by Penny Ash, contemporary (2007)
Liquid Silver Books, $4.75, ISBN 978-1-59578-404-9
In Penny Ash's Far From Montana, we have our ex-con hero Dell Blackfeather coming back home after being found not guilty of murder. What happened was that he got involved with the wrong woman who eventually framed him for the murder of his best friend. This woman conveniently kept a diary - because romance novel villains are pretty dumb that way - which eventually became the evidence to clear Dell's name. Alas, the damage is already done and the folks in town are not going to let go of their belief that he is a murderer so easily. Dell also spent four years in jail for a crime he didn't commit so you can imagine that he is not exactly a ray of sunshine at the moment.
Our heroine Alison Taylor is still smarting from finding her husband in bed with an actress and subsequently having him divorce her to marry that actress, all before she can catch her breath. She gets to know Dell up close and personal when her car explodes - no, really - somewhere in the Interstate Highway 40 and he is fortunately near enough to come to her rescue. He is on his way to Albuquerque while she wants to look up some friends in Texas to stay with while she figures out what to do with her life. But since she now has no vehicle, he offers her a lift in his truck to Albuquerque. A long ride, all those long nights... I wonder what will happen next. Alas, some trouble will arise when the actual killer decides to shows up.
Far From Montana has the makings of an enjoyable road trip romance involving two lonely people with broken hearts. The bad guy is crazy in a borderline cartoony manner, but he still manages to convey some convincing sense of menace. I am not saying that this story is bad. However, I find that the story could have been a little "tighter". The scene with Alison's ex-husband and his new wife, for example, takes up valuable space in this short story but the scene doesn't add much to the overall storyline apart from telling me the obvious about how skanky and unpleasant the man and his new wife are.
But occasional unnecessary detours in the storyline aside, Far From Montana is a pleasant short story about two lonely souls finding some kind of connection with each other. It's like a country song, only with some crazies with guns, come to think of it. I can't say there is ample characterization or convincing romance here, but hey, this is a short story. For what it is, it's pretty okay.
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