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Tuesday, September 27, 2011

A Lawman's Christmas by Linda Lael Miller

A Lawman's Christmas by Linda Lael Miller
Publisher: HQN Books
Genre: Historical, Holiday (Christmas)
Length: Full Length (256 pages)
Heat Level: Sensual
Rating: 4.5 books
Review by Azalea

The sudden death of the town marshal leaves Blue River, Texas, without a lawman…and twenty-five-year-old Dara Rose Nolan without a husband. As winter approaches and her meager seamstress income dwindles, she has three options. Yet she won't give up her two young daughters, refuses to join the fallen women of the Bitter Gulch Saloon and can't fathom condemning herself to another loveless marriage. Unfortunately she must decide—soon—because there's a new marshal in town, and she's living under his roof.

With the heart of a cowboy, Clay McKettrick plans to start a ranch and finally settle down. He isn't interested in uprooting Dara Rose and her children, but he is interested in giving her protection, friendship—and passion. And when they say "I do" to a marriage of convenience, the temporary lawman's Christmas wish is to make Dara Rose his permanent wife….

When Clay McKettrick accepts a job as the marshal of the small town Blue River, Texas, it’s not his only plan, but a means to achieve what he really wants: a wife, children, and a ranch.

The time is 1914. Hostilities in Europe are heating up; it’s only a matter of time until buyers will be looking for cattle to feed the armies. Clay plans to be ready. What he doesn’t plan on is falling for his predecessor’s widow.

Dara Rose Nolan is occupying the cottage promised to the new marshal as part of his pay package. But Dara Rose and her two small girls don’t have another place to go...not unless she decides to accept a neighboring rancher’s offer to be his housekeeper and send her daughters to the poor house. Clay, struck by the young woman’s plight and determination, decides he can bunk at the jailhouse until other arrangements can be made, but two things happen to change his mind. First, he’s attracted to the young woman and likes her precocious daughters, and second, the town council is going to evict Dara Rose and sell the cottage if Clay isn’t going to use it. A hasty marriage seems the expedient thing to do, but is it the answer or an attempt at a solution with even greater problems?

Dara Rose is also attracted to Clay, but can she risk telling the handsome lawman her own secrets? Can she risk her heart over a man who may turn out to be one more disappointment in a life of disappointments?

Ms. Miller has created a charming Christmas story that had me hooked from the first page. Dara Rose and her daughters were very much three-dimensional characters, and her hesitance around Clay understandable. I liked her resourcefulness and thrift, even though I didn’t buy the December productivity of her laying hens (mine all but stop laying in October and don’t begin again until February, but maybe California hens differ from Texas hens). Still, the eggs arriving in the nick of time makes for a sweet story.

I felt the epilogue was overdone in that it was an eleven page love scene which seemed like an add-on, just to show the reader that Dara Rose and Clay were going to have a steamy marriage. In the case of A Lawman’s Christmas with it’s charming setting and delightful characters, I think less is more. A fun, sweet and entertaining read.

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