Friday, October 9, 2009

Love with a Welcome Stranger by Lynnette Baughman

TITLE: Love with a Welcome Stranger
AUTHOR: Lynnette Baughman
PUBLISHER: Wild Rose Press
LENGTH: Novel (roughly 69k)
GENRE: Contemporary romance
COST: $6.00

A near-fatal encounter with a stalker fan turns actress Mandy McKay’s life upside down. She has to rebuild herself, piece by piece, memory by memory, but once she’s a little better physically, she has no desire to return to her old life. Instead, she goes back to Montana, and comes face to face with a man who makes her stomach flip. Cam West is one of the most eligible bachelor ranch owners around, but he lost his heart years ago to Mandy. With the holes in her memory, though, she can’t remember him at all. Considering how they broke up, that’s not necessarily a bad thing…

I have to admit to a predisposition to liking this story. I have a soft spot for Montana. It’s absolutely gorgeous country, and if it wasn’t for the harsh winters – beautiful in their own right – I’d hound my husband to move there a lot more than the occasional casual comment about how nice it would be to live in such a breathtaking place. So when I saw this, the story of someone who left and now has come to rediscover both her life and the state where she grew up, I snatched it up. I wasn’t disappointed, though its appeal stems mostly from its solid leads than any visual painting of its setting.

The story starts out in Cam’s perspective, as he learns that Mandy is returning. We know from the start that they were crazy about each other the summer after she graduated, when she was eighteen and he a twenty-four year old hired hand on her father’s ranch, and we quickly learn that it ended badly, with Mandy storming off at the end of the summer to head for Hollywood. We’re not told the exact reasons until the end, and the tale of how these two orbit each other in this new existence – Cam knowing everything about their past, Mandy only getting the occasional snatch of memory – is the thrust of the slow-building romance.

Both characters are given time to develop as human beings before anything explosive happens in their relationship. Through a lot of flashbacks, we learn about their history, their likes, their dislikes, the things that make it easy to believe that fictional characters just might exist. Cam is solid and engaging, with a sexy cowboy edge tempered by a gentlemanly conditioning. He pushes just enough buttons without ever seeming belligerent or obnoxious, but never falls into the trap of being too accommodating and thus losing his alpha persona. Mandy gets the same careful treatment, and though we learn just how shallow her Hollywood existence was, in her new mindset, it’s painted in far more sympathetic shades. It’s incredibly easy to feel sorry for her and for what’s happened, and even more so, to root for her to finally find some happiness and peace. Some of that is dampened at the end when she exhibits what feels like over extreme reactions to certain plot developments, but that’s a minor complaint in the grand scheme of things. It certainly doesn’t detract from the growth she accomplished throughout the course of the story, though it might dampen my reaction a little to the ultimate outcome.

While the author is a headhopper, it’s fairly unobtrusive most of the time, enough so that I only bumped occasionally when the POV shifted. I had little problem with the prose itself. In fact, a lot of the believability of the entire situation is due to the well-detailed vignettes that populate the present day events. In this case, the flashbacks worked, making this a heartwarming, deeply satisfying romantic read.


7/10 – Dense, detailed relationship history that still manages to be clear and very readable in spite of headhopping


8/10 – Solid, sexy, and gentlemanly without losing his cowboy edge


8/10 – I really empathized with her dilemma until things turned around at the end

Entertainment value

8/10 – Liking both leads goes a long way to wanting to see their happy ending

World building

9/10 – Even though so much of their story is told in flashback, it fleshes it out to the point of me not noticing



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