Monday, December 15, 2014

Joan Johnston -- The Loner

Joan Johnston -- The Loner

Rated: ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥   {5.00}
Action: ♠♠♠ / Emotion: ♣♣♣♣♣ / Romance: ♥♥♥♥♥ / Sensuous: ♦♦.♦ / Suspense: ♠♠♠♠
Action: 3.0 / Emotion: 5.0 / Romance: 5.0 / Sensuous: 2.5 / Suspense: 4.0  //  Laughter: 4 / Giggle: 2 // Tears: 8 / Teary: 3

Setting:       Bitter Creek, Texas
Era:             Present Day (2002)
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The Loner, Joan Johnston's third book in The Bitter Creek Series was one of those books that is impossible to put down after reading that first sentence.   This over-nighter, un-put-down-able book was so engaging, intriguing, and emotionally moving that it was impossible not to give it the highest rating -- five stars.   This book "spoke" to me for two particular personal reasons.

First, believe it or not, it was impossible not to empathize with the heroine, Summer Blackthorne, (who was previously perceived (and labeled) as just a "spoiled little rich girl") because my personal experiences have mirrored the feelings and insecurities Summer was exhibiting.   And Johnston did such an incredible job of portraying Summer's feelings, though action and word, that it was impossible not to identify with her at times.
"You were always a spoiled brat.   I see you haven't changed."   (Billy, page 17)
Second, whenever an author develops a character, like "Bad" Billy Coburn, who was dumped on his entire life, and still comes out fighting (in that masculine, 'fighting the world with a chip on his shoulder'-way, which hides a responsible and caring nature), that character wins my utmost respect and admiration.   Not only that, but Billy was all masculine, macho, alpha male -- and what romance reader does not melt when the "Bad Boy" walks through the pages of a book and ultimately reaches his victory.
"He's a fighter, Jackson.   You'll never put that boy down for long."   (Lauren, page 229)

"I want a man, Billy.   Geoffrey is a boy dressed in grown-up clothes.   You're so much more than he could ever be.   You're determined and courageous and you never, ever give up."   (Summer, page 315)
One other aspect of this book that makes it a must read (but only after reading the first two books in this series, The Cowboy and The Texan) is that Johnston {1} back-tracked and fixed a glaring error revealed in those two books and {2} successfully included two mini-romances in the background of Billy's and Summer's story, without taking too much time away from the main characters (as she did in The Texan).   Johnson interwove these three love stories together in a very clever and, yet, endearing manner, which successfully tied three families together: the Blackthornes, the Creeds, and the Coburns.

The Loner takes place two years after the closing pages of The Texan.   If you will remember, Billy had to make a very difficult choice at the end of that book: he could stay in Bitter Creek and continue to spend time with Summer, the love of his life, or he could move away where he would be offered the opportunity of a lifetime -- a job as a field agent for the Texas and Southwestern Cattle Raisers' Association.   But, really, Billy had no choice.   He took the job and ended his friendship with Summer, who threw angry words of hate at him for choosing money over friendship.

Billy, being all macho man that he was, moved to Amarillo, consoled himself with a faceless waitress, Debbie Sue Hudson, and ended up with a son that he loved above all else.   Billy loved his job and was an outstanding agent who won the respect of his superiors.
"He did have quite a reputation with the TSCRA.   His boss had twenty fits when I said I wanted him fired.   Told me I was a jackass for depriving the Association of someone as talented and whip smart and steadfast as Billy Coburn.   Not a 'bad' word about him," Blackjack admitted.   (Blackjack, page 229)
But Billy had to return to Bitter Creek because his nineteen year old sister, Emma, called him to explain that she needed help tending both the Coburn family's C-Bar Ranch and their dying (of cancer) mother, Dora Coburn.   Billy had no choice but to return to Bitter Creek.   As expected, (since this is Billy's and Summer's story) Billy ran into his biological father and Summer at the Armadillo Bar, where he stopped to get some milk for his crying son, Will.   Naturally, Summer followed Billy from the bar to talk to her friend -- even though she was getting married in two weeks.

Eventually, Jackson "Blackjack" Blacktorne and the inconsequential fiancé, Geoffrey, joined Billy's and Summer's conversation in the parking lot, which set the line of dominos in their carefully orchestrated lives teetering.   Several important truths were reveled before Billy punched Geoffrey in the nose and left.   Blackjack, Billy, and Summer each had to act on the ultimatums that were eventually presented to them.

First, once Blackjack learned that Summer had known for the past two years that she was not his biological daughter, he was relived because he could now file for a divorce from his embittered, blackmailing wife.   Since Johnston had been telling the story of unrequited love between Blackjack and Lauren "Ren" Creed during the previous two books of the series, it was impossible not to silently cheer because now Blackjack and Ren were going to get to be together after all.

But even as you were cheering for Blackjack, you were also wanting to smack him because of his lack of compassion for his own son.   Why was Blackjack so virulently opposed to Summer being with Billy?   Yes, we all really know why -- that nobody is good enough for a man's daughter, especially the town's bad boy!   Because Blackjack wanted Summer to marry Geoffrey without a hitch, he issued an ultimatum to Billy.   Get out of Bitter Creek within twenty-four hours or I'll take back the job that I got you two years ago.

After seeing Billy, Summer knew she couldn't marry Geoffrey, because, of course, she didn't love him.   Summer has never understood why she had never been able to develop strong feelings for any of the men that her mother and father had paraded before her as potential husband candidates.   Naturally, all of us romance readers know why.   Summer was unwilling to admit to herself that she loved her friend, Billy.
She'd decided there must be something wrong with her, since she couldn't seem to care deeply for any of the men who'd proposed marriage to her over the years.   The man she liked best was Billy . . .   (Summer, page 26)
Blackjack and Summer go home to the Castle, where Summer tells Geoffrey she can't marry him and Blackjack and Eve have another full-volume, rip-roaring fight when Blackjack tells Eve he's getting a divorce and heads out to Three Oaks to be with Ren.   Because Evelyn "Eve" DeWitt Blackthorne is a selfish, manipulative daughter of satan, she issues an ultimatum to Summer.   You marry Geoffrey and I'll let you be mistress of Bitter Creek (the desire of Summer's heart) or I'll divide Bitter Creek into little bitty pieces.

Johnston began to flesh out Summer's personality in such a manner that it was easy to identify with the fickle feminity that resides inside women.   When Summer breaks up with Geoffrey, she wonders why he accepted the ending of their relationship so calmly.
What she felt inside was that awful ache in the center of her chest.   If he'd loved her so much, why hadn't he fought harder to keep her?   If he'd loved her so much, why hadn't he said something sooner about her apparent defection?   If he'd loved her so much, why wasn't he here holding her in his arms, demanding she love him in return?   Why had he simply given up?   Wasn't she worth fighting for?   (Summer, pages 31,32)

Billy had done it two years ago.   Asked her to marry him, then walked away without a backward look when she refused.   Now Geoffrey had done the same thing.   Was she so unlovable?   So little worth fighting for?   (Summer, page 32)
At the same time Johnston throws more weight upon Billy's broad shoulders.   When he gets to the C-Bar Ranch, he feels guilty because his sister, Emma, is pregnant and the father has fled the scene.   (And, yes, it's pretty obvious who the father is.)   Johnston also begins to show readers that Billy has a very strong sense of responsibility and knows how to hide the hurts that his childhood inflicted upon him.
Hugs were awkward things between Coburns.   He made sure Johnny Ray didn't beat up on Emma, but that didn't mean she'd gotten any affection.   (Billy, page 47)

Billy knew what it felt like to be unwanted, and he'd been determined no kid of his was going to suffer that fate.   (Billy, page 49)
Johnston wrote a really touching homey-style scene as Billy tended Will while he was discussing with Emma the problems they were facing along with possible solutions.   This impressive scene was used to contrast the differences in the familial connections that Billy and Emma shared as compared to the coldness at Summer's home.

After Billy and Summer spent restless, worrisome nights, they ended up at the pond where they used to meet to contemplate their respective futures.   Whereupon Billy and Summer decided they would embark upon a marriage of convenience to solve each of their problems.   What is interesting here is that, again, Billy admits (to himself) that he loves Summer and has always wanted her and that he can use her $25,000 inheritance to pay off greedy little Debbie Sue Hudson and retain custody of Will and help his mother and sister, but Summer, in her typical, blind, juvenile manner chooses to marry Billy for a frivolous reason.   (Naturally, romance readers everywhere know the real reason Summer married Billy was because, deep down, she loved him and wanted to be with him.)
she had felt things for Billy Coburn that she hadn't known it was possible for one human being to feel for another.   Frightening feelings.   Terrifying feelings.   Billy had touched someplace deep inside her that she'd hidden from everyone, even herself.   (Summer, page 55)

She hated being manipulated even more than she wanted Bitter Creek.   (Summer, page 55)

she couldn't help feeling hurt.   She'd told Billy she was marrying him to thwart her parents, but she hadn't been able to keep herself from romanticizing the situation.   (Summer, page 94)
Thus it was that Billy brought Summer home to the C-Bar Ranch to tend to Dora and Will while he sought work since Blackjack took his job as a TSCRA field inspector.   And you have to give Summer credit -- she may have been a spoiled little rich girl who had no clue how to cook, wash clothes, or tend a baby, but she won hearts with her whole-hearted efforts to do so.

Johnston cleverly twisted events to include a moving, yet brief tale of love that developed between Sam Creed and Emma Coburn.   When Billy brought Summer home, Emma issued him an ultimatum.
"She has no talents to speak of.   What were you thinking, Billy?"
"Either she goes or I go," Emma threatened.
In the few hours she'd spent in Billy's home she realized that there was a feeling of family here she'd never found at the Castle.   And she wanted to be a part of it.
"You can go anytime you want, Emma," Billy said at last.   "Summer stays."   (Summer, page 127)

"Your new wife won't last a week without all the luxuries she's used to having.   Let me know when she takes off, and I'll come home."   (Emma, page 130)
Sam was in the same boat as Emma.   When he found Blackjack, his father's nemesis, ensconced in his mother's house, he was determined to stay away to let them know how violently he was opposed to their relationship.   Emma showed up at Sam's home in answer to his advertisement for a housekeeper.   Johnston did an excellent job of detailing Sam's feelings about being considered less than a man simply because he was confined to a wheel chair.
He knew that she, like so many other women, had taken one look and decided that being tied to a wheelchair kept him from being either a physical or a sexual threat.   He hated being dismissed as a man simply because he didn't have the use of his legs.   He still felt desire.   He still needed to be held.   He still needed to be loved.   (Sam, page 143)

it would be hell looking at Emma Coburn every day, wanting her to notice him, and being ignored in return.   (Sam, page 144)

He wanted her to confide in him.   He wanted to know everything about her.   He wanted to help her.   He wanted her to see him as a whole person.   Hell.   He wanted her to see him as a man who could protect her and care for her and solve her problems.   (Sam, page 148)
Even though Johnston did a phenomenal job of engaging the readers emotions as she told Sam and Emma's growing love story, it is too bad that the book was not longer so that more time could have been spent with Sam and Emma without taking away the time needed to fully develop Billy's and Summer's story.   Just as Johnston regaled readers with why Sam's was so attracted to Emma, she also revealed why Emma was so drawn to Sam.
Emma had needed someone to hold her close, to tell her everything would be all right, to remind her she was a good person and would be a good mother.   Sam had offered her a job, and in the short time she'd worked for him, proceeded to do all that and more.   (Emma, page 295)
Johnston finished up the story she had been building across the previous two books of this series of the estranged relationship between Blackjack and Ren.   Blackjack and Ren were both given point of view voices in the book and Johnston did an excellent job of tying readers to these two characters on a deep emotional level as Blackjack and Ren joined together for some heated romance and some heartfelt conversations about their respective children.

During the telling of Blackjack's and Ren's backstory, Johnston also corrected the mistake she'd made when it came to the ages of Trace and Callie (The Cowboy).   Johnston corrected this mistake as she revealed that the miscarriage that Ren suffered shortly after she had married Jesse led to the discovery by their respective spouses about the love that existed between them.   Seeing Blackjack and Ren together in the Bitter Creek Regional Hospital underlined {1} why Jesse was so jealous and spewed his hatred of Blackthornes, and Blackjack in particular, to his children and {2} why Eve evolved into such a selfish, embittered wife.

Johnston also gave readers a unique and interesting twist to the story by giving evil Eve a brief point of view voice to explain why she was so adamantly opposed to Blackjack's reunion with that woman.   And even though it was explained that Eve suffered shame and embarrassment when her father divorced her mother when she was thirteen, there had to be a screw loose in Eve's makeup all along for her to take out her unhappiness on her own children.   If Eve had not been totally unlikeable because of the way she manipulated {1} Blackjack, {2} Dora and Johnny Ray Coburn, and {3} Russell Handy, she was detestable for the way she treated her children -- Owen and Summer, in particular.   The way that Eve played her final card of retaliation against Blackjack and Ren was incredibly clever and added greatly to the suspense and enjoyment factor of the storyline.

As the story progressed, Billy's and Summer's marriage of convenience evolved into a marriage of passion.   Somehow Johnston always manages to instill a sizzling sensuality into the lovemaking scenes between her characters.   The scenes are not seriously graphic, but they are so well told that the reader cannot help but enjoy their inclusion into the love story growing between Billy and Summer.

Another reason The Loner was such an outstanding read is because Johnston engaged the readers on such an emotional level that she brought forth laughter, giggles, that tight throat feeling, and tears.   How does she do it?   One minute the characters are interacting and then, bam, all the sudden the tears are flowing.   Look at the scene between Billy and Dora near the end of the book as they discussed his relationship with Summer.

In closing, The Texan, Joan Johnston's third book in The Bitter Creek Series, is the kind of book romance readers dream of reading.   A book that included: {1} Billy Coburn, the town bad boy, who overcame an incredibly disastrous childhood to became a man of strength, responsibility, and compassion; {2} Summer Blackthorne, the spoiled little rich girl, who showed that she experienced the same confusing emotions as every other woman underneath her attitude of entitlement; {3} Jackson "Blackjack" Blackthorne, a less than perfect man, who suffered the same pangs of love underneath his hard-hearted exterior; {4} Lauren "Ren" Creed, a soft-spoken, kind, empathetic woman, who had an unlimited supply of compassion and love; {5} Sam Creed, a paralyzed man, who hated and loved in equal measures; {6} Emma Coburn, a beautiful, struggling young lady, who just wanted to be loved; {7} a tale with enough action to keep the story moving at a swift, steady pace; {8} a powerful undercurrent of emotion that enabled readers to identify with the characters with laughter and tears; {9} a strong sense of romance permeated all three of the love stories that were told; {10} a potent aura of suspense kept the reader wondering {a} when Billy and Summer were ever going to speak of their love, {b} how Blackjack and Ren were going to live in peace, and {c} how Sam and Emma were going to overcome their issues to find happiness; {11} a sizzling sensuality filled the well-written lovemaking scenes; and {12} the inclusion of interesting secondary characters that added a rounded-out flavor to the story.   This book will remain on my "To Be Re-Read" list.
--Vonda M. Reid (Sunday, December 14, 2014 : 8:30 p.m.)     [351]

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 Loner"
Character Description
Billy Coburn[Hero] smoked cigarettes; 6'4"; shoulders broader than Blackjack's; leaner of hip than Blackjack; bastard son of Blackjack (1) field agent for the Texas and Southwestern Cattle Raisers' Association for past 2 years (2) labeled Bad Billy Coburn; grew up in Bitter Creek fighting everyone and everything; even if you weren't looking for trouble, Bad Billy Coburn would give it to you; became a respected and respectable man in past 2 years; a TSCRA field inspector, a lawman who carried a gun and hunted down bad men; drove battered Dodge pickup (8) grew up in derelict ranch in dirt-poor surroundings (11) large, workworn hands (12) loved his job; had a definite knack for it (15) hated Blackjack (16) 27-y-o (20) black hair; eyes so dark a brown they were almost black; corded muscle and sinew (57) whiskey-rough voice (58) straight white teeth (59) good-looking; shaggy black hair falling over his forehead; dark eyes filled with humor; twin dimples in his cheeks (59) had the same chin, hair, cheekbones as his half-brothers (163) meanest junkyard dog in town (168) triumphed in spite of all the trials he's suffered; talented; whip smart and steadfast worker at TSCRA; a fighter (229) always a hard worker; always took care of his mother and sister; carried a chipp around on his shoulder and dared anyone to try and knock it off (268) strong, generous, loving man (269)
Summer Blackthorne[Heroine] long slender neck; soft blond curls fell over her shoulders (3) was not the biological daughter of Blackjack (4) wounded look in hazel eyes; soft pouty lower lip; petal-soft cheeks; silky golden curls (7) wore tailored white Western shirt, belted into skintight Levi's; favorite pair of tooled red leather cowboy boots, which cost more than Coburns used to spend on food in six months (9) wanted to run the Bitter Creek Cattle Company (10) spoiled brat (17) the one thing she'd ever wanted out of life was to be mistress of Bitter Creek (22) 23-y-o (25) favorite red boots with Circle B brand hand-tooled into the leather; cherry-red Silverado her father had given her as a 21st birthday gift reminded her of Billy (55) used to getting her own way; not used to being ignored (60) didn't have a college degree; couldn't cook or sew; couldn't sing or play an instrument; knew nothing about babies (96) never gave up without a fight (108) rich; self-centered; selfish; inconsiderate; pampered brat looking for fun and games (113)
. . . . . .
Jackson "Blackjack" Blackthorne[Secondary Story Hero] 6'3" (1) cold gray eyes (7) rough hands; silver-tipped black hair (22) had life-threatening heart attack 4-y-o (27) wasn't known for showing mercy (40) ruthless (68) strong, solid body; haunted eyes; 57-y-o; bypass surgery 4-y-a (74) wasn't used to being told he couldn't have something he wanted (77) a big man; a powerful man (136)
Lauren "Ren" Creed[Secondary Story Heroine] married Jesse Creed 37-y-a (23) shoulder-length hair (74) 53-y-o; still gracefully slender, with warm gray-green eyes and auburn hair that was graying at the temples and smelled like lavender (80) kind; sympathetic (262) petite (263)
. . .. . .
Sam Creed[Secondary Story Hero] Lauren's eldest son (73) vowed to murder Jackson Blackthorne if Ren pursued any relationship with his father's nemesis; hated the Blackthorne's more than ever (76) 32/33-y-o; had been in a wheelchair since he was 18, when Owen had tackled him at football practice and broken his neck; bigger, broader, stronger; powerful arms and shoulders (88) his stubborn, bullheaded father all over again (89) corded muscle on forearms where his Western shirt was rolled up (90) from the moment of his birth, he'd been taught to tend the land (141) unable to father children (143) a recovering alcoholic; sober 4 ys, 2 mos, 16 days (143) made himself strong from the waist up; spent enough time in the sun to toast his skin a warm brown; muscles below the waist had atrophied from disuse (241) a great deal stronger than he looked; his upper body reminded Emma of sculpted stone, muscle and sinew and bone chiseled out precisely by some master artesian (295) often made jokes when he could see others were uncomfortable with his disability -- a defense mechanism to hide the hurt (298) large, calloused hands (299)
Emma Coburn[Secondary Story Heroine] Billy's sister (9) 19-y-o (39) impressionable; adoring sister (40) 6' tall; slender as a reed; pregnant (41) 7 years younger than Billy (47) a freak in high school, way taller than most of the boys and skinny as a bed slat, with a head of garish red hair (47) she'd grown into her body and was now downright beautiful (47) too pretty (142) 2 years behind Luke in school (142) heart-shaped face; shiny, fire-engine-red hair; huge, vulnerable eyes; lithe body (145) as stubborn as Billy (172) funny; smart; good cook; a kind and loving woman (297)
. . . . . .
[Bayleigh] "Bay" [Creed] [Blackthorne][Brief Appearance] [Heroine of Book 2 / The Texan] Lauren's daughter; married Owen Blackthorne 2-y-a; living happily in Fredericksburg; twin sons (77) pregnant again (235)
Callie [Creed Blackthorne][Brief Appearance] [Heroine of Book 1 / The Cowboy] Lauren's daughter; married Trace four years ago and had taken their two children and moved with him to a cattle station in Australia; had another daughter (77) pregnant again (233)
Clay Blackthorne[Brief Appearance] [Hero of Book 6 / The Next Mrs. Blackthorns] Summer's brother; attorney general of Texas (54) Owen's twin (56) black hair (57) had been elected the youngest ever attorney general of the state of Texas and spent his days prosecuting criminals in the courtroom; he looked younger than Owen, but his gray eyes were no less piercing and his over 6 foot body looked just as hard beneath a blended wool suit pants and white Oxford-cloth shirt that had been unbuttoned at the neck, with the conservative striped tie pulled down to make his office uniform look more appropriate for the outdoor occasion (162) had father's ruthless gray eyes of a predator (163)
Eli [Munroe] [Creed] [Blackthorne][One Appearance] Blackjack's and Lauren's grandson; Trace and Callie's son; lived in Australia (77) 15-y-o; looked like the Blackthorne he was (233)
Evelyn "Eve" DeWitt Blackthorne[Major Secondary Character] Summer's mother; Blackjack's wife; arranged marriage between Billy's parents; paid them to keep Billy's paternal roots a secret (3) blackmailed Blackjack to keep him for getting a divorce 2-y-a (23) spent 18 months in sanitarium; cure hadn't worked (32) hated Lauren (33) selfish (68) ageless, unlined face (71) brought 50,000 acres of good DeWitt grassland to her marriage as a dowry (81) 4-y-a in jealous resentment of Blackjack's love for Ren, asked lover to kill Ren (87) usually hidden away in her studio at the end of the hall on the second floor, creating another masterpiece; her acclaimed Western oil paintings were featured in galleries all over the country; painted the world as it might be, rather than it was (95) still a beautiful woman; blond hair was cut short in current fashion, soft and beguiling around her face; striking blue eyes; figure trim and spare; father divorced her mother when she was 13-y-o (155) full of hate and envy (224) love manipulating people, using them without regard to the pain she was inflicting; as vicious, cunning and heartless as a wolverine (257)
Hannah [Monroe] [Blackthorne][One Appearance] Lauren's granddaughter; Callie's daughter [with Nolan Monroe (from The Cowboy)]; lived in Australia (77)
Harry Blackthorne[One Appearance] Blackjack's lawyer; worked at DeWitt and Blackthorne (76) Blackjack's cousin (140) older man; as tall as all the Blackthornes; had ice-blue eyes; full head of silver-gray hair (310)
Henrietta "Henry" Blackthorne[One Appearance] Blackjack's and Lauren's granddaughter; Trace and Callie's youngest daughter; lived in Australia (77) 3-y-o (233)
Jake BlackthorneOwen and Bay's twin son (77) 18 months old (235)
James BlackthorneOwen and Bay's twin son (77) 18 months old (235)
Owen Blackthorne[Brief Appearance] [Hero of Book 2 / The Texan] Summer's brother; a Texas Ranger (54) Clay's twin (56) black hair (57) married Bay Creed 2-y-a; living happily in Fredericksburg; twin sons (77) had spent his life outdoors hunting down bad men; his features were weathered from the sun and his jeans and shirt were worn and soft from a thousand washings; a five-pointed silver star was pinned above his pocket and he had a Colt .45 strapped high on his hip; piercing gray eyes; over 6' hard body (162) had father's ruthless gray eyes of a predator (163)
Trace Blackthorne[Brief Appearance] [Hero of Book 1 / The Cowboy] Summer's oldest brother; inherited a cattle station in Australia (54) black hair (57) eldest Blackthorne son; married Callie four years ago and had taken their two children and moved with him to a cattle station in Australia; had another daughter (77) forced Sam to sober up; renovated house for Sam (233)
Mrs. Caputo[No Appearance] lady in apartment down the hall from Billy in Amarillo; treated Will like a grandson (44)
Dora Coburn[Important Secondary Character] Billy's mother; showed up at Blackjack's back door unwed and pregnant; only revealed to Blackjack that Billy was his son after Blackjack and his ranch hands beat Billy so bad he was hospitalized (3) dying of cancer; wanted Billy's forgiveness (14) lost 30 or 40 pounds; with the loss of flesh, her face had wrinkled in on itself; her brown hair had turned completely white and she wore it in an untidy bun at her nape; dark eyes look sunken behind black plastic frames; knobby elbows protruded from the short sleeves of a faded, rose-colored chenille robe that had not only seen better days, but better years (111)
Johnny Ray Coburn[No Appearance] Billy's father; paid to marry Dora and keep Billy's paternal roots a secret (3) drunken stepfather often left bruises with his fist; marriage to Dora had been arranged, and the deed to the ranch where they lived, along with a monthly stipend, had been payments for keeping the truth from Blackjack (5) resented all the things about Billy that reminded him of the man who sired him (6) died driving drunk 3-y-a (49)
Will Coburn[Secondary Character] Billy's son; result of sleeping with bar maid; beautiful; dark curls (12) 15 months old (38)
Creighton Creed[No Appearance] [Heroine of Frontier Woman] married the first Blackthorne against her son's wishes which started the feud that lasted until present day (76)
Jesse Creed[No Appearance] married Lauren 37-y-a; dead for 4 years (23)
Luke Creed[Brief Appearances] Lauren's son; restless and rebellious; 21-y-o; headed to some godforsaken African nation with his National Guard unit 5 months ago (74) looking fit and tanned; taller than Sam at the same age and a lot more lanky; dark brown hair; gray-green eyes that were old beyond his 20 years (305) father of Emma's baby (307)
Elizabeth "Liz" DeWitt[No Appearance] Summer's aunt; Evelyn's step-sister; had 3 sons and a tomboy daughter; sons had dark hair; died 5-y-a (243)
Ellen DeWitt[One Appearance] Summer's aunt; Evelyn's sister; had two sons Summer's age; both blonds (243) in the kitchen baking, wearing an apron that covered a simple cotton print dress, her feet stuck in furry pink house slippers (271)
Max [DeWitt][No Appearance] Summer's uncle; Ellen's husband; died 2-y-a of a heart attack (273)
Geoffrey[Brief Appearances] Summer's fiancé; his family was friends with Blackthorne family (10) strong, aristocratic chin (19) the best in a long line of prospective husbands thrown at Summer (25) a good man; someone who listened; loved Summer; chestnut hair (28) attorney at DeWitt & Blackthorne in Houston, Texas (314)
Grady[One Appearance] Sheriff; arrested Blackjack for Eve's murder (230)
Russell "Russ" Handy[One Appearance] Summer's biological father; Eve asked him to kill Lauren Creed, his bullet hit Jesse instead; loved Eve; had taken all the blame for the murder and was serving a life sentence in Huntsville (32) Eve's lover; Blackjack's foreman (87) had the wiry frame and weathered features of a man with spent his life working outdoors on horseback, but he had developed a nervous twitch in his right eye and his hands were never still; dark eyes (280)
Flossie Hart[One Appearance] organist for the Bitter Creek First Baptist Church; always late (346)
Debbie Sue Hudson[No Appearance] Will's mother (45) didn't want to marry Billy, nor have a baby (49) now married; didn't want Will, wanted money, suing for custody (49)
Joe[No Appearance] managed the grocery store in town; told Billy that Emma was working for Sam (172)
Wade Johnson[One Appearance] one of Billy's high school friends; attended the Circle B barbecue (159)
Harvey Kemper[One Appearance] rancher that Billy was working for; leathery sun-browned neck (192)
Maria[Brief Appearance] the Castle housekeeper (198)
Dr. Robert Truman[One Appearance] pastor of Bitter Creek First Baptist Church; called Pastor Rob (347)
Randy Tucker[One Appearance] Bitter Creek Cattle Company helicopter pilot (216)

Locations, Organizations Found In "The Loner"
Location / Organization Description
Armadillo Barlocated in Bitter Creek; where Blackjack confronted Billy about returning to Bitter Creek (1)
Amarillowhere Billy had been living for the past 2 years (2)
Bitter Creekbook setting; isolated cow town in the middle of South Texas (5)
Bitter Creek Cattle CompanyBlackthorne ranch (10) map of the original ranch boundaries drawn in 1864 hung in a place of honor over the fireplace in the parlor, each succeeding Blackthorne had purchased, procured, or, in some cases, purloined more land; an empire that ranged over 800 square miles, making Bitter Creek as large as some small northeastern states (24)
Bitter Creek County Jailwhere Blackjack was being held for trial (261)
Bitter Creek First Baptist Churchwhere Summer and Geoffrey were to be married (27)
Bitter Creek Regional Hospitalwhere Ren had been taken when her horse stumbled and she was thrown (81)
C-Bar RanchCoburn ranch where Billy grew up (16) derelict ranch in dirt-poor surroundings (11) mortgaged to the hilt; Johnny Ray had run it into the ground (51)
Castle, the30,000 square foot would-frame house which generations of Blackthorne had called home (27)
Circle BBitter Creek Cattle Company brand (159)
DeWitt and BlackthorneBlackjack's lawyer; offices in Houston (76) the firm had offices in every major metropolitan area in the United States and the capitals of several foreign nations (244)
DeWitt rancha 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 Ellen was now the sole owner of the DeWitt ranch (243)
Fredericksburgwhere Owen, Bay, Jake and James Blackthorne lived (77)
Huntsvillewhere Russell Handy was serving a life sentence for killing Jesse Creed (32)
Hunstville Prison Unitformerly known as "The Walls" for its infamous red brick walls, was among the oldest Texas prisons.   In 1848, it had been built on farmland, so inmates could work the fields.   It could now be found smack in the middle of downtown Huntsville (279)
Three Oaksthe Creed ranch; a small island, a mere hundred square miles of land, in a sea of Blackthorne grass; Blackthornes have been trying to buy it, or take it forcibly from Creeds, since the Civil War (76)
TSCRATexas and Southwestern Cattle Raisers' Association: Billy's employer; Jackson Blackthorne arranged for Billy to become an agent two years ago (2)

"The Loner" Quotations
6"Everybody in town knew what was going on in that house.   Anybody could have stopped it."   (Billy)
16he didn't need help from anybody.   (Billy)
22She'd struggled for two years with the realization that her dearly beloved father wasn't even related to her.   She was neither fish nor fowl.   Not a blood relative.   Not adopted.   (Summer)
49Billy knew what it felt like to be unwanted, and he'd been determined no kid of his was going to suffer that fate.   (Billy)
50Judges listened to what you had to say, then did what they damn well pleased.   He didn't trust a one of them.   (Billy)
61His eyes looked haunted, like a starving animal that sees the cheese laid on a trap, and knows that if he reaches for it, he's liable to get hurt, but still so hungry that he takes the risk.   (Summer)
64As simple as that, the bond that had been broken when Billy had left two years before was mended.   Summer knew what he was feeling, and he knew how much she cared, without a word being spoken.   (Summer)
69"This is my life.   I'm going to live it my way."   (Summer)
77she'd learned a long time ago that you couldn't always have what you wanted, even if you wanted it very badly. (Lauren)
100She had always yearned for her mother's approval, strived to earn it, yet somehow never quite measured up.   That didn't mean she didn't love her mother, and respect her.   (Summer)
125She wanted to be loved by someone -- anyone -- the way Billy loved Will.   It must be wonderful to know you were the total focus of someone's life, that his every thought concerned how to make you happy.   (Summer)
143He knew that she, like so many other women, had taken one look and decided that being tied to a wheelchair kept him from being either a physical or a sexual threat. He hated being dismissed as a man simply because he didn't have the use of his legs. He still felt desire. He still needed to be held. He still needed to be loved. (Sam)
147He couldn't afford to let himself care.   Not when he knew he was asking for heartbreak.   (Sam)
164All the unfairness of his situation, all his antagonism toward Blackjack for taking away his livelihood, toward Debbie Sue for blackmailing him, toward his mother for getting sick and his sister for getting pregnant, and the sexual frustration of lying night after night beside a woman he wanted but couldn't have, needed an outlet.   (Billy)
171He would never give up.   But it was getting harder to believe he would be able to drag himself out of the bottomless pit into which Jackson Blackthorne had shoved him.   (Billy)
175He didn't want to make love to his wife.   He didn't want to give her any more of his heart than she already had.   He needed a little of it to get through the rest of his life what she was gone.   (Billy)
175But the truth was, he had reached the end of his tether, and something had to break.   (Billy)
190It seemed she had been trying to prove herself all her life -- first to her father and now to Billy -- and always came up wanting.   (Summer)
191She tried to imagine herself living Billy's life, being knocked down over and over and getting up every single time to fight again.   In the same situation, would she have kept on slugging?
Summer understood Billy's defiance far better now that she'd walked a mile in his shoes.   (Summer)
213His eyes were tormented.   "She wasn't a good mother," he bit out.   "Why the hell does this hurt so much?"   (Owen)
252"All being a Blackthorne has ever meant to me was a bloodied nose or a punch in the kidney.   I don't want any part of it.   And neither should you.   There's not a drop of Blackthorne blood in your veins!"   (Billy)
252"I'm what Blackjack has made me," Billy said.   "And so are you.   The way I figure it, that makes us pretty much the same.   Nothing and nobody."   (Billy)
268"I want to be a respected member of the community.   The kind of man other men tipped their hats to.   The kind of man women don't cross to the other side of the street to avoid.   Money can't buy me that.   I'm not sure I can ever have that if I stay here in Bitter Creek."   (Billy)
268"And nobody beat you, Billy.   Nobody.   Not even Blackjack."   (Summer)
270"I want to be my own boss.   I want my own place, with enough of a nest egg to be able to support my family and still have time to play catch with my sons and go riding with my daughters and make love to my wife."   (Billy)
276"Divorces can do a lot of damage," Billy agreed.   "Almost as much damage as two people staying together who ought to get the hell away from one another."   (Billy)
315"I want a man, Billy.   Geoffrey is a boy dressed in grown-up clothes.   You're so much more than he could ever be.   You're determined and courageous and you never, ever give up."   (Summer)
330"You don't choose who you love.   And you can hide your feelings, but they never really go away."   (Lauren)

"Joan Johnston -- The Loner" Review and Information Links
Rated Posted Site Notes, Comments, Etc.
----Joan Johnston's WebsiteAuthor
----Joan Johnston's FacebookAuthor
. . . . . . . . .. . .
4.5003-xx-2002A Romance Review--Amanda // good: brief synopsis and brief review
C+ / Warm03-25-2002All About Romance--Ellen Micheletti // excellent synopsis, cute, entertaining review
3.79 average{33 reviews}Amazonas of: December 15, 2014
4.24 average{45 ratings}Barnes & Nobleas of: December 15, 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
4.12 average{676 ratings}Good Readsas of: December 15, 2014
3.83 average{26 ratings}Library Thingas of: December 15, 2014
39--Mrs. Gigglesextremely snarky and unkind {as is typical of Mrs G}
3.90 average{161 ratings}Paperback Swapas of: December 15, 2014
----Order of BooksList of Joan Johnston's Books
4.22 average{9 reviews}Shelfarias of: December 15, 2014
5.0012-15-2014Wolf Bear Does Booksshorter post on Amazon, Fiction DB, Good Reads, Library Thing, Shelfari

♥   Disclaimer:   I Purchased This Book
♥   Very Subjective Rating

Personal Observation:
After years of reading romance books and online reviews, it has become increasingly obvious that many, many times the reason a particular reader loves or hates an author's work is because of how the book "speaks" to the reader.   It is obvious that each and every unique reader out there has personal experiences that elicit reactions to the words, the plot, and/or the actions of the characters that have emerged from the imagination of talented authors.

The Rant:
After reading The Texan, I went to Good Reads to see what my fellow romance readers thought of this wonderful book and happened upon a review that, quite honestly, pushed my buttons.   I thought, "How dare this incredibly judgmental person find so much fault with such a gifted author's work?"   I figured that reading this book must have just pushed some of this reviewer's buttons.

But after reading The Loner and again going to Good Reads to see if other reviewers loved this book as much as me, there she was again, tearing Joan Johnston apart for things she found fault with in The Loner.   My first thought was, "For Pete's Sake, if you hated The Texan so much, why in the world would you pick up the next book in the series?"   I don't know about you, but if I read a book that set my teeth on edge so badly that I verbally ripped it apart (at great length, mind you), why would I pick up the next book in the series and read it -- especially when it was obvious I was going to encounter those same, apparently moral-less characters, in that next book.

Much to my dismay, not only did she pick up the next book in the series, but her review of the book was even more judgmental and negative than the one before.   I was wondering if this young thing was still too young to have made a few mistakes of her own -- to have not yet realized that, "hey, we're all human and humans make mistakes."

Then I looked to see, if maybe, she only had hated Joan Johnston's books.   But, no, this must be one unhappy young lady.   After scrolling through three or four pages of the books this young lady has read, it was to see not one book was rated above three stars.   So, I thought, surely she must like something, so I clicked on her favorites and found one four-star rating.   The rest were rated two or three stars.   This struck me as being particularly sad.   What kind of person reads book after book after book -- just to find fault with each one of those books!

Anyway, this rant is because it seems so unfair that authors have to endure such reviewers.
Just saying!

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