Saturday, September 12, 2015

An Officer and a Maverick - Teresa Southwick (HSE #2425 - Sept 2015)

Series: Montana Mavericks: What Happened at the Wedding (Book 3)

The Curious Case of Detective Dreamy

Rust Creek Ramblings

By now, you've all heard about Lani Dalton, everyone's favorite Ace in the Hole bartender. Observed singing and dancing fully clothed in the park fountain on the Fourth of July, she was hauled off to jail dripping wet by dashing detective Russ Campbell. Readers, what would you do if you found yourselves in the strong arms of the law?

Since then, Lani's been reluctant to revisit the Case of the Spiked Wedding Punch. Because helping the arrestingly handsome Russ crack the case could risk breaching family confidentiality -- and Lani never breaks a promise! So why does Russ keep showing up at the Ace? We at The Gazette would never kiss and tell, but reports of Lani and Russ's mutual distrust are greatly exaggerated…

Very good book, one that was funny, frustrating and emotional. Lani has had her eye on Russ for a couple months, ever since he started helping out the town sheriff when he was shorthanded. But he never seemed to pay her any attention - until the Fourth of July and the big wedding reception in the park.

Lani is generally pretty straightforward, and not one to break the rules. The night of the wedding reception, after having some of the punch, she found herself a little the worse for wear. Russ had just come to her aid, when they both noticed two of her brothers getting into a fracas with another man. Lani has inside knowledge on her brother that tells her getting in trouble with the law would not be a good thing for him, so she goes to work distracting Russ. Fueled by the punch, her antics are pretty funny, especially when she manages to get both herself and Russ locked inside one of the town's jail cells. There she discovers that Russ isn't as indifferent as she thought.

Russ had returned to Montana after several years in Denver. He left Denver with his trust in other people badly damaged, after discovering the his partner was on the take and that his fellow officers didn't appreciate him turning in one of their own. On top of that, his fiancee didn't stick around to support him. He's drawn to Lani, but really doesn't want to be, especially since he can see that she is hiding something from him. 

When the sheriff asks Russ to investigate the problem with the spiked punch, he also suggests that Russ ask Lani to help, since she knows everyone. This enforced togetherness has the intensity of their attraction heating up, but also emphasizes their obstacles. First, neither was really looking for a relationship. Russ because of the earlier mentioned failed relationship, and Lani because she'd recently had her heart stomped on by a guy who was just using her. Second, Russ's past makes it very hard for him to trust Lani fully. They have moments when they are fully in sync and everything is looking wonderful, and then something happens to mess it all up. I loved seeing things progress to where Russ finally opened up to Lani about what had happened to him, but when her family loyalty keeps her from returning that trust, things go bad in a hurry. It was hard to see the pain that both of them were in thanks to their rift, and I kept hoping they would find a way through it.

One of the strongest themes in the book is the love and loyalty found among family and friends. There were some fun scenes involving Sunday dinners with both families and the dynamics found among the various members. I thought it was great to see how well they fit in with each other's family. Lani's niece's comments were especially fun. There was also tremendous support shown for Russ by his family. I particularly enjoyed seeing the way that Lani's brothers Anderson and Travis teased her, but were there for backup when they felt she needed their support. I especially loved the way that Anderson went to Russ, when he discovered what had caused the trouble in the first place. One of the best scenes in the book is at the end, when it seems everyone has something to say about Russ. I loved how that turned out.

The mystery of the spiked punch is ongoing. Knowing that such a thing has happened has put most of the town on edge, wondering if it could happen again. Russ and the sheriff are frustrated by their inability to find out who did it. I'm looking forward to seeing how it progresses through the rest of the series.

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