by RC Ryan, contemporary (2010)
Grand Central Publishing, $6.99, ISBN 978-0-446-54861-8
RC Ryan is not a new author. She has been writing historical and contemporary romances for a long time now, mostly under the names Ruth Langan and Ruth Ryan Langan. She can be relied upon for readable stories, but Montana Legacy, the first in a trilogy, suffers from having more padding than a bag of chips.
The trilogy revolves around three McCord cousins, each of whom fulfills a stereotypical Manly Man role. Estranged ever since their teenage years, the cousins are reunited again during their grandfather Gabriel "Coot" McCord's funeral, held at the the McCord ranch, Lost Nugget.
Every generation, at least one McCord man becomes invested in discovering the long-lost sack of gold nuggets stolen from Jasper McCord in 1862. None of those men ever succeeded, causing people to consider the treasure cursed because the hunt for it consumed those men toa ridiculous degree. Coot was the most recent man to attempt to locate that gold, and he didn't succeed, naturally. His will stipulates that the three McCord cousins must continue the treasure hunt after his death if those men want to inherit his pots and pots of money. Therefore, the three men have an excuse to linger around and star in a trilogy.
Jesse McCord, the hero in this story, has never left the ranch. Therefore, he is not too pleased to see Wyatt and Zane waltz back into the ranch after enjoying life elsewhere, especially when he remembers how they hadn't spoken a word to Coot during the last few years when he was alive. Meanwhile, Amy Parrish, his teenage girlfriend, returns to their town of Gold Fever to care for her cancer-stricken father. Guess what happens when they meet again.
Montana Legacy sounds like one of those stories churned out on a regular basis by some Harlequin category romance line dedicated to heroines getting knocked up by cowboys and spies while playing the damsel in distress in some story that pays minimal lip service to being a romantic suspense tale. Indeed, I suspect that this one most likely started as a project meant for such line only to somehow end up as a full-length novel with Grand Central Publishing, as the amount of padding in this story is pretty impressive.
The first 100 plus pages of this book - easily one third of the story - is nothing but padding. The heroine doesn't come into the picture until much later. Instead, I get plenty of back story of Wyatt, Zane, and Jesse, with Wyatt and Zane constantly hogging the scenes despite being interchangeable stereotypes. I can only wonder whether there is anything left for the author to write about in their own books. The author gives me the life stories of Cora, Coot's sister, as well as several town people. None of these people play any significant role in the plot of this story. Therefore, everything in the first 100 or so pages is just padding.
Amy and Jesse split up due to some silly misunderstanding, but they really have no problems getting back into each other's arms and bed. Therefore, all that build-up on Jesse's angst about women and what not leads to... nothing, really, as he and Amy make up and shag up without letting their past get in the way too much. The author subsequently introduces some suspense subplot about someone trying to get at the Parrish family, but there is no build up to this one. The suspense subplot consists of an abruptly introduced series of "accidents" around Amy before revealing the villain in a villain-tells-all denouement straight out of a Scooby-Doo cartoon.
Amy and Jesse have an underbaked relationship, but I have to admit, they have chemistry and Jesse's unexpectedly tender and protective behavior is most romantic indeed. But the tenderness in the relationship does not change the fact that the romance is actually a familiar one while the characters are recognizable stereotypes barely developed beyond the superficial. Thus, if I take away the padding, what is left is readable but hardly memorable. Montana Legacy is therefore a pretty unsatisfying read that leaves me wanting more.
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