Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Joan Johnston -- The Next Mrs. Blackthorne

Joan Johnston -- The Next Mrs. Blackthorne

Rated: ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ . ♥   {4.75}
Action: ♠♠♠ / Emotion: ♣♣♣♣.♣ / Romance: ♥♥♥♥♥ / Sensuous: ♦♦.♦ / Suspense: ♠♠♠.♠
Action: 3.0 / Emotion: 4.75 / Romance: 5.0 / Sensuous: 2.5 / Suspense: 3.5  //  Laughter: 2 / Giggle: 2  //  Tears: 2 / Teary: 1

Setting:       Austin, Texas
Era:             Present Day (2005)
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Since Joan Johnston is a favorite author, it was no surprise to find The Next Mrs. Blackthorne, the sixth book in The Bitter Creek Series, to be an enjoyable, easy, entertaining read.   The story contained plenty of romance, action, and suspense and kept one emotionally tied to most of the characters from beginning to end.

Many times when a book sits on the shelf after having been read, you do not remember too much about it, especially if it has been on that shelf for eight long years.   Joan Johnston, however, made one particular scene in The Next Mrs. Blackthorne so memorable that it stayed with me all that time.   It was a real joy to read it again -- for the third time.   That memorable scene was the one between Jack McKinley and Katherine "Kate" Grayhawk when they were sitting in a chair kissing -- just so Kate's parents could catch them in the act.   What is so special about this scene that it stays with you?   That special feeling you get when the attraction between Jack and Kate is newly presented?   The passion in the kiss itself?   The fact that it is only supposed to be a pretend kiss, but that kiss was so scorching, the heat leap from the pages?   Whatever it was, this particular scene is a perfect example of why Joan Johnston is a favorite author -- why her storytelling style holds so much appeal.   She had the readers so emotionally engaged with Jack and Kate that we are dreaming of a happily-ever-after for this couple just because of the way Jack and Kate responded to each other.

Sadly, Jack and Kate are not going to get their happily-ever-after in this book.   Apparently Johnston is going to tell their story in Book Eight of The Bitter Creek Series, Shattered.   However at the rate Johnston is going, one has to wonder exactly who is going to be the real hero and heroine of the following books in this series.   For instance, in Book Five, The Rivals, which is supposed to be Drew DeWitt's and Sarah Barndollar's story, Clay Blackthorne's and Libby Grayhawk's story almost seemed to overshadow their story.   After reading The Next Mrs. Blackthorne (the title and back cover synopsis which lead the reader to believe that this book is going to be Clay and Libby's story), one has to wonder why the book was entitled so, because in this book, Clay and Libby's story took third place.

Here are some statistics regarding the six main point of view characters in The Next Mrs. Blackthorne.   The three main men in the story only got 21% of point of view voice time versus the women getting 79% of point of view voice time.   The approximate amount of time each character spent in point of view voice in this book is as follows: Clay Blackthorne: 8.5%; Libby Grayhawk: 14.5%; North Grayhawk: 10.7%; Jocelyn Montrose: 32%; Jack McKinley: 1.4%; and Katherine "Kate" Grayhawk: 32.7%.

So what it all boils down to is that this book is more about the relationship that developed between {1} Jack and Kate and {2} North and Jocelyn than about the conclusion of the relationship between {3} Clay and Libby.   But since the bulk of the romance that built between North and Jocelyn was told in the first part of the book, and because Kate was the point of view character that seemed to span the entire book, this book seemed to be "Kate's Story."   Since this book is considered a Contemporary Romance and romance books must end with "and they all lived happily ever after," that means that this must be North and Jocelyn's story.   So that leaves us with the 'Oh So Inappropriate Title.'   (For some reason, the title of this book just feels wrong.   It seems to detract from the book rather than add to its appeal.)

As is her usual style, Johnston wove a lot of different threads into the fabric of this story.   Sometime during the year that passed between the end of The Rivals and the opening of The Next Mrs. Blackthorne, several things have happened.   {1} North (Grayhawk) has moved from his ranch situated near Jackson Hole, Wyoming to his ranch near Austin, Texas.   {2} Kate (Grayhawk) is now a freshman at the University of Texas at Austin.   {3} Clay (Blackthorne) {a} resigned his position as U.S. Attorney General due to scandal, {b} is now the newly appointed federal judge in the Western District of Texas, {c} has moved from Washington, D.C. to Austin, Texas, {d} now publicly acknowledges Kate as his daughter, and {e} is presiding over the high-profile, high-security case of Harold Hastings Brown, also known as Bomber Brown.

Kate is featured in the prologue visiting her Uncle North on his ranch near Austin, where she is complaining to Uncle North about her father's (Clay) engagement to Jocelyn Montrose.   Johnston begins fleshing out the personality of North by revealing choice little tidbits that lead the reader to believe that underneath that ice cold exterior, there beats a heart of gold.
"If that wedding happens next month, Mom's heart is going to be broken into so many pieces, it'll never mend."   (Kate, page 2)

She'd also noticed that whenever she poured out her troubles to her uncle, they somehow miraculously got resolved.   (Kate, page 3)
The first chapter opens with Jocelyn Montrose, Clay's fiancé, listening to all the members of the Blackthorne clan gathered in the library of the Castle in Bitter Creek arguing about how they are going to stop the hostile takeover being perpetuated by North Grayhawk because he was buying up controlling stock in the Bitter Creek Cattle Company.   Johnston continues to paint a conflicting picture of Clay's personality as Jocelyn reveals her hurt because Clay would not allow her to enter the library and stand by his side during this family meeting.   Jocelyn, like readers, wonders why Clay, who seriously desired Libby (in The Rivals) would choose Jocelyn, the perfect political wife, to be his wife when he was no longer on the political fast track to the White House.   Jocelyn cannot help but wonder if Clay really loved her because he had never said so and he only spoke words about being loyal and supportive.
What was it her sister had been able to offer him that he didn't seem to find in her?   She had wondered how she could ever prove that she was as capable of providing love and support as Giselle.   (Jocelyn, page 17)
Jocelyn is sure she can prove to Clay how much she loves him -- how worthy she is of his love.   Jocelyn remembers her primitively sensual encounter with North last year in Jackson Hole and knows she has an answer to the Blackthornes problem.
"What do we have that North wants?" Trace asked on the speakerphone.   "What could we give him to entice him to walk away?"   (Trace, page 15)
So it is that the virginal, kind-hearted, exceptionally beautiful Jocelyn packs her bag and borrows Clay's SUV and drives to North's ranch to offer him a trade.   She will give herself to him if he will sell his stock back to the Blackthornes.   Johnston has again delivered that magic in her storytelling as she presented readers with laugh out loud humor when a scared, nervous Jocelyn arrived at North's doorstep at dusk.

North and Jocelyn write up a contract in which he would sell his Bitter Creek shares to Clay if she would stay with him until September 1.   The passion and sensuality that flowed between North and Jocelyn was powerful and potent.   Whenever North and Joss made love, Johnston again presented it without great graphic detail, but with so much sizzle that you couldn't help but wish that kind of passion was being directed at you.
"Your mine," he muttered against her mouth, as he spread her legs wide with his knees and thrust inside. "Mine."   (North, page 228)
North was the most surprising and intriguing member of the cast of characters in this book.   North is painted with such a cold paintbrush in The Rivals and in The Next Mrs. Blackthorne that you cannot help but think he is incapable of loving anyone.
She learned over the years that Uncle North never sympathized, never offered advice, never offered to solve her problems.   In fact, sometimes his ice blue eyes were so cold, they made her shiver.   When she was a kid, she'd dubbed him North Pole, he'd seemed so remote and unfeeling.   (Kate, page 2)

Jocelyn had yet to see any sign of compassion in the man, a sign of vulnerability, anything that would allow her to believe that he cared for her -- or anyone else in the world.   (Jocelyn, page 198)
Johnston did such a great job of character development when it came to North and how he interacted with everyone, that it was subtly revealed that underneath that hard facade North cared so deeply for his loved ones that he was willing to step up to the plate and do whatever it took to protect them -- even taking blows from a drunken father to protect his younger brothers and sisters.   Johnston did an outstanding job of developing that deep emotional connection between readers and North.
the instantaneous attraction between them had been undeniable, and she must have recognized in him the same threat he'd seen in her.   The power of this one person, above all others, to destroy everything he believed about himself.   (North, page 64)

He'd seen how love had ruined his father's life.   He was never giving a woman that sort of power over him.   But last year, when he had turned thirty-five, he decided it was time to marry.   He wanted children.   He wanted their laughter and the pleasure of raising them in a house where there was joy.   (North, page 65)

"I never wanted you here," he said through gritted teeth.   "I never asked you to come.   This was all your doing.   I knew this would happen.   I knew it!"   (North, page 226)
Johnston displayed her excellent writing skills as she wrote scene after scene between North and Jocelyn, without once using the word love, but making it obvious that North, the man everyone assumed was cold and emotionless, was madly in love with Jocelyn and was literally tortured at the thought of losing her.   She then wrote this beautiful paragraph that described how difficult it was for North to express his feelings.
He had tried to show her he cared without using the word love.   He'd spent every night in her bed, so she'd know he wasn't with another woman.   He'd brought Breed into the house for meals and spent time with the boy during the day.   He'd eaten every bit of the food she'd prepared for him and asked for seconds.   And he'd kept his mouth shut when she changed his home out of all recognition, adding feminine peach and aqua pillows and curtains to his spartan earth tones.   (North, page 361)
In The Rivals it was difficult to come to appreciate Jocelyn because she was standing between Clay and Libby and, like Kate, you could not help but want Clay and Libby to get back together again.   But Johnston let Jocelyn's kind, caring, nurturing personality shine through in this book.   Jocelyn's strength and charm not only won over North and Breed, but also readers.   No wonder she managed to crawl underneath North's barriers.
She knew she was fighting an uphill battle.   But she'd been there last night when North had turned to her not once, not twice, but three times.
It hadn't been about the sex, although the sex had been wonderful.   It had been about a man and a woman needing each other, wanting each other, finding solace in each other.   And yes, she thought loving each other.   Even if North would never admit it.   (Jocelyn, page 256)
The other magic romance in the book was the one that developed between Jack and Kate.   And, oh my goodness, Johnston has readers chopping at the bit to read Jack's book (Shattered) after the way she reveals what a tortured hero Jack McKinley is.   Jack has had to overcome great obstacles to get to where he is, and yet he says not one word in defense of himself.   Even though the entire world (except for Kate) thinks ex-quarterback Jack is guilty of shaving points in a Super Bowl game.

Johnston also tried to ramp up the suspense factor in the story by the way she reveals that Jack is working behind the scenes as he instigates a relationship with Kate to keep an eye on her because she might be in danger from the family of Harold Hastings Brown, who would stop at nothing to keep their heinous father from being convicted during the trial being held before the bench of Judge Clay Blackthorne.   Naturally, one has to wonder if Jack is the good guy or the bad guy, but since the reader is as infatuated with Jack as Kate, we cannot help but believe he is one of the good guys.

Even though she doesn't understand why the older, charming, famous playboy is willing to do so, Kate takes Jack up on his offer to pose as an inappropriate boyfriend so her mother, Libby Grayhawk, will come to Austin and confer with Clay, her father, about how to save her from making a hash of her life.   Johnston, again, excelled when it came to writing scene after scene between Jack and Kate, which revealed the powerfully potent attraction that existed between them.   Since the book ended with Jack leaving Kate behind, readers will have to find out how Jack and Kate are going to be given their happily-ever-after ending by reading the eighth book of the series, Shattered.
"I didn't think this sort of instantaneous physical attraction happened."   (Kate, page 120)

"Sweetheart, the woman hasn't been born that can get under my skin."   (Jack, page 121)
Kate's personality was developed to a great degree in this book as well.   Kate made some foolish choices, but her spontaneity, her enjoyment of life, her willingness to reach out to her loved ones makes her a very likeable character.   It seems obvious that Johnston needs to let the adventurous, free-spirited Kate grow up some more before she can be given her own book.

Kate's efforts to unite her parents eventually paid off.   But first, Clay and Libby had to do some soul searching to get to the place where they were both willing to forgive the past and move forward.   It is a bit disappointing that Clay and Libby were not developed to such a degree that they were as easy to warm up to as the other main characters in the book.

At first it was easy to want to slap Clay upside the head because he wanted to marry Jocelyn, not Libby, because Jocelyn wouldn't rip his heart out like Libby did twenty years ago.   Libby even called Clay on the carpet for being willing to forgive Jocelyn for going to North, but would not forgive her for lying to him when she was sixteen.   Thankfully, Clay finally recognized his self-sabotage and decided to pursue Libby.
As the years passed, he had nursed the grievous hurt he felt at what Libby's cowardice had cost them.   And continued to blame her for causing them to spend their lives apart.   If only she had trusted him.   (Clay, page 190)

Clay looked at the woman who'd held his heart in her keeping all these years and wondered what it was about Libby Grayhawk that had so captured his imagination.   (Clay, page 295)

He'd been catered to all his life, so he had no experience at being empathetic.   Partly, it was because he had been his mother's spoiled, favorite child.   Partly, it was because he was and always had been rich and hadn't needed to pander.   Partly, it was because from a very early age he had been in a position of power.   People answered to him.   He didn't answer to them.   (Clay, page 301)

He was going to have to humble himself.   He was going to have to grovel -- if necessary.   He was going to have to give Libby the chance to hurt him as badly as he had hurt her all those years ago.   And pray that he could free the love she'd once felt for him from whatever deep, dark place she'd buried it.   (Clay, page 302)
The one main character that it was difficult to warm up to because Johnston failed to develop her into a multi-faceted personality was Libby Grayhawk.   Basically, it seems all we know about Libby is that she seduced Clay when she was sixteen to get back at the Blackthornes for making her father a miserable excuse of a man to live with and she has spent the last twenty years wishing that Clay would forgive her and take her back for betraying him.   Oh yeah, and Libby works as a wilderness guide in the Jackson Hole, Wyoming area.   Then it was impossible to like Libby at all when she became a wishy-washy woman.   For two books, we have been reading about Libby wanting Clay and then when he wants to reconcile, Libby tells Clay she needs some time to think about it.   What kind of stupid, idiotic answer was that?
Here she was, twenty years later, still in love with a man who had never been able to forgive her for refusing to marry him.   (Libby, page 128)

Whatever magic had been there between them a lifetime ago was still there.   They belonged together.   Always had, always would.
But Libby was too proud to ask him to take her back.   He had to want her.   He had to come to her.   And forgive her and ask on bended knee for her hand.
That simply hadn't happened.
Libby realized she should have known better.   The last place you would find a Blackthorne was on bended knee.   (Libby, page 138)

"I've just realized that while you've always been the love of my life, it's obvious I've never been the love of yours.   I can't believe I've been waiting around for you to wake up and realize that any time these past twenty years, when we were both single, we could have had back what we lost because of a young girl's foolishness and a young man's pride."   (Libby, page 185)
One of Johnston's strengths is including secondary characters in her books that are intriguing and add more interest to the book.   Because this book is so full of main characters, she could not spend a lot of time doing that in this book.   However, she did introduce one new character that broke our sensitive hearts.   When Sassy Grayhawk, King Grayhawk's third wife, showed up at North's ranch with her fourteen year old son, Breed Grayhawk, in tow, it was impossible not to want to reach out and hug that boy in sympathy.

Sassy was leaving Breed, the son that King would not acknowledge because he had the genes of his Sioux great-great-great-grandmother, with North to take care of because she was going into rehab again.   There were several times Johnston moved readers to tears in this book and this was one of those times.   Breed's question to his mother as she climbed into her black Jaguar convertible to drive away was heartbreaking.

The way that North interacts with Breed makes the reader, again, become aware of how multi-faceted North's character is.   It soon becomes obvious that Breed is going to become a permanent part of the family.   The inclusion of Breed in this story makes one want to pick up the next book in the series (A Stranger's Game) to read his story.

Johnston also entertained readers with a few cameo appearances of several of the Blackthornes; namely: {1} Jackson "Blackjack" Blackthorne, and his kind-hearted, calming wife Lauren "Ren" Creed Blackthorne, {2} Clay's twin, Texas Ranger, Owen Blackthorne, and {3} Billy and Summer Coburn.

One other secondary character was added to the story to help bring about the big, exciting, adventurous, suspenseful ending.   While Kate was sitting in her father's courtroom day after day during the trail of Harold Hastings Brown, she befriended the son of the Bomber, young Donnie Brown.   Although Donnie was not a well-developed character, Johnston did a great job of adding suspense and interest by weaving him into the fabric of the story.

Kate had been kidnapped in The Rivals, so her relationship with Donnie was a bit difficult to swallow.   Shouldn't Kate have exhibited some residual signs of trauma or experienced a sense of unease at befriending the son of a criminal?   But no, Kate, was just a happy-go-lucky, break-the-rules kind of girl, who got herself into trouble once again.

There were a few nit-picky little discrepancies that, again, cropped up between the books.   For instance, what happened to Matt Grayhawk in The Next Mrs. Blackthorne.   In The Rivals, Johnston indicated that North and Libby had an older brother, Matt (see, page 13).   Does Matt Grayhawk exist or not?   Also, as indicated in several of the previous books of the series, Clay was once engaged to a woman who was murdered a week before the wedding (see, The Rivals, page 93).   However, in The Next Mrs. Blackthorne, it was mentioned that Clay's fiancé died a day before the wedding (see, page 138).

One other thing didn't ring true to real life in the story.   The reader, however, had to accept this with a grain of salt because it provided the tool Johnston needed to moved Jocelyn to North's ranch.   It was a bit difficult to understand how there were enough shares available for North to buy up controlling interest in the Bitter Creek Cattle Company.   Come on, people, there are so many Blackthornes, and they are so wealthy, surely they had the majority of the Bitter Creek Cattle Company shares somewhere in their portfolios.

All in all, The Next Mrs. Blackthorne, Joan Johnston's sixth book in The Bitter Creek Series, is another engaging, entertaining, must read in this ongoing series.   The engrossing aspects to the story included: {1} North Grayhawk, a wonderful hero that revealed hidden depths; {2} Jocelyn Montrose, a kind-hearted, compassionate heroine that displayed an amazing strength of character; {3} Jack McKinley, a fascinating hero who struggles against great odds; {4} Katherine "Kate" Grayhawk, a young, joyful heroine who is easy to love; {5} Clayton "Clay" Blackthorne, perfect hero material, but, sadly an underdeveloped character; {6} Elspeth "Libby" Grayhawk, another disappointingly underdeveloped main character; {7} enough action to keep the story line interesting and moving at a strong, steady pace; {8} a deep emotional connection between readers and the book's characters to inspire tears and laughter; {9} a strong, potent undercurrent of romance permeated the entire book; {10} plenty of sizzle and heat when North and Jocelyn made love; {11} a degree of suspense about Clay's and Kate's safety during a high-profile trial taking place along with an exciting, tension-filled finale; {12} the inclusion of several intriguing secondary characters, {a} Breed Grayhawk and {b} Donnie Brown; and, finally, {13} cameo appearances by Jackson "Blackjack" Blackthorne and Lauren "Ren" Creed Blackthorne.   This is a well-written book, worthy of being included in a great series.
--Vonda M. Reid (Wednesday, December 31, 2014 : 4:54 p.m.)     [353]

Books In The Series: "The Bitter Creek Series"
# Date Title Hero Heroine
01.02-2000The CowboyTrace Blackthorne: eldest sonCallie Creed: eldest daughter
  secondary story:Jackson "Blackjack" Blackthorne: family patriarchLauren "Ren" Creed: family matriarch
02.03-2001The TexanOwen Blackthorne: Texas RangerBayleigh "Bay" Creed: veterinarian
  secondary story:Jackson "Blackjack" Blackthorne: family patriarchLauren "Ren" Creed: family matriarch
  secondary story:'Bad' Billy Coburn: dirt poor, town bad boySummer Blackthorne: spoiled little rich girl
03.03-2002The LonerBilly Coburn: dirt poor, town bad boySummer Blackthorne: spoiled little rich girl
  secondary story:Jackson "Blackjack" Blackthorne: family patriarchLauren "Ren" Creed: family matriarch
  secondary story:Sam Creed: eldest sonEmma Coburn: Billy's sister
04.03-2003The PriceLuke Creed: Houston D&B attorneyAmelia "Amy" Hazeltine Nash: his high school sweetheart
  secondary story:Drew Dewitt: Houston D&B attorneyGrayson Choate: Houston D&B attorney
05.09-2004The RivalsDrew DeWitt: wealthy playboySarah Barndollar: Teton County Deputy Sheriff
  secondary story:Clayton "Clay" Blackthorne: U.S. Attorney GeneralElsbeth "Libby" Grayhawk: back-country guide
06.09-2005The Next Mrs. BlackthorneNorth Grayhawk: Texas and Wyoming rancherJocelyn Montrose: socialite
  secondary story:Jack McKinley: former NFL quarterback, playboyKatherine "Kate" Grayhawk: UT freshman
  secondary story:Clayton "Clay" Blackthorne: new Federal JudgeElsbeth "Libby" Grayhawk: wilderness guide
07.07-2007A Stranger's GameBreed Grayhawk: FBI AgentGrace Caldwell: framed for murder
  secondary story:Jack McKinley: Texas RangerKatherine "Kate" Grayhawk Pendleton: mother of twins
08.01-2010ShatteredWyatt Shaw: billionaireKatherine "Kate" Grayhawk Pendleton: physical therapist
  secondary story:Jack McKinley: Texas RangerHolly Gayle Tanner McKinley: pediatric oncologist
09.04-2012Texas Bride [1]Jacob "Jake" CreedMiranda Wentworth
10.01-2013Wyoming Bride [1]Flint CreedHannah Wentworth McMurty
10e03-2014A Bitter Creek Christmas. . .. . .
11.01-2014Montana Bride [1]Karl NorwoodHetty Wentworth
12.05-2014SinfulConnor Flynn: widower, Delta ForceEve Grayhawk:
[1]   These books are listed as a Historical Romance Sub-Series entitled "The Mail Order Brides".

Characters Found In "The Next Mrs. Blackthorne"
Character Description
North Grayhawk[Hero One] Kate's uncle; owned ranch in Texas hill country (1) never sympathized, never offered advice, never offered to solve another's problems; sometimes ice blue eyes were so cold, they made Kate shiver; Kate named his North Pole because he seemed so remote and unfeeling (2) listened to every word Kate uttered; cared about Kate, wanted Kate to be happy; had trouble showing his feelings; had 2 really bad stepmothers after father divorced his mother (3) broad, powerful back; long legs; didn't like the Blackthornes (5) rich as Croesus; owned a ranch in the hill country west of Austin (16) a predatory wolf; 6'5"; enormous, rippling shoulders narrowing to a lean waist and hips; dressed in jeans that molded his masculinity, and the sleeves of his plaid wool shirt had been folded up to reveal strong sinewy forearms; shiny black hair hung over both his brow and his collar, and a days growth of dark beard made him look unkempt and dangerous (20) rude; arrogant; disturbing; cocksure (21) hair-dusted strip of tanned muscular abs and chest; jeans that fit like a glove (30) whiskey-rough voice (31) as unassailable as a brick wall (33) a perfectly sculpted body, except for his left shoulder, where the artist's chisel had slipped and left a raking scar (48) wound on shoulder was more than skin deep and had never really healed (60) 36-y-o (65) magnificent male animal, with long, strong legs, lean buttocks, and a broad powerful back (89) quarterback while at UT; lost position to Jack McKinley; mentored Jack (102) had businesses in Texas and Wyoming that he managed; handled all the responsibilities resting on his shoulders alone; never complained; never asked help from anyone (196) gray eyes (198) as stubborn as Breed (217) enigmatic man (231) had taken more than one hit from King to save his siblings (359)
Jocelyn "Joss" Montrose[Heroine One] 25-y-o (1) father was ambassador to France; perfect political wife for Clay; born in Connecticut; blue-blooded Eastern tenderfoot (2) sensible (18) dressed in navy skirt and matching jacket, long-sleeved white silk blouse that tied in bow at the neck, spiked high heels, and nylons that were de rigueur in D.C. but not functional in South Texas (19) 5'11"; knew how to handle men in suits (20) virgin (22) never appeared in public when she didn't look perfectly put together (26) not a courageous person, but she did know how to make sacrifices, for her father, her sister, Clay (46) silky, curling auburn hair; adapt at hiding her charms; wore sexy underwear (49) unconventional underwear had become her rebellion against all the rules of proper behavior she'd so circumspectly followed her entire life (50) North's nickname: Joss (51) tiny blue and yellow butterfly tattoo on her hip had been another defiant impulse (52) beautiful (56) generous bosom; long legs; just the kind of girl North liked; undeniably beautiful; porcelain complexion; aquiline nose; full lips; soft lavender eyes, like bluebonnets (65) hair pinned up to within an inch of its life against her head; clothes tying her up like a package not to be opened before Christmas (68) broke leg when feel off horse when 14-y-o (75) wonderful political hostess; easy to get along with (182) had social skills she'd learned practically from the cradle; was supportive and loyal, giving and loving; very much wanted children, and would be a good mother; was extraordinarily beautiful (191) a heart that was wide open to any and everybody (237) gourmet cook (238)
. . . . . .
Jack McKinley[Hero Two] [Hero of Book 8 / Shattered] flashing a smile so charming, and so incredibly white against his tan that it was obvious how he'd become the Playboy he reputedly was; played football at UT with North; wearing an open-throated, starched white cotton shirt with a black suit coat, a pair of creased jeans, a black leather belt and black alligator cowboy boots; looked powerful and confident and good enough to eat; had become the quarterback for the Texas Longhorns his freshman year at UT, by taking the job away from Uncle North (102) went on to play professional football; 32-y-o; 6'3"; looked just as lean and strong as he must have been when he played professional football 10-y-a; sun-streaked chestnut hair and inscrutable dark brown eyes; retired at the peak of his career due to a gambling scandal, right after his team lost the Super Bowl; his teammates refused to play with him again after accusations had flown that he'd thrown the game; nothing had ever been proven, and no charges had ever been brought; owned a sports bar (103) high cheekbones (104) wide shoulders; slim hips; very long legs; face that was hewn in stone and could have belonged to a Greek god; breathtakingly attractive (108) had been staying in foreman's house at North's ranch (109) IRS wanted to take bar from him to pay back taxes plus some serious penalties and interest (110) rangy body looking deliciously sexy; dark, chocolate brown eyes; ridiculously long eyelashes (123) silky sun-streaked brown hair (142) born and raised in San Antonio; older sister died when he was in high school; two younger sisters lived near parents in San Antonio (151) a broad chest covered with dark curls (159) undercover Texas Ranger (357)
Katherine "Kate" Grayhawk[Heroine Two] [Heroine of Book 8 / Shattered] 19-y-o (1) waist-length black hair (2) freshman at the University of Texas at Austin (4) loved everything about the West; Clay footing bill for her condominium (114) tall like her father, with his black hair and gray eyes (143) had mother's nose, chin and smile (144) fearlessness; sense of adventure; willingness to tackle anything (326) headstrong; spoiled; aimless; 'spent whole life feeling sorry for yourself because you didn't have two parents at home' (410)
. . . . . .
Clayton "Clay" Blackthorne[Hero Three] [Featured in: The Rivals] 46-y-o; engaged to Jocelyn Montrose (1) Kate's father; had not married Libby 20-y-o because King Grayhawk had forbidden it (13) had been groomed his whole life to become president of the United States; that dream had been killed by scandal (14) had been framed for murder, which resulted in his resignation as U.S. Attorney General and ended his political career; newly appointed federal judge in the Western District of Texas; moved from Washington, D.C. to Texas; now publicly acknowledged Kate as his daughter (15) drove Mercedes SUV (19) identical twin to Owen; hadn't spent much time together the past 25 years (93) nominated by president to fill vacancy as federal judge in the Western District of Texas (96) gray eyes (97) honest as the day was long (98) excellent rider (157) body heat; musky smell; too-long-for-a-judge black hair settled over his brow and neck (171) never shouted; rarely swore; self-discipline; absolute control that made him a good politician (187) driven; ambitious; determined (189) impatient (303) man of action (305) his body was still lean and strong, his shoulders broad and powerful; the silver in his hair, the deep parentheses that bracketed his mouth, and the crow's feet at the corners of his eyes attested to the years that had passed (316)
Elsbeth "Libby" Grayhawk[Heroine Three] [Featured in: The Rivals] 35-y-o (1) Kate's mother (4) North's sister; Clay had loved once upon a time; mother to Clay's daughter (13) life based in Jackson Hole, Wyoming where she took city folks on backpacking trips into the wilderness with Doc, Magnum and Snoopy (126) petite; blue eyes; short blond curls (143) excellent rider (157) wasn't beautiful; her eyes were spaced too wide apart, and her chin was too pointed; she had a nice figure, with a small waste and trim hips (296) feisty; bubbling laughter (297) fearlessness; a survivor; someone who never shrank from life, but met it head on, fighting back against adversity and never giving up; lines from squinting against a strong sun sprayed at the corners of her eyes and brackets around her mouth where she smiled; tiny wrinkles in her forehead, from worry (297) cynical; less trusting (315) fearlessness; sense of adventure; willingness to tackle anything (326)
. . . . . .
Bay [Creed] Blackthorne[One Appearance] [Heroine of Book 2 / The Texan] [Owen's wife]; Clay's sister-in-law (7)
Callie [Creed] Blackthorne[One Appearance] [Heroine of Book 1 / The Cowboy] Trace's wife (7)
Eve DeWitt Blackthorne[No Appearance] married Jackson Blackthorne; 50,000 acres of good DeWitt grassland in Texas as a dowry (3) had never forgiven Blackjack for loving another woman (179)
Jackson "Blackjack" Blackthorne[Rare Appearances] [Featured in: The Cowboy, The Texan, The Loner] Kate's grandfather; King Grayhawk's mortal enemy; had stolen away Eve DeWitt and married her; had never loved Eve; married Eve for the 50,000 acres of good DeWitt grassland in Texas she'd brought with her as a dowry (3) Clay's father (7) married Ren, the woman he loved after Eve's death (12)
Lauren "Ren" Creed Blackthorne[Rare Appearances] [Featured in: The Cowboy, The Texan, The Loner] Blackjack's wife; Clay's stepmother (7) married to Jesse Creed, raised family with him (12)
Owen Blackthorne[Rare Appearances] [Hero of Book 2 / The Texan] Clay's twin brother; wore SIG P226; Texas Ranger (7) his uniform made up of white shirt and dark trousers (92) identical twin to Clay; hadn't spent much time together the past 25 years; harsh lines etched upon his face by the brutal Texas sun (93)
Trace Blackthorne[One Appearance] [Hero of Book 1 / The Cowboy] Clay's brother; owned a cattle station in Australia (7)
Bobby John Brown[Rare Appearances] Harold Hasting Brown's son; Donnie's older brother (98)
Donnie Brown[Secondary Character] son of Harold Hastings Brown; sitting next to Kate in courtroom (97) young man; wide-set blue eyes and short-cropped sandy hair and freckles; looked harmless; a UT student (101) 19-y-o (104) hated his brother (167) wasn't tall; gun seemed heavy in his hand (348) hazel eyes look haunted (353)
Harold Hastings Brown[No Appearance] known as Bomber Brown (92) appearing before Clay in court (93) accused of blowing up the federal courthouse in downtown Houston eight months ago, killing 72 innocent people (97) hates the world and has friends out there somewhere who would be happy to kill Clay, or hurt him by hurting Kate (271)
__ Brown[Rare Appearances] Donnie's mother; filtered cigarette between her bony fingers (168)
Billy Coburn[Rare Appearances] [Hero of Book 3 / The Loner] [Summer's husband]; Clay's brother-in-law (7) dark eyes; ran Bitter Creek ranch (9)
Summer [Blackthorne] Coburn[Rare Appearances] [Heroine of Book 3 / The Loner] Clay's younger sister (7) ran Bitter Creek ranch (9)
Jesse Creed[No Appearance] married to Lauren "Ren" Creed; raised family with her; shot and killed under suspicious circumstances (12)
Morgan DeWitt[No Appearance] [Clay]'s advisor; an out-and-out thief and murderer (7) advised Clay to incorporate the Bitter Creek Cattle Company and sell stock; didn't know he was crooked until last year (8)
Doc[Animal] one of Libby's dogs that went on backpacking trips into the wilderness (126)
Breed Grayhawk[Secondary Character] [Hero of Book 7 / A Stranger's Game] lanky teenage boy, with too-long, raven black hair; his strange, almost silver eyes were sullen; jutting chin; posed with his hip cocked and his arm across defiantly -- or protectively -- across his narrow chest; his bronzed skin, sharp cheekbones, and blade of nose reminded Jocelyn of some long-ago Sioux warrior (200) King and Sassy's son; King named the boy first time he laid eyes on him, and started divorce proceedings before Sassy was out of the hospital; good with horses (201) 14-y-o; defiant; "I don't need anyone or anything!" (202) aloof and alone; too small, not quite clean t-shirt (203) worn high tops; taught respect (204) as stubborn as North; protruding hip bones; bronzed chest (217) hated King (239)
Christopher Kingsford, Earl of Grayhawk[No Appearance] North's ancestor; an English nobleman; some sort of black sheep and came west before the Civil War hunting his fortune; his younger twin brother inherited the title (218) married a Sioux woman in Montana and settled with her in Wyoming; had four sons; only one of them looked Indian but they all carried her blood (219)
Gray [Grayhawk][No Appearance] son of King and Jill; North's and Libby's step-brother (307)
Jill Grayhawk[No Appearance] North's third stepmother (199) 3 children in five years; Taylor, Gray, Victoria; divorced King and his wandering eye (307)
King Grayhawk[One Appearance] Kate's grandfather (2) North's father; didn't listen; didn't care about anyone but himself; married thrice (3) Jackson Blackthorne's mortal enemy; loved Eve DeWitt; had forbidden Kate's parents to marry to exact revenge (3) bad husband to the four women he'd made his wife (66) made four women he'd taken to wife miserable because he squandered his love on anther man's wife (234) losing the only woman he claimed he could love had made him a bitter, angry, unhappy man (361)
Lenora Grayhawk[No Appearance] North's first stepmother; marriage annulled (199) asked for annulment when King wouldn't open his wallet and expected her to take care of two kids (307)
Sassy Grayhawk[One Appearance] North's stepmother; young, very pretty, model-tall blue-eyed blonde; wearing three-inch heels and a tailored pink suit cut in a deep V to reveal generous cleavage; the middle stepmother; didn't look a day over 30; a tautness to her skin, beneath very carefully applied makeup, that suggested plastic surgery (199) gin on her breath (200) going into rehab; family disowned her (201) drove a black Jaguar convertible; told Breed would not get romantically involved in rehab this time (204) had tried to make King jealous and lied about indiscretions while they were married (219)
Taylor [Grayhawk][No Appearance] son of King and Jill; North's and Libby's step-brother (307)
Victoria [Grayhawk][No Appearance] daughter of King and Jill; North's and Libby's step-sister (307)
Harvey[One Appearance] deputy standing guard outside Clay's chambers (252)
Magnus[Animal] one of Libby's dogs that went on backpacking trips into the wilderness (126)
__ McKinley[No Appearance] Jack's father; "a gambler. He's addicted to it. Craves it like an alcoholic craves gin, or a drug addict craves crack cocaine. Incapable of stopping. Always making one more bet. Taking one more risk in hopes of finally cashing in. But always losing. Losing everything."
Giselle Montrose [Blackthorne][No Appearance] Jocelyn's sister; Clay's wife; died 2-y-a (1) body slowly eaten away by cancer (13)
Snoopy[Animal] one of Libby's dogs that went on backpacking trips into the wilderness (126)
Whitey[Animal] fat white gelding North gave Jocelyn to ride to the pond (76)
unnamed [One Appearance] reporter with The Weekly Herald; meeting with Donnie; middle-aged man; close-cropped hair; clean shaven face (168) gray hair underneath Stetson (169)

Locations, Organizations Found In "The Next Mrs. Blackthorne"
Location / Organization Description
Austin, TexasBook Setting
Bitter Creeka property in South Texas the size of a small northeastern state; owned by the Blackthornes for over 150 years (9) forebears had bled and died for since the Civil War (10) 745,000 acres of prime ranch land, and there were 10 miles of pavement maintained by the Blackthornes between the nearest Texas State Road and the Castle (287)
Bitter Creek Cattle CompanyBlackthorne ranching business (7)
Brackenridge Hospitalhospital where Donnie took Libby (353)
the Castlelegendary ranch house at Bitter Creek (7) the main ranch house at Bitter Creek was enormous; there were lots of old things -- paintings and furniture and silverware and chandeliers and knickknacks -- that had been accumulated over more than a century by the Blackthornes living there (263) featured in Southern Living and Architectural Digest; elegant two-story mansion, with its upper and lower gallery porches and its circular driveway lined with towering magnolias (287)
Eighth Streetin front of the federal courthouse in downtown Austin (91)
Jackson Hole, Wyomingwhere Clay and Libby met a year ago when Kate had been kidnapped (13) where Libby lived (126)
Kingdom ComeKing Grayhawk's home (176)
KVUEAustin's local NBC affiliate (91)
Longhorn Grillesports bar owned by Jack McKinley; where Kate and Donnie Brown went to eat after first day in courtroom; upscale; catered to political crowd (104)
Westgatea condominium situated across the street from the imposing dome state capitol building, not far from the Longhorn Grille; where Kate lived (114)

"The Next Mrs. Blackthorne" Quotations
12Jocelyn felt her throat swell with emotion at the look that passed between them.   She wondered what it would be like to be loved like that.   (Jocelyn)
31She felt a frisson of desire shiver up her spine and caught her lower lip in her teeth to keep from moaning.   (Jocelyn)
32He was hot and hard, and her body trembled with fear and desire.   (Jocelyn)
36"There's nothing dignified about sex.   It's hot and sweaty and course and vulgar and about as primitive as life gets."   (North)
106She supposed he must have learned over the years that people were going to believe what they wanted to believe, and there was nothing he could say that was going to change their minds.   (Kate)
157Grayhawks didn't beg.   (Kate)
157Blackthornes had no mercy.   (Kate)
163She'd peeled away the thin veneer of civilization that covered his base animal lust, but she wasn't sure what to do with the savage beast she'd set free.   (Kate)
187This morning, she'd yanked the tight rein he kept on his emotions right out of his hands.   (Clay)
198Oh, yes, her body wanted his.   Craved it, despite so many nights of lovemaking.   (Jocelyn)
235How had she stolen past his defenses?   What was it about this woman that made him think about her even when she wasn't around?   What made him want her even after he'd just made love to her?   (North)
255"I wanted you.   I always wanted you."   (Jocelyn)
328"Life with you would never be simple," Clay said, kissing her temple in return.   "But it would be worth the effort to spend my life with you."   (Clay)
346"Do you want him or not, Libby?   That shouldn't be a difficult question."   (North)
394Oh, God.   He cared way too much.   (Jack)

"Joan Johnston -- The Next Mrs. Blackthorne" Review and Information Links
Rated Posted Site Notes, Comments, Etc.
----Joan Johnston's WebsiteAuthor
----Joan Johnston's FacebookAuthor
. . . . . . . . .. . .
4.5009-xx-2005A Romance Review--Jeanette // okay: simple and very brief
4.40 average{25 reviews}Amazonas of: December 31 2014
4.50 average{22 ratings}Barnes & Nobleas of: December 31 2014
----Fantastic FictionList of Joan Johnston's Books
----Fict FactList of Books In The "Bitter Creek" Series
----Fiction DBList of Joan Johnston's Books
Article06-24-2014Fresh FictionJoan Johnston -- The Challenges of Writing a Series
4.05 average{488 ratings}Good Readsas of: December 31 2014
3.65 average{26 ratings}Library Thingas of: December 31 2014
4.0001-28-2007Novel Ladies--Crystal // brief review, valid points
4.00 average{148 ratings}Paperback Swapas of: December 31 2014
----Order of BooksList of Joan Johnston's Books
4.75 average{6 reviews}Shelfarias of: December 31 2014
4.7512-31-2014Wolf Bear Does Booksshorter post on Amazon, Fiction DB, Good Reads, Library Thing, Shelfari

♥   Disclaimer:   I Purchased This Book
♥   Very Subjective Rating

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Joan Johnston -- The Rivals

Joan Johnston -- The Rivals

Rated: ♥ ♥ ♥ . ♥   {3.95}
Action: ♠♠♠♠ / Emotion: ♣♣.♣ / Romance: ♥♥♥.♥ / Sensuous: ♦.♦ / Suspense: ♠♠♠.♠
Action: 4.0 / Emotion: 2.5 / Romance: 3.5 / Sensuous: 1.5 / Suspense: 3.5  //  Laughter: 0 / Tears: 0

Setting:       Jackson Hole, Wyoming
Era:             Present Day (2004)
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The Rivals, the fifth book in The Bitter Creek Series, is another intriguing, entertaining, easy to read book.   Joan Johnston, a favorite author, has given her readers a book that has plenty of action, suspense, romance, and introduces new characters that tempt one to read the next book in the series, The Next Mrs. Blackthorne.   (Note: This is probably going to be a sub-par review simply because I'd rather be reading than writing.)

Rather than spend a lot of time building the personalities of the hero, Drew DeWitt (introduced in The Price), and the heroine, Sarah Barndollar, Johnston began building the personalities of several other characters that are going to take starring roles in future books of The Bitter Creek Series.   And even though Johnston did a great job of telling Drew's and Sarah's story, the lack of depth when it came to their development as multi-faceted characters failed to unite the reader to these two main characters on a deep emotional level, which resulted in no teary moments or scenes of laughter -- deep emotions that are necessary for a book to be a really great read.

The book opened by introducing seventeen year old Katherine "Kate" Grayhawk, drinking at the Mangy Moose, a bar located in the skiing resort of Teton Village, near her home of Jackson Hole, Wyoming.   Kate had traveled from Charlottesville, Virginia, where she attended the Ethel Walker School after receiving an e-mail to hurry home.   The brief glimpse into Kate's life as she talks to the stranger next to her on the barstool ends abruptly as Kate realizes the stranger helping her from the bar because she is woozy is kidnapping her.

Although Kate appears two more times in point of view voice to add to the suspenseful aspect of the story, it was impossible to tell what kind of personality she possessed from her appearances.   The development of Kate's personality, however, is revealed in the book as her parents discuss her with other characters in the book.   Johnston paints a colorful picture of Kate's past, which makes readers really curious about Kate and how she is going to presented in her book (Shattered).   Kate is the granddaughter of two wealthy, powerful patriarchs, who are also bitter enemies.

It seems that Jackson "Blackjack" Blackthorne was quite adept at making vindictive enemies.   The hateful women presented in the first three books of the series, Blackjack's first wife, Evelyn "Eve" DeWitt Blackthorne, was the love of Wyoming magnate, King Grayhawk's life.   So just by marrying Eve, Blackjack had created a life-long enemy.   Blackjack and Lauren "Ren" Creed Blackthorne, Blackjack's second wife, made cameo appearances in this book, as did the imposing King Grayhawk.
King Grayhawk had married and divorced three times and had indulged in an equal number of affairs seeking a replacement for Eve DeWitt.   But no woman had been able to measure up to his lost love.   (Libby, page 13)
The secondary romance presented in this book involved Kate's parents.   Nineteen years ago, King's daughter, sixteen year old Elsbeth "Libby" Grayhawk, seduced twenty-seven year old Clay Blackthorne to pay the Blackthorne's back for making her father such a bitter, 'difficult to live with' man.   (Eewh!   The age difference is difficult to swallow -- and I even have a friend, who at sixteen could have passed for twenty-three -- still -- a sixteen-year-old seducing such an older man!)   Okay, so going with the flow, it seems that both Clay and Libby fell in love during the month they spent together.   But when Libby turned up pregnant and Clay wanted to do the right thing, King threw a fit.   King was not going to have a Blackthorne in his family and if Libby didn't send Clay packing, he'd have him arrested for statutory rape.

Clay, now the U.S. Attorney General, who had been groomed all his life for the White House, came to Wyoming to look for the daughter that he had never publicly acknowledged.   As Clay spent time with Libby, he couldn't help but recall how much he had loved her, how badly her betrayal had hurt, and that he'd never really gotten over her.
Staying focused on her betrayal was the only way he'd been able to keep his distance from her.   She was a dangerous flame, and this moth already had singed wings.   (Clay, page 68)

"You've had everything your way for nineteen years," he said.   "That ends now.   I'm going to do whatever I think needs to be done to find my daughter."   (Clay, page 70)

Clay would have dismissed the idea of pursuing Libby out of hand, except it was hard to ignore the way his body hummed . . . whenever it came in contact with hers.   (Clay, page 172)

his insides twisted by feelings for the woman standing before him that he'd stuffed away nearly twenty years ago and kept a tight lid on ever since.   (Clay, page 175)

Losing Libby the first time had nearly killed him.   He didn't think he could survive it again.   (Clay, page 176)
Johnston spent more time revealing Clay's history and background, rather than Drew's.   And while it was nice to have all this information about Clay, it would certainly have been nice to have just as much information about Drew.
When he was a younger man, Clay had been caught between the desires of King Grayhawk and Jackson Blackthorne -- and barely managed to escape without being crushed.   (Clay, page 168)

In all these years, he'd never gotten over her.   Libby Grayhawk was unfinished business.   Maybe it was the way they'd been dragged apart by their respective fathers.   The woman he'd loved in his youth, and been forced to leave, was a dangling string he couldn't help pulling, even though he knew pulling that string might very well unravel the political life he'd been building.   (Clay, page 171)
While Clay had been steadily climbing his was to the top of the political ladder, he was beset with some pretty daunting obstacles when it came to his love life.   On the rebound from Libby's betrayal, Clay got engaged to Cindy Ridgeway, who was murdered a week before their wedding.   Although Clay felt reluctant relief at being saved from making that mistake, he needed a political wife, whereupon he met and married Giselle Montrose, the daughter of the American ambassador to France.   While Giselle was kind, cheerful, easy to love, and had been the perfect political wife, she could not give Clay children and then she wasted away from cancer and died a year ago.   And now, forty-six year old Clay was involved with Giselle's younger sister, twenty-four year old Jocelyn Montrose.   (Does Clay have a thing for younger women, or what!)

Johnston gave Libby a point of view voice in this story as well.   As Libby spent time with Clay, trying to find their daughter, Libby knew she was still in love with him.   By the time Libby got to the end of the book, she decided it was time to fight for her soul mate.
Libby had grown up in a cutthroat, dog-eat-dog family where it was a way of life to fight for what you wanted and never to settle for less.   (Libby, page 322)

Was she now supposed to step back and give Jocelyn Montrose the freedom to pursue the man Libby loved, had always loved, and would continue to love until the day she died?   (Libby, page 323)
There were three major obstacles standing between Libby and her desire to become Clay's wife.   First, there was her betrayal of Clay nearly twenty years ago.   Second, there was another woman standing beside Clay.   And, third, Libby, a guide to hunters, fishermen, and naturalists, was not appropriate wifely material for Clay, the political giant.
Blackthornes weren't any more forgiving than they were merciful.   (Libby, page 17)

He might want her, Libby realized.   But he was never going to forgive her.   (Libby, page 60)

He needed a wife who could be a political hostess, someone who could face liars and thieves with a smile on her face and never bat an eye.   (Clay, page 171)

Libby was too honest to put up with that sort of bullshit.   (Clay, page 171)

And she wouldn't have recognized a pair of pantyhose if they bit her in the ass.   It was no coincidence that their daughter thought jeans and boots were appropriate attire for all occasions.   (Clay, page 172)
Two other minor secondary characters that were tied to Clay and Libby were introduced into the story.   Johnston did not spend much time developing these two characters, but she inserted just enough information about them to make them intriguing and prompt readers to want to pick up the next book in the series to find out what is going to happen between them.   Libby's eldest brother, North Grayhawk, comes across as a remote man who possessed no tender feelings.   So how is this macho, all-Western cowboy going to find himself paired to the big city hothouse flower, Jocelyn Montrose.   On top of that, Jocelyn is the woman Clay has been dependent upon as a date and hostess since the death of his wife.   A woman who is obviously head over heels in love with Clay.

But Clay and Libby's story took a back seat to the main love story -- that of Drew DeWitt and Sarah Barndollar.   Drew had quit his job at the Houston law firm of DeWitt & Blackthorne and was nursing his broken heart in the home he owned with Clay Blackthorne.   (Drew and Clay had each been given half of Forgotten Valley, Wyoming by their respective mothers, Ellen and Eve.)   Drew was quite surprised that he was attracted to the Teton County Deputy Sheriff, Sarah Barndollar, when she arrived to rescue him from the Hoback River, which his truck had crashed into because Libby had been driving too fast on icy roads.

It is a good thing to have read the previous book of the series to get an idea of who Drew was because Johnston gave readers more descriptive details about Drew in The Price than she did in The Rivals.   Drew was presented as a rich playboy, who suffered an apparently horrendous childhood because of the world's worst grandmother.   Johnston did a poor job of background development about Drew's childhood.   Basically, Johnston just prosed on about how Drew's step-grandmother, Shelby DeWitt, was so caustic and controlling that she ruined the lives of her daughters, Ellen, Eve, and Elizabeth, which resulted in Drew and his younger brother, Dusty, suffering such a traumatic childhood that Drew planned never to father children and Dusty took his own life at twenty-three.

Nevertheless, Drew was still a charming rogue in The Rivals.   A natural-born flirt, who loved women, Drew invited the attractive woman who rescued him from the freezing waters of Hoback River, inside when she delivered him cold and shivering to Forgotten Valley.   And, Sarah, who was overworked, lonely, and just needed to be held found herself agreeing.

Johnston has a knack of including passionate, sensual love scenes between her characters.   Even though they were strangers, the passion between Drew and Sarah was present and potent, even though it lacked that special spicy, sizzle.   The pager going off was the only thing that saved Sarah from having sex with a stranger.   Drew's question was a wake up call and Sarah couldn't get away fast enough.
"By the way," he said, "what's your name?"   (Drew, page 49)
Naturally, Drew and Sarah were thrown together because of the search for Kate.   Drew was like an uncle to Kate and was determined to help with the search, especially since three other girls from the area had turned up missing, one of which had been found killed and buried in a shallow grave.   Even Clay noticed that the attraction Drew felt for Sarah was pretty intense.
Clay was aware of the powerful undercurrents between the two adults as they squared off and realized that Drew must be way more attracted to the woman than he'd let on last night.   (Clay, page 91)

A couple of months ago he'd sworn off women for life.   Here he was feeling things he'd promised he'd never let himself feel again.   (Drew, page 217)
Sarah, too, was not as richly developed as the heroine of a romance novel should have been.   Sure some details were revealed to give Sarah some depth, but not enough to create the needed empathy to tie her to the reader.   Yes, we could feel sorry for Sarah and understand her driving needed to find the missing girls because when Sarah was fourteen, her sixteen-year old sister, Paige, disappeared from a party and was never seen again.   Added to that, fifteen months ago, Sarah's husband, Tom Barndollar, disappeared.

Sarah is sure that Tom is dead because even though she didn't think Tom would leave her without a word, she was positive he would not leave his three children behind without a word.   And Sarah noticed Drew's negative reaction when he ran into her at Bubba's the next morning and saw her sitting at the table with her three children.   Sixteen year old, Nathan "Nate" Barndollar and fifteen year old Brooke Barndollar were Tom's children from his first marriage.   Eight year old Ryan Barndollar was Tom and Sarah's son.

Johnston realistically portrayed the difficulty that Sarah was experiencing as a single mother, who was working long hours to support her three children and who was depending on the two older children to take care of their younger brother.   Sarah was struggling with being a woman, being a mother, and being a provider -- all without help.   She could not help but be attracted to Drew.   Just as her two older children couldn't help but be offended by her interest.

Johnston kept the story moving at a quick, intriguing, action-packed pace as she intricately included the romance between two couples while they were both searching for Kate Grayhawk, whose kidnapping was somehow tied to Tom Barndollar's disappearance.   The intensity to the hunt was heightened as details about avalanche conditions were disclosed as Libby and Clay and then Sarah and Drew were skiing to high avalanche-prone areas looking for Kate.   To add even more force to the fear factor, both Clay and Drew were fighting their fears because of their close brush with death due to an avalanche.

Johnston included so many different venues as the story progressed that you couldn't help but be entertained.   {1} Two bull elks fighting for first place (King Grayhawk versus Jackson Blackthorne).   {2} The unavoidable attraction between estranged lovers (Clay Blackthrone and Libby Grayhawk).   {3} The instant attraction between the rich playboy and the struggling single mother (Drew DeWitt and Sarah Barndollar).   {4} The tension between the cold-hearted cowboy and the prim and proper city girl (North Grayhawk and Jocelyn Montrose).   {5} The brief introduction of the illegitimate daughter born to two feuding families (Kate Grayhawk).   {6} The antics and dangers that arise when three children disobey their mother's commands (Nate, Brooke, and Ryan Barndollar).   {7} The dangers of being blackmailed for investigating a consortium being established by a devious oilman (Niles Taylor).

There were several questionable threads that were woven into the tapestry that made up The Rivals.   One question arises about how the DeWitt brothers came by their last name.   Drew and Dusty DeWitt were the sons of Ellen DeWitt and her first husband.   Since Ellen DeWitt is the daughter of Drew's Grandfather DeWitt and his first wife, that means Ellen's maiden name was DeWitt and for Drew and Dusty to be DeWitts, she had to have married a man whose last name was DeWitt.   Johnston explained how this came to be in The Loner.
Crazy as it sounded, all the kids were DeWitts, since both sisters had married distant DeWitt cousins.   (The Loner, Summer, page 243)
But, here's the real kicker.   Ellen's marriage to Drew's father was ruined because of the evil step-mother, Shelby DeWitt, so Ellen remarried and had another son named Morgan DeWitt.   Surely Ellen could not have remarried another DeWitt!

Another case of Johnston getting her facts a bit off kilter happened again.   In The Loner, Johnston revealed that Drew's mother was the only remaining heir to the DeWitt ranch.
The DeWitt owned a ranch nearly as large as Bitter Creek, and each of the three DeWitt girls, Eve and Ellen and Elizabeth, had been named as one another's heirs to ensure that the land stayed in one piece.   Aunt Liz had died five years ago.   Now that Summer's mom was dead, Aunt Ellen was the sole owner of the DeWitt ranch.   (The Loner, Summer, page 243)
Now in The Rivals, Ellen DeWitt is dead and Aunt Liz is the sole owner of the DeWitt ranch.
"My grandfather's will stipulated that each of the three sisters had to name the other two as their heir to the DeWitt property, so the ranch would stay in one piece.   My aunt Liz, the only sister living, owns the entire DeWitt ranching operation."   (Drew, page 139)
Then there are the questions about Morgan DeWitt that arose.   Morgan is Drew's step-brother by his mother's second husband.   Morgan has been Clay's right hand man for the past sixteen years and would follow him to the White House.   Naturally, when Kate was kidnapped, Clay called Morgan for help.   So Morgan arrives in Jackson Hole to help and his arrival and his numbers (like being forty years old) caused even more questions to come to mind.   Drew is thirty-five years old in The Price (see page 61), he has just quit his job after being dumped by Grayson Choate, and moved to Forgotten Valley.   How can his younger step-brother, Morgan, be five years older than him?

Also, if Drew is filthy rich (thanks to a trust fund (see page 62 of The Price) and the half owner of Forgotten Valley thanks to his mother, why wasn't his step-brother, Morgan, who had the same mother just as wealthy?   Also, it was difficult to understand Morgan's reasoning about Kate's kidnapping.   How would kidnapping Kate put Clay's career on a faster track?

How in the world did Luke Creed, the hero of The Price, come to be Luke Blackthorne?   It is unfathomable that the Blackthorne hating, youngest Creed son, who was thirty-two years old, would all the sudden change his last name from Creed to Blackthorne.

Johnston included a scene in which the Barndollar children decided to look for Kate in a blizzard (apparently to increase the suspense and emotional factors of the story).   This scene should have been omitted because the children finding Kate in the yurt where she was being held was as about likely as the hero in an action and adventure movie taking out the bad guys, who are shooting at him with machine guns, with his simple little handgun.   But it happens in the movies all the time, so it must be okay to take creative license in a book as well.

Yes, Johnston, seems to get her facts off kilter sometimes, but that doesn't make her a bad story teller, just a bad accountant (or note taker).   And while noticing these discrepancies is ticky-tacky, they just sometimes reach out and grab the detail-oriented reader.   These little discrepancies, however, definitely won't keep me from reading more of Johnston's books.

In closing, The Rivals, Joan Johnston's fifth book in The Bitter Creek Series, is an entertaining, engaging, intriguing read.   The factors that made it so include: {1} Drew DeWitt, an under-developed hero, who was still handsome, engaging, and charming; {2} Sarah Barndollar, a minimally developed heroine, who was strong, determined, and loved her children; {3} Clay Blackthorne, a secondary hero, who was still attracted to the woman who had betrayed him -- the mother of his daughter; {4} Libby Grayhawk, a secondary heroine, who still loved the father of her child, even after not seeing him for eighteen years; {5} action involving {a} searching for area girls being kidnapped and killed, {b} skiing in dangerous avalanche-prone areas, and {c} being blackmailed and framed for murder, which keeps the story adventurous; {6} enough emotion to feel sympathy for the main characters, but not so much as to bring forth tears and laughter; {7} plenty of suspense regarding {a} who and why was Kate Grayhawk kidnapped, {b} where was Tom Barndollar, and {c} was Clay going to choose Libby or Jocelyn; {8} an abundance of romance as {a} Drew and Sarah and {b} Clay and Libby spent time together looking for Kate and her kidnappers; {9} a lot of passion and a slight degree of sensuality when Drew and Sarah gave into their desire and made love; and {10} the inclusion of secondary characters that added greatly to the enjoyment of the story: {a} Katherine "Kate" Grayhawk, {b} North Grayhawk, {c} King Grayhawk, {d} Nathan "Nate" Barndollar, {e} Brooke Barndollar, {f} Ryan Barndollar, {g} Jackson "Blackjack" Blackthorne, {h} Jocelyn Montrose, and {i} Morgan DeWitt.   Because Drew and Sarah were not well-developed, this is not the best book of the series.   Nevertheless, The Rivals is still an enjoyable read and a must-read for readers of The Bitter Creek Series.
--Vonda M. Reid (Monday, December 29, 2014 : 12:17 a.m.)     [352]

Books In The Series: "The Bitter Creek Series"
# Date Title Hero Heroine
01.02-2000The CowboyTrace Blackthorne: eldest sonCallie Creed: eldest daughter
  secondary story:Jackson "Blackjack" Blackthorne: family patriarchLauren "Ren" Creed: family matriarch
02.03-2001The TexanOwen Blackthorne: Texas RangerBayleigh "Bay" Creed: veterinarian
  secondary story:Jackson "Blackjack" Blackthorne: family patriarchLauren "Ren" Creed: family matriarch
  secondary story:'Bad' Billy Coburn: dirt poor, town bad boySummer Blackthorne: spoiled little rich girl
03.03-2002The LonerBilly Coburn: dirt poor, town bad boySummer Blackthorne: spoiled little rich girl
  secondary story:Jackson "Blackjack" Blackthorne: family patriarchLauren "Ren" Creed: family matriarch
  secondary story:Sam Creed: eldest sonEmma Coburn: Billy's sister
04.03-2003The PriceLuke Creed: Houston D&B attorneyAmelia "Amy" Hazeltine Nash: his high school sweetheart
  secondary story:Drew Dewitt: Houston D&B attorneyGrayson Choate: Houston D&B attorney
05.09-2004The RivalsDrew DeWitt: wealthy playboySarah Barndollar: Teton County Deputy Sheriff
  secondary story:Clayton "Clay" Blackthorne: U.S. Attorney GeneralElsbeth "Libby" Grayhawk: back-country guide
06.09-2005The Next Mrs. BlackthorneNorth Grayhawk: Texas and Wyoming rancherJocelyn Montrose: socialite
  secondary story:Jack McKinley: former NFL quarterback, playboyKatherine "Kate" Grayhawk: UT freshman
  secondary story:Clayton "Clay" Blackthorne: new Federal JudgeElsbeth "Libby" Grayhawk: wilderness guide
07.07-2007A Stranger's GameBreed Grayhawk: FBI AgentGrace Caldwell: framed for murder
  secondary story:Jack McKinley: Texas RangerKatherine "Kate" Grayhawk Pendleton: mother of twins
08.01-2010ShatteredWyatt Shaw: billionaireKatherine "Kate" Grayhawk Pendleton: physical therapist
  secondary story:Jack McKinley: Texas RangerHolly Gayle Tanner McKinley: pediatric oncologist
09.04-2012Texas Bride [1]Jacob "Jake" CreedMiranda Wentworth
10.01-2013Wyoming Bride [1]Flint CreedHannah Wentworth McMurty
10e03-2014A Bitter Creek Christmas. . .. . .
11.01-2014Montana Bride [1]Karl NorwoodHetty Wentworth
12.05-2014SinfulConnor Flynn: widower, Delta ForceEve Grayhawk:
[1]   These books are listed as a Historical Romance Sub-Series entitled "The Mail Order Brides".

Characters Found In "The Rivals"
Character Description
Drew DeWitt[Hero] calm baritone voice; practiced law with family's firm in Texas; tranquil voice (10) owned half a ranch called Forgotten Valley; Clay Blackthorne's cousin (12) several inches taller than Sarah; lean; lithe; muscular (30) astonishing blue eyes, the sort of blue that made you want to keep on looking (32) moved to Forgotten Valley in December; quit job in Houston (33) was a litigator with DeWitt & Blackthorne (34) warm, calloused hands; muscular chest; dark blond curls on his chest (41) silky golden blond hair (42) friends with Kate; most females took instant liking to him (74) normally the picture of charm; miserable childhood; wanted nothing to do with being a parent (90) rich playboy (99) shiny black Porsche (133) thousand-watt smile (148)
Sarah Barndollar[Heroine] Teton County Deputy Sheriff; hunting for missing teenage girls (24) 22-y-o when married Tom; had been looking for an escape (25) drove white Chevy Tahoe, Teton County Sheriff's vehicle (27) 5'10" (30) plain brown hair in a french braid (41) beautiful (43) good at evaluating people (63) took FBI course at Quantico (155) long, sleek body (344)
. . . . . .
Clay Blackthorne[Secondary Hero] [ Hero of Book 6 / The Next Mrs. Blackthorne] Kate's father; lived in Washington, D.C. (3) Drew DeWitt's cousin (12) 27-y-o when 16-y-o Libby misled and seduced him (13) had gotten engaged 2 years after affair with Libby; fiancée murdered a week before the wedding; had never publicly acknowledged Kate; a politician (15) married Giselle Montrose (16) ruthless and remote gray eyes; chiseled cheekbones; square, determined jaw; crow's feet at the corners of his eyes; black hair showed gray at the temples; powerful shoulders were still broad; 6'4"; a foot taller than Libby; imposing in long black cashmere coat; tailored Armani tuxedo (55) long legs (56) he didn't fight fair, and he fought to win (57) strong veined forearms; attorney general of the U.S.; groomed all his life for the White House (58) gray eyes (59) rock hard shoulders; stormy gray eyes (60) tall; black hair; gray eyes; U.S. Attorney General (62) 46-y-o; 'He'd spent his whole life being careful not to offend the right people.' (67) still had trouble making himself say his step-mother's name (75) "had lived all his life with the knowledge that his family expected him to reach the highest office in the land. He'd been groomed for it since he was a boy and had always been conscious of needing to lead a blameless life.' (76) only 3 women in his life since Libby (93) a daredevil and out of bounds skier until he and Drew were buried in avalanche; now paralyzed with fear (117) learned Spanish right along with English from Mexican's on father's South Texas ranch (182)
Elsbeth "Libby" Grayhawk[Secondary Heroine] [Heroine of Book 6 / The Next Mrs. Blackthorne] Kate's mother; lived with brother on his ranch in Jackson Hole, Wyoming (3) drove Subaru Outback; had been an unwed teenaged mother (5) loved her work as a back-country guide (6) blond curls (7) at 16, misled and seduced Clay Blackthorne; offspring of King's first wife (13) 2 half brothers; 2 half sisters (14) left home with daughter when turned 18 (15) married once; engaged once; established a reputation as someone who was friendly and competent; guide services were much in demand (17) 5'4" (55) blue eyes (59) petite blond woman (62) still slim; still beautiful (69) shoulder-length blond curls (71) seductive body; betrayed Clay (76) too honest to put up with political bullshit (171) wouldn't have recognized a pair of pantyhose if they bit her in the ass; made a life for herself, acting as a guide to hunters and fishermen and naturalists (172) wasn't classically beautiful; her eyes were too far apart and her mouth was too large; but her bright sky blue eyes were always filled with emotion; curly blond hair wrapped like silk around his fingers (175) mouth could curve into enticing smile (176)
. . . . . .
Brooke Barndollar[Major Secondary Character] 15-y-o; eyes so caked with mascara that it was hard to tell they were hazel behind the black fringe (23) Tom's child by his first wife; 6-y-o when Sarah married Tom (24) rebellious; defiant; hurtful; straggly brown bangs; had stopped eating couple months after Tom disappeared (26) never seemed to focus her attention on anything for very long (100)
Nathan "Nate" Barndollar[Major Secondary Character] Sarah's stepson (22) got caught drinking at Valentine's Day dance at school; 6' tall and still growing; had Tom's wiry build, warm brown eyes, sandy hair and freckles (23) Tom's child by his first wife; 7-y-o when Sarah married Tom (24) had drivers license for 9 months; a responsible driver (100) yearning to be grown up but caught in a boy's body, with a boy's need for adventure (207)
Ryan Barndollar[Secondary Character] Sarah's 8-y-o son (23) Tom and Sarah's son (24)
Tom Barndollar[No Appearance] Sarah's husband; wiry build; warm brown eyes, sandy hair and freckles (23) argued with Sarah about her long hours the morning he disappeared; disappeared 15 months ago, hadn't been heard from since; had loved Sarah (24) had run tow service with Mike (25)
Amy [Blackthorne][No Appearance] [Heroine of Book 4 / The Price] Luke's wife (401)
Evelyn "Eve" DeWitt Blackthorne[No Appearance] Clay's mother; had inherited Forgotten Valley from her mother; gave her half to Clay (12) Jackson Blackthorne married her, King Grayhawk loved her (13) committed suicide rather than lose her husband to Ren (76) planned her own death by suicide and tried to make it look like Blackjack had murdered her (274)
Jackson "Blackjack" Blackthorne[Brief Appearances] [Featured in: The Cowboy, The Texan, The Loner] married Eve DeWitt; King Grayhawk hated him for stealing the woman he loved right out from under his nose (13) married Ren (56) loved Ren all his life, even when married to Eve; happier living with Ren than with Eve (76) crushed his enemies with a mighty hand and without a second thought; flinty gray eyes (77) a man shaped by the vast, unforgiving frontier; descendant of English nobleman (168) controlled the judges and politicians in Texas (170) looked like King Grayhawk; tall; broad shoulders; still lean; silver hair; black brows; gray eyes as implacable as stone; wore dark blue Western suit, with a crisply starched white Western shirt held at the throat by a silver bolo tie; stood with his feet widespread in expensive alligator boots; the craggy, sharp-featured face of a man who had spent his life fighting the elements (258)
Lauren "Ren" Creed Blackthorne[Brief Appearances] [Featured in: The Cowboy, The Texan, The Loner] Jackson "Blackjack" Blackthorne's second wife (56) had been married to Jesse Creed; well into her 60s; still a beautiful woman (76)
Luke Blackthorne[No Appearance] [Hero of Book 4 / The Price] {shouldn't this be Luke Creed?}; Drew's best friend when he'd worked in Houston (401)
Owen Blackthorne[No Appearance] [Hero of Book 2 / The Texan] Clay's twin brother; a Texas Ranger (96)
Duke of Blackthorne[No Appearance] one of Jackson Blackthorne's ancestors (168)
Bobbie Sue[No Appearance] Buck's wife; having a baby (161)
Buck[No Appearance] patrolman; asked Sarah to cover for him when wife went into labor (161)
Grayson Choate[No Appearance] Drew's ex-girlfriend; she dumped him; he was over her (35)
Clive[No Appearance] Nate's friend; Nate parked Sarah's pickup at his house (203)
Billy [Coburn][No Appearance] [Hero of Book 3 / The Loner] Summer's husband (274)
Summer [Coburn][No Appearance] [Heroine of Book 3 / The Loner] Clay's younger sister (274)
Cricket Creed[No Appearance] [Frontier Woman] widow, who married the first American Blackthorne (168)
Jesse Creed[No Appearance] Lauren "Ren" Creed Blackthorne's first husband; Blackjack's mortal enemy (76)
Daisy[No Appearance] dispatcher who called Sarah to report murder on Bear Island (195)
Dusty DeWitt[No Appearance] Drew's brother; killed himself when 23-y-o; healthy as a young bull; just finished law school and been recruited by a high caliber New York firm; grandfather's wicked second wife made him feel unwanted, unimportant and useless (137)
Ellen DeWitt[No Appearance] Drew's mother; had inherited Forgotten Valley from her mother; gave her half to Drew (12) first husband divorced her because of Shelby; married again, bore Morgan; another divorce (138)
Elizabeth "Liz" DeWitt[No Appearance] Shelby and Drew's grandfather's daughter; the favored daughter; always nice; very pretty (138) only DeWitt daughter alive; owned the entire DeWitt ranching operation (139)
Morgan DeWitt[Secondary Character] Clay Blackthorne's chief of staff; looked as influential as he was in real life; as Clay's right-hand man, he vetted anyone who wanted to see Clay and his office, and made sure Clay only had to deal with those issues that deserved his personal attention (79) Drew's step-brother; as good with a computer as it's possible to get; worked with Clay for 16 years; 40-y-o; closer to Clay than his twin; knew almost all of Clay's secrets (96) blond like Drew, but without his height and good looks; friendly, confident smile; tailored gray suit looked expensive but not ostentatious; just tall enough not to be labeled short; did not try to hide his receding hairline (266) needed his own space (307)
Shelby DeWitt[No Appearance] woman Drew's grandfather fell in love with, divorced Drew's grandmother to marry her (137) hell on wheels; tried to run Ellen's, Eve's and Liz's lives; didn't like Dusty's and Drew's father, so hounded him until he divorced Ellen (137) the reason Eve married Jackson Blackthorne instead of King Grayhawk; an awful woman; took a dislike to Dusty; if didn't like you, knew what to say to make you feel like a bad person (138) still alive and kicking in the hill country of Texas; angry because husband left his ranch in Texas to his 3 daughters and ensured that the ranch would stay in one piece (139)
__ DeWitt[No Appearance] Drew's grandmother; mother of Ellen and Eve; turned to alcohol and drugs when husband divorced her; slashed her wrists 3 years later (137)
Doc[Animal] Libby's hunting dog; redbone coonhound (6)
Harvey Donnelly[No Appearance] governor of Texas; friend of Niles Taylor; party on Bear Island was held at his house (301) blackmailed by Niles Taylor (358)
Katherine "Kate" Grayhawk[Secondary Character] [Heroine of Book 8 / Shattered] 17¾-y-o (2) flew in from Virginia (3) insisted on doing everything for herself; self-sufficiency personified; foolishly fearless (6) had been aware of the slights, the sniggers, the whispers behind her back for being bastard daughter of King Grayhawk's eldest daughter (16) went to boarding school in ninth grade (17) stunning; long black hair; silvery gray eyes (52) 17-y-o, almost 18 (63) extraordinarily beautiful black-haired, gray-eyed young woman; attending private school back east past 4 years (66) friends with Drew (74) spoke Spanish (81) considered herself a dauntless, courageous person; hated bugs (82) a loner, the result of being an outcast; smart; got straight As; superb athlete; cross country runner in junior high; competed in shorter, faster dashes with amazing success; lot of boys wanted to ask her out; sent out signals that said, "Come closer at your peril" (107) never complained; doesn't know the meaning of the word quit; has guts; comes from stubborn mule-headed stock on both sides; courageous; persistent (109) never acted like a kid; didn't cry, mope, moan or wail; game to try anything; brave; loyal; trustworthy; a real Boy Scout; a tomboy; always in jeans, t-shirt and cowboy boots (141)
King Grayhawk[Rare Appearances] Libby's father; hated Jackson Blackthorne for stealing the woman he loved right out from under his nose; married and divorced 3 times; indulged in affairs seeking a replacement for Eve DeWitt; father to North and Matthew; offspring of King's first wife (13) made lot of enemies over the years (16) owned oil wells in Wyoming and Texas (97) left knee was stiff from an old bronc-busting injury; impressive gnarled oak cane with a golden hawk, wings outspread for a handle (164) tall; imposing; wore jeans, flannel plaid Western shirt and boots; snakelike, unblinking eyes, a hawk nose, and sharp cheekbones etched into stone by wind and weather; broad, powerful shoulders; a wiry leanness that came from years in the saddle; tooled leather belt, with its broad silver buckle, cinched a narrow waist (167) boots scuffed and crusted with dirt; a powerful adversary; cut from the same bolt of cloth as Blackjack; shaped by the vast, unforgiving frontier; descendant of English nobleman; a bit of a dark soul; ruthless; totally untouched by the feelings of those whose lives he manipulated and controlled (168) controlled the judges and politicians in Wyoming (170) vindictive (257) looked like Jackson Blackthorne; tall; broad shoulders; still lean (258) thick, dark brown hair, though it was never seen, always hidden beneath a Stetson; wide-set eyes were a clear, bright blue, like the Arctic sea; used his cane like a king's scepter to give him majesty as he limped (258) bought up a lot of mineral leases in Texas when bottom fell out of the oil industry (304) always gotten his way; if he wants something, he goes after it; raised 7 children to be the same way (322)
Matt Grayhawk[No Appearance] King Grayhawk's son; Libby's older brother; offspring of King's first wife (13)
North Grayhawk[Secondary Character] [Secondary Hero of Book 6 / The Next Mrs. Blackthorne] Kate's uncle; Kate and her mother lived on ranch in Jackson Hole, Wyoming (3) Libby's brother; refused to take cell phone with him when worked cattle (6) Libby's older brother; King Grayhawk's son (13) Libby's eldest brother; tall, broad-shouldered and lean-hipped; blue eyes were like two chips of ice; his mouth was thin, almost cruel (19) piercing gaze; not demonstrative nor comforting (20) Libby wondered if he had any feelings at all; never lost his temper; rarely smiled; made every decision with cold-blooded reason; never made a mistake -- or at least, never admitted to one; never imposed his will, just made it impossible to ignore his reasoning (20) had taken up his father's gauntlet against the Blackthornes, every bit as fervently as his father (57) a bit of a dark soul; ruthless; totally untouched by the feelings of those whose lives he manipulated and controlled (168) accidentally killed a man against whom he held a grudge (274) couldn't be pushed (327)
Earl of Grayhawk[No Appearance] one of King Grayhawk's ancestors; the family black sheep, had been banished from England by his father and made his living in the American fur trade; used his profits to buy land in eastern Wyoming that happened to have a fortune in oil underneath it (168)
Harry[No Appearance] Sarah's co-worker; holding Nate in interrogation room for Sarah to come pick up (161)
Jim[Rare Appearances] investigative sergeant who'd taught Sarah everything about police work (155)
Magnum[Animal] Libby's hunting dog; bluetick coonhound (6) older dog (8) 12-y-o bluetick hound (51) graying muzzle (52)
Mike[No Appearance] ran Jackson Hole garage with wife, Theresa (18) Sarah's brother; drunk again (22) since Tom's disappearance, had trouble making it on his own, started drinking (25)
Giselle Montrose[No Appearance] married Clay Blackthorne; daughter of the American ambassador to France (16) never had children; died a year ago of cancer (17) Clay had never met a person with a kinder soul or a more cheerful outlook on life; devoted to Clay; easy to love (93) found the endless South Texas prairies intimidating; more comfortable dealing with the sharks in Washington's political waters (172)
Jocelyn Montrose[Secondary Character] [Secondary Heroine of Book 6 / The Next Mrs. Blackthorne] Giselle Montrose's sister; Clay's sister-in-law (56) great comfort to Clay after Giselle had died (75) a politician's daughter, used to interruptions in social engagements due to more important business (77) came from a family of Connecticut blue bloods; had spent enough time in Paris while her father was ambassador to France that her voice had a charming French lilt in her speech was unselfconsciously peppered with French expressions; 24-y-o; lavender eyes (78) in love with Clay, even though he'd never kissed her; perfect, heart-shaped face; stunning violet eyes (79) would make the perfect political wife; often presided at father's dinner table; beautiful; knew how to dress so she always looked her best (174) always the picture of calm composure; beauty; tact; kindness (175) absolutely stunning; auburn hair; wearing a classic Chanel suit and Manolo Blahnik high heels (266) beautiful violet eyes; accent, a combination of crisp New England and seductive Paris, made her sound sophisticated and exotic; raspy texture to her voice (267) statuesque (269)
Natalie[One Appearance] brought Clay his drink at Niles Taylor's party; stunning, form-fitting backless red dress; very beautiful young woman; dark eyes; dusky skin; voluptuous (181) didn't speak a word of English (182)
Paige[No Appearance] Sarah's 16-y-o sister; disappeared from a party and never seen again; Sarah felt guilty for not leaving party with sister (128)
Patricia[No Appearance] Kate's roommate in boarding school (95)
Lourdes Ramirez[Secondary Character] girl missing for 3 months; from Driggs, Idaho; came from Mexico illegally to work in Jackson (48) long lashes; wide-spaced dark eyes; young; very beautiful; spoke Spanish (82) prisoner 3 months (83) kidnapped from hotel where she worked (84) an illegal; no green card; father came here from Mexico in the spring to work in the kitchen of grand hotel; father sent for his wife, daughter and 3 younger sons to work in the hotel cleaning rooms; found small place for them in Diggs (85)
Cindy Ridgeway[No Appearance] Clay's fiancé; untimely death a week before their wedding; had gotten engaged on rebound from Libby (93)
Snoopy[Animal] Libby's hunting dog; redbone coonhound (6) youngest of Libby's three hounds (8) red shoulders; floppy ears fell below jaw; large brown eyes (51) overall red color; Kate had named him (52)
Jimmy Joe Stovall[Rare Appearances] Teton County patrolman (300)
Hank Studdard[One Appearance] captain of the jail; a hunter; Libby had taken him on a couple of guided trips without charging him; allowed Libby to visit Clay in jail (256)
Niles Taylor[Rare Appearances] owned most of the oil in west Texas; oilman from Midland, Texas; wore expensive Western-cut suit; cowboy boots; tall; barrel chest; head of wavy salt-and-pepper hair; an engaging smile that stretched from ear to ear; married (97) wife stayed in Midland; attended functions with a pretty young woman on his arm; invited Clay and Libby to party on Bear Island (98)
Theresa[No Appearance] ran Jackson Hole Garage with husband, Mike (18)
Lester Wallace[One Appearance] ordered to pick Kate up (272) from Midland, Texas; lot of priors; no permit for gun (290)
Judge Warner[One Appearance] judge hearing Clay's bail hearing on Sunday morning (311)
Judge Wilkerson[No Appearance] from Washington; Blackjack insisted he hold bail hearing for Clay in the morning (259)
Helen Witlock[No Appearance] Clay's personal secretary; knew Kate was his daughter (111)

Locations, Organizations Found In "The Rivals"
Location / Organization Description
25 Shortrun on Teton Park; avalanche buried Drew; Clay barely got him out alive (114) gotten its name because the ridgeline above the slopes was 25 feet short of 10,000 feet (117)
Antler Motelon Pearl Street in Jackson Hole; where Morgan was staying (298)
Bear Islandwhere Niles Taylor was hosting a party at a friend's house; invited Clay and Libby (98)
Beaver Creekarea Libby and Clay crossed while heading to area where Kate's backpack was found (116)
Bitter Creek Cattle Companyowned by Jackson Blackthorne; a ranch in Texas the size of a small northeastern state (58)
British Embassywhere Clay had been dancing with Jocelyn when received call about Kate's disappearance (75)
Bubba'spopular restaurant in Jackson Hole; where Clay would meet Libby for breakfast (71)
Cadillac Grillwhere Libby went to show Kate's picture around (52)
Charlottesville, Virginia where Kate attended Ethel Walker School (3)
Cheyennethe city Libby was in when heard Kate's call (5)
DCIDivision of Criminal Investigation: Sarah called Cheyenne division to attend crime scene (197)
DeWitt & Blackthornelaw firm in Houston where Drew used to work (34)
Driggs, Idaho10 miles north of Teton Pass; where family of missing girl was from (48) where Lourdes Ramirez lived with her family; just over the Teton Pass in Idaho (85)
Ethel Walker Schoolin Charlottesville, Virginia; where Kate attended school (3)
Februarytime of year in which story was taking place (9)
Forgotten Valleynear Jackson; area where Drew owned half a ranch; Clay owned the other half (12)
Forgotten Valley Ranchlocated in a valley 30 miles wide and 80 miles long, located between the east and west Gros Ventre buttes; bordered beyond the butte on the west by tributaries of the Snake River (37) an idyllic spot, with a one-story, split-pine ranch house that had been added onto for the better part of a century, surrounded by cottonwoods that had been planted by pioneers; a working ranch that ran black baldies and Herefords and the occasional longhorn steer (38)
Game Creek Canyonski route near top; where Kate might be (317)
Glacier National Parkarea where Kate's backpack was found (115)
Grand Tetonsmajestic mountains where Kate was talking to stranger in ski lodge (1)
Gros Ventre Riverbordered Forgotten Valley with a tributary of the Snake (234)
Hoback Rivernext to the road Libby was driving on (5) river Drew landed in when swerved to miss hitting Libby Grayhawk on mountain road (7)
Jackson Broncshigh school mascot (23)
Jackson Hole, WyomingBook Setting: Kate's home; nestled in the Tetons (3) a resort town; the hired help came and went as quickly as the tourists; transient town had infinitesimally small local population; 10 times that many passed through during the summer on their way to Yellowstone Park (53)
Jackson Hole Garagerun by Mike and Theresa (18)
Jackson Hole Municipal Buildinghoused the Jackson Hole Police Department (202)
John Dodgean expensive neighborhood across the river from Bear Island (221)
Kingdom ComeKing Grayhawk's ranch; located outside of Jackson Hole (97)
Mangy Moosebar in Teton Village (52)
Midland, Texaswhere Niles Taylor lived (97)
Million Dollar Cowboy Barsaddles for barstools; where Libby went to show Kate's picture around (52)
NCICNational Crime Information Center: centralized computer system with statistics and information about crimes and missing persons that allows different jurisdictions to make comparisons of data (64)
Pinedalecity Libby passed through on her way home from Cheyenne (5)
Pinedale First National Banksign out front indicated temperature was 5 degrees (9)
Rendezvous Mountains10,450 feet up; part of Wyoming's Grand Tetons; where Kate snowboarded a double diamond slope (3)
Rock Springscity Libby passed through on her way home from Cheyenne (5)
Snake Riverdearth of water (11)
Shady Ladyat the Snow King Resort; where Libby went to show Kate's picture around (52)
Silver Dollar Barin the historic Wort Hotel; 2,000 silver dollars laminated into the bar; where Libby went to show Kate's picture around (52)
Snow King MountainSarah's house on hill above Snow King Mountain (156)
South King Streetstreet on which county government building that housed sheriff's office was located (127)
Spring Gulch Roadroad to Forgotten Valley (38)
Stagecoach Barin Wilson; where Libby went to show Kate's picture around (52)
Teton County Jailwhere Nate was being held (202)
Teton County Search and Rescuesent to search area where Kate's backpack was found (119)
Teton Valley Garagewhere Mike and Theresa lived (27)
Teton Villageresort community at the base of Wyoming's Grand Tetons (3) ski resort outside of Jackson Hole (52)
Wagon Wheelrestaurant across the street from Antler Motel (298)
yurtit's what's being used as a portable ski cabin (368)

"The Rivals" Quotations
20She needed someone to tell her everything would be all right.   (Libby, page 20)
36She missed being kissed and touched and held in a man's strong arms.   (Sarah, page 36)
50She barely managed to keep herself from thanking him.   For the pleasure.   For making her feel beautiful.   For making her feel like a desirable woman again.   (Sarah, page 50)
67At forty-six it was getting harder not to say exactly what was on his mind.   To hell with diplomacy.   He'd spent his whole life being careful not to offend the right people.   If ever there was a time for plain speaking, this was it.   (Clay, page 67)
105The surge of passion she felt was powerful -- and undeniable.   Rational thought was impossible.   All she could do was feel.   (Sarah, page 105)
130It was much worse, she knew, not to know what had happened to a loved one, than to face the knowledge of their death from foul play.   (Sarah, page 130)
147She'd found him attractive from the start, but the heightened emotions of the past half hour had made her even more susceptible to whatever it was about this man that made him stand out from all the others.   (Sarah, page 147)
150voracious need she felt to be kissed, to be touched, to somehow climb inside the skin of the man whose need seemed as ravenous as her own.   (Sarah, page 150)
231Drew realized suddenly that what he'd feared for so many years was not his own ability to love his children, but that the woman he chose to love might not love his children.   (Drew, page 231)
233That was simply another example of how hard it was to be a parent.   There were a thousand things you needed to learn.   When to step in and when to step away.   When help was wanted and appreciated and when it would only be resented.   Parenting was a quagmire.   (Drew, page 233)

"Joan Johnston -- The Rivals" Review and Information Links
Rated Posted Site Notes, Comments, Etc.
----Joan Johnston's WebsiteAuthor
----Joan Johnston's FacebookAuthor
. . . . . . . . .. . .
3.70 average{20 reviews}Amazonas of: December 30, 2014
4.50 average{20 ratings}Barnes & Nobleas of: December 30, 2014
----Fantastic FictionList of Joan Johnston's Books
----Fict FactList of Books In The "Bitter Creek" Series
----Fiction DBList of Joan Johnston's Books
Article06-24-2014Fresh FictionJoan Johnston -- The Challenges of Writing a Series
3.95 average{420 ratings}Good Readsas of: December 30, 2014 // Miss Kim's review made good point
3.30 average{20 ratings}Library Thingas of: December 30, 2014
3.90 average{136 ratings}Paperback Swapas of: December 30, 2014
----Order of BooksList of Joan Johnston's Books
4.40 average{5 reviews}Shelfarias of: December 30, 2014
3.9512-30-2014Wolf Bear Does Booksshorter post on Amazon, Fiction DB, Good Reads, Library Thing, Shelfari

♥   Disclaimer:   I Purchased This Book
♥   Very Subjective Rating