever they got anywhere near one another, even before Jesse Creed's death.   (Owen, page 60)

Not just a peck on the cheek.   Not just a brush of the lips.   His large, work worn hands were splayed on her mother's jean-clad rear end, and she was arched into his body, her breasts pressed flat against his broad chest.   Their eyes were closed and their mouths were meshed and the way their jaws were working it was clear his tongue must be halfway down her throat.   (Bay, page 61)
And, boy, does Johnston pepper the story with some amazing twists and turns to add interest to the ongoing story of romance between Blackjack and Ren.   Since anyone who reads the back cover synopsis of the next book in the series, The Loner, will learn, 'Bad' Billy Coburn is Blackjack's son and that Summer Blackthorne is not his daughter.   And even though the book ends with Blackjack staying in a disastrous, loveless marriage, it was impossible not to understand the depth of Blackjack's love for Ren.
"You'll have to choose," she said.   "Between her and me."   (Lauren to Blackjack, page 102)

"Take it all!   I don't give a damn.   Just get out of my sight."   (Blackjack to Eve, page 262)
In this book, the story of how Blackjack and Ren meet and fell in love is told.   And while there are surely more details to the events that happened between Blackjack and Ren thirty-five years ago, apparently the passion and emotion between this couple was strong enough to last through many years of being married to another.   But Johnston botched one great big detail.   If readers of The Cowboy will remember, Ren told Callie:
"I was already pregnant with you when I realized I was in love with Jackson Blackthorne."   (The Cowboy, Lauren to Callie, page 226)
Also in The Cowboy, Trace is four years older than Callie.
Although they'd gone to school together their whole lives, he'd never paid much attention to her, because she was four years younger.   (The Cowboy, Trace, page 26)
In The Texan, it is revealed that Blackjack married Eve DeWitt after Lauren married Jesse Creed.
She wished she'd known then what she knew now.   That her conscience would force her to give up Blackjack and marry Jesse, whose child she carried.   And that even when she realized, within a year of marrying Jesse, that she'd made the wrong choice, it would be too late.   Because Jackson Blackthorne had already married Eve DeWitt and had a child of his own on the way.   (Lauren, page 97)
So how was it that Trace Blackthorne, Jackson and Eve's first child, was four years older than Callie Creed, Jesse and Lauren's first child?   Nevertheless, it is okay to accept that this is a work of fiction and readers can get over such a glaring mistake and re-enter the flow of the story for the entertainment value and hope that Johnston does a better job at math in the remainder of her books.

It is easy to overlook the occasional mistake because Johnston is so talented in the way she tells her stories that she can connect her readers to her characters on such a deep emotional level that she generates tears, tight throats and laughter.   And it is impossible not to shed tears with Lauren as Blackjack deals with the personification of evil to which he is married: Eve DeWitt Blackthorne.   Because money talks, Eve has managed to buy her way out of the sanitarium to which she had been committed for the last eighteen months.   And even though Eve provided readers with enough reasons to instill intense dislike towards her during The Cowboy, when Eve returns to the Castle and Blackjack, the depths of her lack of warmth and selfishness is exposed to an even greater degree and Johnston has managed to create feelings of extreme hatred for this character.

But it is the second couple in the story that really drew tears.   Johnston really began to flesh out the personality of Billy Coburn.   Billy is given a voice in this book and you cannot help but admire this 'Bad Boy' who has a deeply wounded heart underneath the facade of toughness that he developed to endure growing up under the heavy hand of an abusive, drunken father.   Johnston's descriptions of Billy are bold, vivid and incredibly revealing.
As Owen pulled up to the dilapidated Coburn homestead, he saw Bad Billy slouched in a rickety chair on the covered back porch.   His long legs extended over the broken porch rail, his booted feet crossed at the ankle.   A day's growth of dark beard masked his cheeks and chin, and he wore a battered Stetson that was crushed so far down over his shaggy black hair that it left his eyes in shadow."   (Owen, page 54)

His voice begged for an excuse to fight, and Owen had to resist the urge to give it to him.   (Owen, page 54)
As readers were told in The Cowboy, Summer Blackthorne is friends with Billy.   Johnston explains to readers why this came about.   Billy has struggled for years to remain "just friends" with Summer because he understands her even though he has loved her for years.   Billy knows he has nothing to offer Summer.
Billy recognized the look, because he'd seen it so often in his own mirror.   A need for acceptance.   A desire to please someone you feared you could never please.   And a feeling there must be something wrong with you, something that, if you only knew what it was, you would fix, because then you could get the acceptance you craved.   (Billy, page 106)
Billy, however, is not immune to Summer's feminity and when Summer realizes it, she presses the issue in her juvenile, "I'm Used To Getting Everything I Want" manner.   When Summer insists on kissing Billy to see what it was like, she destroys the friendship.
he couldn't be her friend anymore.   Things had changed unalterably between them.   They had played a dangerous game.   And they had both lost.   (Billy, page 112)
But what really divides Billy and Summer is their heredity.   The issue of the "haves" and the "have nots" is again addressed by Johnston in The Texan.   The Blackthornes walk through life without a clue about how difficult it is for everyone else to just put food on the table.   Johnston portrays this characteristic realistically and vividly time and time again during the telling of Owen and Bay's story.
"You can't imagine what it's like to be poor, because you've been rich all your life."   (Bay to Owen, page 209)

She was already waiting for him when he arrived, wearing a tailored Western shirt, designer jeans that hugged every curve, and hand-tooled Western boots with her family's Circle B brand on them, made especially for her by a bootmaker in Dallas.   The clothes on her back would have fed his family for half a year.   She had no concept of what it meant to be poor, and he could never explain it to her.   (Billy, about Summer, page 175)

Mrs. Blackthorne's countenance was serene, as though she didn't have a worry in the world -- and never had.   And her tailored, tiny-sized, off-white suit and snakeskin pointy-toed shoes must have cost at least a thousand dollars -- each.   (Dora, page 228)
So while Billy is just struggling to exist and then he experiences the extreme anguish of losing Summer, the love of his life, when he learns that he is Blackjack's son, his tears and that of the reader flow.   Billy is such a admirable character that one looks forward to reading his story (The Loner) with great anticipation.   And not because he is to be paired with Summer.   Because Summer is just not likeable in this story.   In her youth and naivety, she expects Billy to do all the giving and then rejects him because he choose money over her.   (Only a person who never had money problems would identify with Summer.)
Whether it was a flaw in his character or not, he wanted to be proud of himself and what he did.   (Billy, page 314)

Billy felt like he was being ripped apart.   He wanted Summer.   He wanted that job.   But he couldn't have both.   (Billy, page 314)

"Sorry isn't good enough, Billy.   You of all people . . . choosing money over me.   I hate you.   Do you hear?" she sobbed.   "I hate you!   How could you?   You were supposed to be my friend."   (Summer, page 316)
One other secondary character was important to the story line of this book,   Billy's mother, Dora Coburn was given a voice in the book to move the story along the path Johnston was taking.   Johnston, however, did not develop the personality of Dora in this story.   She was just used as a plotting instrument.   For some reason, unbeknownst to reader, Dora, or probably Blackjack himself, Blackjack, in a weak moment twenty-five years ago, had sex with young Dora when she was a waitress at the Lone Star Café.   That one incident resulted in pregnancy.   When young, single Dora approached the Castle to talk to Blackjack, she ended up in the clutches of evil Eve and as a result found herself married to Johnny Ray Coburn and was forced to endure a life of misery.

In closing, The Texan, the second book in The Bitter Creek Series, is another of Joan Johnston's engaging, intriguing, entertaining well-told stories.   She included in this book the following: {1} Owen Blackthorne, an honorable, compassionate, strong-willed, driven hero, who quickly and easily won hearts of readers; {2} Bayleigh "Bay" Creed, a pint-sized heroine, who is a bundle of fury and determination, willing to do whatever it takes to support her family; {3} enough action and adventure scenes as Owen and Bay traverse Big Bend National Park to keep the story moving at a strong pace; {4} a modicum of suspense as Owen and Bay search for the mastermind who stole canisters of a deadly nerve gas; {5} strong feelings of romance permeate the entire story as Owen and Bay are acutely aware of the other as they travel; {6} a deep emotional connection between reader and characters brought forth tears and laughter; {7} emotional, passionate, sizzling lovemaking scenes added a spicy flavor to the story; {8} the inclusion of ongoing sub-stories that involve incredibly well-written secondary characters that really add to the enjoyment of the book.   Those characters include: {1} Jackson "Blackjack" Blacktorne, the patriarch of the wealthy Bitter Creek family; {2} Lauren "Ren" Creed, Bay's mother and the love of Blackjack's life; {3} 'Bad' Billy Coburn, the Bad Boy who melted readers into a puddle of tears; {4} Summer Blackthorne, an unlikeable spoiled little rich girl; {5} Eve DeWitt Blackthorne, the detestable evil wife of Blackjack; {5} Dora Coburn, the suffering mother of Billy; {6} Sam Creed, the rarely appearing, paralyzed brother to Bay; {7} Luke Creed, the young, antagonistic brother of Bay, and {8} Clay Blackthorne, the seriously under-developed twin brother of Owen.   Having read this book once before (October 17, 2006), The Texan will remain on my "To Be Re-Read" list.
--Vonda M. Reid (Friday, December 12, 2014 : 10:30 p.m.)     [350]

Books In The Series: "The Bitter Creek Series"
# Date Title Hero Heroine
01.02-2000The CowboyTrace Blackthorne, eldest sonCallie Creed, eldest daughter
02.03-2001The TexanOwen Blackthorne, Texas RangerBayleigh "Bay" Creed, veterinarian
03.03-2002The LonerBilly CoburnSummer Blackthorne, only daughter
04.03-2003The PriceLuke Creed, Houston attorneyAmy Hazeltine Nash, high school sweetheart
05.09-2004The RivalsDrew DeWitt, playboySarah Barndollar, deputy sheriff
06.09-2005The Next Mrs. BlackthorneClay Blackthorne, new Federal JudgeLibby Grayhawk
  secondary:North Grayhawk, Blackthorne arch-rivalJocelyn Montrose, socialite
07.07-2007A Stranger's GameBreed Grayhawk, FBI AgentGrace Caldwell, framed for murder
08.01-2010ShatteredJack McKinleyKate Grayhawk Pendleton
  secondary:. . .. . .
09.04-2012Texas Bride [1]Jacob "Jake" CreedMiranda Wentworth
10.01-2013Wyoming Bride [1]Flint CreedHannah Wentworth McMurty
10e03-2014A Bitter Creek Christmas. . .. . .
11.01-2014Montana Bride [1]Karl NorwoodHetty Wentworth
12.05-2014SinfulConnor Flynn, widower, Delta ForceEve Grayhawk,
[1]   These books are listed as a Historical Romance Sub-Series entitled "The Mail Order Brides".

Characters Found In "The Texan"
Character Description
Owen Blackthorne[Hero] Texas Ranger (1) Clay's identical twin; tall; broad-shouldered; lean-hipped; spent his life outdoors, so his skin was tanned, making his gray eyes look almost silver, and he had his share of crow's-feet from squinting pass the glare of the searing Texas sun; mostly wore Wrangler jeans, a yoked white Western shirt with a bolo tie, and cowboy boots; 32-y-o (3) wavy black hair crept a good 2 inches over his collar (29) dark curls on his chest; strong, sinewy forearms; sharp cheekbones and bronze skin gave him the look of some long-ago savage; responsible for the high school football injury to Sam (30) 6'+" tall (33) son of one of the wealthiest men in the country (40) controlled his emotions; quick reflexes; loved his job, it was all he had (53) 6'4" (57) cold, remote gray eyes; stayed in control; features revealed little (65) qualified pilot (69) drove black extended cab Silverado (70) majored in government in college (73) washboard abdominal muscles (135) lead a privileged life (163) masculine physique; sinewy arms; powerful hands; rugged jaw; sharp nose; muscular calves, thighs, feet (267)
Bayleigh "Bay" Creed[Heroine] wore butter-soft jeans that cupped her butt, that emphasized her flat belly and slender legs (5) thick auburn hair; blazing blue eyes; sprinkle of childish freckles across her nose (7) barely reached Owen's shoulder; Owen's hands could span her waist; curved in all the right places; not well endowed on top (7) spitfire (9) studied at veterinary college at Texas A&M; licensed vet for more than a year (16) 25-y-o; yellow roses were her favorite flower (21) not very tall; all legs; fit Owen in all the right places; reminded Owen of one of those small, prickly animals that put up dangerous spikes if you got too close (52) violet blue eyes (53) flew helicopters during roundup (70) trained in martial arts (71) talked when nervous (113) loved movies (117) prickly; persistent (147) had lived hand-to-mouth (162) unable to have kids (268)
. . . . . .
Callie Creed Blackthorne[No Appearance] [Heroine of Book 1: The Cowboy] Bayleigh's eldest sister; married Trace Blackthorne (18) lived on cattle station in Australia (42) pregnant at Christmas (269)
Clay Blackthorne[Secondary Character] [Hero of Book 6: The Next Mrs. Blackthorne] Owen's identical twin; tall; broad-shouldered; lean-hipped; had been elected the youngest ever attorney general of the state of Texas two years ago at the age of 30; wore a button-down Oxford-cloth shirt with a red striped tie, expensive wool-blend suit trousers, and cordovan shoes; dark chest hair (3) Major in the Bitter Creek National Guard (4) silk Armani tie (5) son of one of the wealthiest men in the country (40) majored in government in college; attended Harvard Law (73) ambitious; believed political power was the road to important social change (147) commanding officer of Bravo Company, 186th Combat Engineer Battalion (201)
Eve DeWitt Blackthorne[Major Secondary Character] Owen's mother; responsible for the death of Bayleigh's father; in a sanitarium (2) despised Owen (51) doing everything in her power from the sanitarium to prevent divorce (59) brought 50,000 acres of DeWitt grassland to her marriage; beautiful; educated; talented; a perfect hostess; a critically acclaimed artist; a good businesswoman; a passionate and creative and desirable sexual partner (183) took pictures of interesting subjects, then corrected the flaws she found in the photographs, transforming the blemish world into perfect beauty on canvas; a nationally renowned Western artist (185) looked young, natural, touchable (186) incredibly beautiful, her blonde hair cut short and styled in windswept look; serene countenance (228) shrewd look in ice-blue eyes (230) like a snake in the Garden of Eden (231) a woman with empty spaces that she refused to fill with the things she wanted -- especially love; had been unhappy for a long time (236) a little crazy; a little vengeful; a little sad (237)
Jackson "Blackjack" Blackthorne[Major Secondary Character] Owen's father; loved Ren (27) patriarch of Blackthorne family; hired Ren to train cutting horses for him (48) 18 months ago when learned Eve had been unfaithful, vowed to end 33-y-o marriage in divorce (59) large, work worn hands; broad chest (61) thick black hair (62) annoying, unruffled calm (65) hard-hearted (70) stone cold gray eyes (95) wily-tongued devil (97) powerful chest (98) willingness to make hard choices when he was after something he wanted; aged well; 55-y-o; crow's feet at the corners of his eyes and harsh lines drawn on either side of his mouth; jawline was still straight and firm, probably from the arrogant thrust of it all these years; inch or two taller than Jesse, but his shoulders were broader, more powerful (99) trim waist; lean of hip; looked weathered, like a piece of wood that had met wind and sun and only been polished to a brighter sheen; nearly killed by heart attack 2-y-a (100)
Summer Blackthorne[Major Secondary Character] [Heroine of Book 3: The Loner] Owen and Clay's little sister; had reputation for running wild; dropped out of six colleges; the apple of her father's eyes; spoiled rotten; hazel eyes; blond hair (17) skintight jeans (57) mind of her own (59) her dream was to run Bitter Creek Cattle Company; father wanted to sell her to get more land; hazel eyes (105) vulnerable; felt very alone in a house full of servants; stifled by her brothers because they wanted to keep her safe; didn't understand her mother, who kept her at far more than an arm's distance; loved her father, who couldn't imagine a dream she had that reached far beyond becoming a wife and mother (174) drove cherry red brand new Silverado (175)
Trace Blackthorne[No Appearance] [Hero of Book 1: The Cowboy] Owen's eldest brother; married Callie Creed (18) lived on cattle station in Australia (42)
James Brophy[Rare Appearances] FBI Agent; worked with Paul Ridgeway; attacked Owen and Bay (157)
'Bad' Billy Coburn[Major Secondary Character] [Hero of Book 3: The Loner] rode a Harley (38) "slouched in a rickety chair on the covered back porch. His long legs extended over the broken porch rail, his booted feet crossed at the ankle. A days growth of dark beard masked his cheeks and chin, and he wore a battered Stetson that was crushed so far down over his shaggy black hair that it left his eyes in shadow."; cigarette hung from the corner of his mouth; voice begged for an excuse to fight; air of menace about him; beaten regularly by his father until he was 14 (54) earned his name, becoming a dangerous sonofabtich to cross; suspended so many times it was a wonder he'd graduated from high school; scored amazingly high on his college boards; didn't have the grades to get into affordable state university; family couldn't afford to send him to private university; drunk too much; fought on a whim; looked for trouble wherever he rode; Trace fired him for drunken brawl 2-y-a; so good with a rope that found other ranch work; didn't get along well with others, so jobs didn't last long; lanky cowboy; malevolence lurked in his dark eyes (55) lived his life in isolation; member of Bravo Company; "Resentment for all the years he had stood alone against the world simmered in Bad Billy Coburn's dark, sullen eyes." (56) 6'4" (57) father died in drunk driving accident year ago; friends with Summer; reputed to be wild in his dealings with women (58) had been a model citizen since father had died; hated his home; hated growing up there; stayed to help sister (103) powerful arms; broad chest; long, strong arms (109) 4 years older than Summer (174) lanky, all muscle and sinew; crow-black hair needed a cut and hung over his frayed collar beneath a dirty gray felt Stetson that was stained with sweat around the braided leather band; deep-set eyes were dark; his mouth sullen; his stance defiant (243) insolent; obstinate; determination of a dozen generations of Blackthornes (257) responsible; dutiful son (258) response to adversity had always been to fight back (309)
Mrs. Dora Coburn[Major Secondary Character] Billy's mother (58) 25 years, hard work and unhappiness had etched face with too many wrinkles; looked 55 when in fact she was only 44; wore a fraying print jersey dress she'd brought at Kmart in a woman's size to accommodate the extra pounds that had stuck to her waist and hips from too many cheap meals of tortillas and pinto beans and rice; scraped her long, gray-streaked brown hair back from her face in a no-nonsense bun; wore black plastic framed glasses that hid entrancing brown eyes; had once been young and beautiful enough to catch Jackson Blackthorne's eye; had worked part time after school at the Loan Star Café in town as a waitress (228)
Emma Coburn[No Appearance] Billy's teen-aged sister (58)
Johnny Ray Coburn[No Appearance] Eve Blackthorne arranged for him to marry Dora, to keep Blackjack's bastard a secret; turned out to be a mean drunk; envy and hate ate at him; beat innocent wife and child; shiftless; lazy (234)
Cricket Stewart Creed[No Appearance] [Heroine of Frontier Woman] Bay's and Owen's ancestor; married Jarrett Creed first, English Blackthorne second (74)
Jarrett Creed[No Appearance] [Hero of Frontier Woman] Bay's ancestor; a Texas Ranger (74) thought killed in Civil War; wounded, ended up in Andersonville; returned home to find Cricket married to Blackthorne; disappeared (224)
Jesse Creed[No Appearance] murdered (1) Bayleigh and Luke's father (8) dark eyes (95)
Lauren "Ren" Creed[Major Secondary Character] Bayleigh's mother (27) complexion unmarred by the harsh Texas sun; didn't wear makeup and didn't need it; trim figure, almost girlish; fine lines around her wide-set hazel eyes; 51-y-o (46) gray hair at her temples; still craved Jackson (100) as graceful and elegant as the horse she rode (322)
Luke Creed[Important Secondary Character] [Hero of Book 4: The Price] 18-y-o; baggy jeans; over-sized t-shirt; Texas-sized chip on his narrow shoulders; brown hair was cut in short, youthful spikes; desperate brown eyes were ages older, angry, bitter and disillusioned; had been in and out of trouble constantly for the past 18 months, since his father was murdered; blamed the Blackthornes for father's murder (1) member of Bitter Creek National Guard (4) Harley-Davidson (22) 6' tall; slim (26) private in Bravo Company (36) son of widowed mother who could barely make ends meet (40)
Sam Creed[Secondary Character] Bayleigh's older brother (21) high school football injury left him paralyzed (30) a cripple for life at 18; he'd railed against his fate; for the next 11 years, had been a surly, miserable creature, drunk as often as not; become responsible after father's death; Trace arranged for a special van that Sam could drive by himself and remodeled the foreman's house so Sam could live there on his own; scraggly beard was gone; shoulder-length chestnut-brown hair had been trimmed up over his ears; wore a newly ironed Western shirt and crisp jeans and boots with a spit shine (44) brown eyes were clear and bright, without the red lines that spoke of a night's dissipation; voice had a pleasant Texas drawl without the slur that had so often marked his speech when he was drunk; took a great interest in family's Santa Gertrudis cow/calf business (45)
Russell Handy[No Appearance] Eve Blackthorne's lover; Blackjack's segundo; conspired with Eve; killed Jesse Creed; had taken all the blame on himself, confessing his guilt to the police and refusing to name any other responsible party; had been convicted of murder and was serving a life sentence in Huntsville (51) loved Eve; respected and admired Blackjack (75)
Hardy[One Appearance] Bitter Creek ranch hand; Blackjack asked him to rough up Bad Billy Coburn (243)
Hobo[Animal] mule; had eaten a plastic bag that had gotten stuck in its throat (20)
Leon[One Appearance] Bitter Creek ranch hand; Blackjack asked him to rough up Bad Billy Coburn (243)
Tex Mabry[Brief Appearances] Texas Ranger Captain; Owen's boss; older man; salt and pepper mustache (36)
Manny[One Appearance] 12-y-o boy who answered pay phone when Bayleigh tried to call Luke back (26)
Marcus[One Appearance] Bitter Creek ranch hand; Blackjack asked him to rough up Bad Billy Coburn (243)
Rascal[Animal] one of Cricket Stewart's pet wolves (74)
Hank Richardson[No Appearance] Texas Ranger who was sent to Big Bend to track down thieves of VX nerve gas mines; killed (10) Owen's best friend (11)
Julia Richardson[One Appearance] Hank's wife; 8 months pregnant (13)
Cindy Ridgeway[No Appearance] Paul Ridgeway's only daughter; Clay Blackthorne's fiancé; killed two weeks before the wedding by a vagrant (11) won barrel racing and rodeo competitions; college debate trophies; both athletic and smart (295)
Paul Ridgeway[Secondary Character] the FBI special-agent in charge of coordinating all the law enforcement agencies investigating the theft of the VX mines; had a difficult time dealing with daughter's death (11) wore wire-rimmed glasses that made him look businesslike rather than trendy; nearly bald, what hair he had been cut severely short; no mistaking that he was in charge; reminded Bay of a bulldog, with his powerful neck, square flat face, and short legs; fiercely tenacious (78) dark eyes (81)
Rogue[Animal] one of Cricket Stewart's pet wolves (74)
Ruffian[Animal] one of Cricket Stewart's pet wolves (74)
Slim[One Appearance] Creed ranch hand; watching over Smart Little Doc and Sugar Pep (90)
Smart Little Doc[Animal] Blackthorne's championship cutter (60)
Sugar Pep[Animal] Creed's mare; breed to Smart Little Doc (60)
Sylvia[One Appearance] Clay's secretary (284)
Tom[One Appearance] Bitter Creek ranch hand; told to take Summer home (242)
Terry Watkins[Rare Appearances] FBI Agent that came to camp to retrieve Luke (280)

Locations, Organizations Found In "The Texan"
Location / Organization Description
Alpinesmall town near Big Bend where Owen land CJ1 (76)
Armadillo Barbar where Owen entered to find Luke causing trouble (1)
Big Bend National Parkwas about the most desolate, perilous place you could be in West Texas; desert landscape was rife with poisonous snakes and sharp-thorned cacti; cell phones didn't always work in the rugged mountains and deep canyons (28) sprawled over an area larger than Rhode Island, with hundreds of miles of paved and unpaved roads and remote, primitive trails; most of it was desert filled with plants that needed little water (39)
Bitter Creeksituated on the eastern side of the bottom most tip of Texas, south of San Antonio, east of Houston, and north of Brownsville (28)
Bitter Creek Cattle CompanyBlackthorne ranch; an 800 square-mile cattle ranch with enough oil underground to please an Arab sheik (19)
the Castlethe name the Blackthorne's called their home; 30,000 square feet filled with Tiffany and Chippendale and a heritage that went back 150 years (19)
Dead Horse Mountainswhere Bay believed Luke to be (87)
Franklin ranchwhere Bayleigh called to attend Hobo (20)
Henderson ranchwhere Bayleigh made a house call (20)
Midland-Odessa Airportwhere Bay landed helicopter (282)
Panther Junctionone entrance to Big Bend; where Owen and Bay entered (84)
Pine Bluff, Arkansaswhere a disposal and storage facility for VX nerve gas mines was located (5)
Rio Grande Villagewhere Luke called Bay from pay phone (26)
Sam's Placecamp for kids with disabilities that Owen funded with the trust fund from his grandmother (his father's mother); in the Hill Country near Fredericksburg (206)
Stephenson ranchwhere Bayleigh made a house call (20)
Telephone Canyon Trailin Big Bend National Park; the Army ran a phone line down the canyon during World War I (113)
Texas and Southwestern Cattle AssociationJackson Blackthorne was past president (259)
Three Oaksthe Creed ranch; had been forced to come up with millions of dollars to pay real estate taxes on the ranch when Jesse Creed died (8) lodged in the very center of the vast Bitter Creek ranching empire (17) measured a mere 5 miles east and west and 20 miles north and south; land had been bitterly fought over by Blackthorne's and Creed's since the Civil War (18)

"The Texan" Quotations
21Unlike people, animals loved honestly, unjudgmently, and without reservation.   (Bayleigh)
53He hated apologizing even more than he hated losing his temper.   (Owen)
104She had no idea his feelings for her went as deep as the ocean.   (Billy)
106Billy recognized the look, because he'd seen it so often in his own mirror.   A need for acceptance.   A desire to please someone you feared you could never please.   And a feeling there must be something wrong with you, something that, if you only knew what it was, you would fix, because then you could get the accepted you craved.   (Billy)
179"I'm asking if you really want to be with me, Summer.   Enough to give up your life at Bitter Creek and become a part of mine."   (Billy)
179"This isn't a game, Summer.   I'm not a toy you can play with when the mood strikes and put back in the box."   (Billy)
183When he was with her [Ren], she filled a place inside him that had been empty for far too long.   (Blackjack)
314Whether it was a flaw in his character or not, he wanted to be proud of himself and what he did.   (Billy)

"Joan Johnston -- The Texan" Review and Information Links
Rated Posted Site Notes, Comments, Etc.
----Joan Johnston's WebsiteAuthor
----Joan Johnston's FacebookAuthor
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D / Hot03-21-2001All About Romance--Rachel Porter // excellently justified her harsh statements
4.34 average{29 reviews}Amazonas of: December 13, 2014
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----Fantastic FictionList of Joan Johnston's Books
----Fict FactList of Books In The "Bitter Creek" Series
----Fiction DBList of Joan Johnston's Books
Article06-24-2014Fresh FictionJoan Johnston -- The Challenges of Writing a Series
4.14 average{1,049 ratings}Good Readsas of: December 13, 2014
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----Order of BooksList of Joan Johnston's Books
4.14 average{7 reviews}Shelfarias of: December 13, 2014
4.8512-13-2014Wolf Bear Does Booksshorter post on Amazon, Fiction DB, Good Reads, Library Thing, Shelfari

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