The Loner

The Lover

The Renegades: Cole

The Renegades: Nick

Montana Red
by Genell Dellin
(HQN, $6.99, PG) ISBN 0-373-77201-7
This book reads a little like a movie of the week. There is adventure and love but there is little depth. While the two main characters are easy to get to know and root for, the details that they talk about as their defining moments or relationships are left to the imagination. Still, Montana Red is an enjoyable reading experience.

Montana Red is a wild stud who is known for stealing mares from their ranches in Montana. He is beautiful and any self-respecting mare just can't deny him. One such mare is Ariel, a champion jumper whose owner has brought her to Montana to hide out. The owner, Clea Mathison, is a divorced and spoiled rich girl who has decided to seek her destiny and her independence in Montana. She rents a house with a barn and a place to work with Ariel during the winter. Clea is a greenhorn, wearing high-heeled boots and fur-trimmed jackets. But she is determined and she is angry. Her ex, Brock, is a favorite of her father. When she announced she was divorcing Brock, primarily because he was cheating and didn't love her, she also had a major disagreement with her father. So she stole Ariel from Brock's farm and took her to Montana, where she hopes to hide out for two years until she comes into her inheritance from her mother.

Upon arrival, Clea moves into the wrong house and barn. The man whose house she has usurped is Jake Hawthorne. Jake is a loner and has just recently ended a relationship with a rich, spoiled woman and her two boys. She decided to return to her ex, who had money, rather than stay with Jake. Now Jake works for the local society that maintains the wild horse refuge where Montana Red lives and he is saving his money to pay off the loan on his very own place he just bought. Helping him are two old ranch hands, one of whom is related to him. They go by the names of Teddy and Buck.

The story heats up as Ariel takes off just as Jake is coming to get her and take her back to Texas. He has agreed to help the sheriff and earn himself $50,000 for taking the horse back to Brock. But Clea doesn't know that. She thinks Jake is just out there to help her catch Ariel. The tale follows them as they ride the range and face many dangers trying to capture Ariel from the wild horse's harem.

There are many unanswered questions about their past. Clea is determined to stand on her own and gain her independence. Exactly what caused the turn about is never known. Jake is heartbroken but we don't really know what happened and why he is such a loner, other than the fact that his family traveled a lot as a child. This wouldn't be all that important except they keep alluding to their past as the reason for their present circumstance.

Teddy and Buck are very predictable and fulfill the role of the rascally sidekicks. The story tends to slow down in the middle as they search for Ariel and fight their attraction to each other. And of course, there is the big secret Jake is keeping from Clea that we know will rear its ugly head and destroy whatever love they have brewing.

Dellin has style and she writes in such a way that the wild horses are beautiful and full of life. In parts of the book, the horses steal the show. Sadly, it is not strong enough to make up for the weak plot through the center of the story. Montana Red is a pleasant diversion but has little to distinguish it from so many other tales.

--Shirley Lyons

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