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

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♥   Very Subjective Rating

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