The Loner
by Evelyn Rogers, historical (2001)
Leisure, $5.99, ISBN 0-8439-4880-9

This book is book four - am I right? - in the Secret Fires quartet. But The Loner stands well alone. I should know, I haven't read the other three books in the series, but I can get along with the plot and all just fine. I do feel as if I'm missing some pieces in the big picture though.

Here's what I can piece together. Thomas J McBride managed to alienate his two sons and his daughter when he married an Evil Woman named Clare. When Thomas died, his will dictated that his three sons (counting an illegitimate son) and his daughter have to be at the ranch of Circle M at the latest nine months after his will was read or they would not get each an equal share of the estates. All four find love on their way home or during their stay in Circle M. The Loner is eldest son Stone's story.

By the way, who would name their son Stone, anyway? Oh well, at least it's better than Rock or Rubble.

Stone, after leaving home, lives life as a gambler. He has learned never to love after his ex-girlfriend of long, long ago, Annabelle Chapin, broke his heart. Since he is broke however, he decides to pack up and get his quarter of his late daddy's monies. And whose boardinghouse does he has to end up in but Anna's? He tells Anna to lay her hands off him sexy booty, because he knows she can't resist, but lo, he ends up the one making the booty calls. Creep.

Clare, of course, won't reliquish her prize easily, so she will cause trouble for Anna and Stone. And they make it so easy for her because Anna, despite her protests of independence, just has to melt at Stone's touch. Stone is a stereotypical "I'm a loner, I'm a loser, I don't commit for any woman" cowboy who really causes Anna more hurt than any woman deserves (even doormats) in his stupid Hemingway hero act.

I like Anna when she isn't trying to be the new doormat at Circle M. At least she tries to fight to hold on to her man, which is more than I can say of that love-em-leave-em-cos-I-am-a-p*ssy Stone. I also like how the author portrays the long-estranged siblings. No instant family muzak hour here, as wariness and suspicion reign as the agenda of the day. Clare, naturally, has her work made easy.

Anna can do better. Alas, no thanks to the romance novel formula, her first love just has to be her permanent one. How sad, really.

Rating: 60

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