All I Want
For Christmas

Caught in the Act

Duets 23



In Too Deep


Little Miss Innocent



Sex Appeal


Too Much Temptation

Treat Her Right



Casey by Lori Foster
(Harlequin, $5.99, R) ISBN 0-373-83568-X
The studly men of Buckhorn, their wives, and now their children, are back. This is Casey’s story, as he begins a second generation of romance in this small, rural, closely-knit Kentucky town. While the novel does stand alone, Foster’s fans from her previous Buckhorn Brothers books will appreciate the chance to get reacquainted with the characters they met there.

The prologue is set eight years in the past, when 18-year-old Casey (Sawyer’s son) falls for the town bad girl, Emma Clark. A year younger than he is, she’s slept with just about everyone else in town, but even though she drives Casey wild with her teasing, he still won’t sleep with her. He has years of college to complete, and then he’s going into business with his grandfather. Besides, his father and four uncles have taught him to respect women, even bad girls like Emma, so the two of them have become friends rather than lovers.

All that changes the night that Emma’s father brings her to Sawyer’s front door, enraged that Emma has confessed to being pregnant and named Casey as the father. Dell refuses to have his daughter in his house any longer, and Casey’s family takes her in. Once her father is gone, Emma admits that she’s not pregnant, and that Casey has never touched her. But it’s obvious from her bruised face that she can’t go back home. They agree to help her, Casey reassures her that he is more than willing to be there for her, but when the family goes to bed, Emma sneaks out and vanishes.

Fast forward eight years, and Emma returns to Buckhorn because her father has had a stroke. She and Casey meet immediately, when her car breaks down, and he jumps to conclusions about Damon, the handsome and possessive man she’s come to town with. But it quickly becomes obvious that Damon is more of a big brother than anything else, and neither Casey nor Emma has forgotten the other. The next day, when Casey takes Emma to visit her father in the hospital while his uncle Gabe repairs her classic Mustang, Damon decides to explore the town, and has breakfast at Ceily’s diner, which had been gutted in a fire the night Emma disappeared. Damon has heard all about Ceily from Emma, but he doesn’t expect that the sexy waitress flirting with him is the diner owner. There are the requisite problems and misunderstandings between Casey and Emma until the secrets that have kept them apart for years have been shared and resolved. Meanwhile Damon and Ceily’s relationship progresses rapidly, as the discouraged Chicago architect becomes convinced that relocating to Kentucky is a better idea than building more office buildings and malls, and Ceily realizes that she’s finally met a man who’s right for her.

While this definitely follows the structure of a category romance, it is more or less equal to the previous ones in the Buckhorn Brothers saga, with reasonably complex characters and a fairly engaging if predictable plot. The various family members from the previous books are updated, but remain consistent with their earlier portrayals. This family of alpha males oozes sexuality, so there are a lot of innuendoes flying back and forth whenever they get together, and the sex scenes are sizzlingly hot. All four men now have children, which has changed their perspectives a bit, and makes for some humorous scenes with the offspring, some of whom are old enough to be aware of their fathers’ reputations. Overall, Casey is well-written and enjoyable reading, but does little more than skim the surface of the characters and situations, and as a result, seems to be somewhat slighter than the previous stories.

--Joni Richards Bodart

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