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

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♥   Very Subjective Rating

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