The Bodyguard

Comanche Woman

The Cowboy


Sisters Found

A Stranger’s Game

The Texan


by Joan Johnston
(Mira, $7.99, PG)  ISBN 978-07783-2829-2
I liked Shattered, but it does not stand well alone.  If you haven’t at least read A Stranger’s Game, the most recent of the Bitter Creek Novels, then you will be a little lost for the first part of this book.  That book sets up this book.  Kate is a member of the King Grayhawk family and that family has a major feud going on with the Blackthornes.  Kate is married to JD Pendleton, who is a Blackthorne.  In the last book, JD was pronounced dead from an injury in Afghanistan while fighting in the National Guard.  But he was really alive, having faked his death.  He is involved with a mobster named Dante D’Amato and is on the run.  The FBI and Texas Rangers are looking for him along with D’Amato.  One of those Texas Rangers is Jack McKinley who is in love with Kate and the two have been courting…sorta.  See Jack is still married but is getting a divorce.  A Stranger’s Game ends with Kate in a coma from a gunshot wound involved in that story’s suspense tale.

Shattered starts with Kate waking up after three months.  She discovers that while in a coma, her mother-in-law discovered her secret – her twin boys Lucky and Chance are not their father’s sons.  Kate had a one-night affair nine years ago when JD was caught screwing his secretary…not the first time he had been unfaithful.  In anger and hurt, Kate approached a nice looking man and they made passionate love.  The result was the twins.  Kate later discovered that the man was the illegitimate son of Dante D’Amato.  Wyatt Shaw is considered dirty by all but nothing could ever be proven.  His latest escapade involved a dead call girl in his bed, but he has never been charged.

In the course of mother-in-law Ann Wade’s investigation, Wyatt discovered that he was a father.  He approaches Kate and basically threatens her with taking the boys if she doesn’t cooperate.  Wyatt is afraid that his father will find out about the boys and try to use them for nefarious purposes, mainly try to get them into his fold and corrupt them.  Wyatt resisted his father and has always been a clean businessman.  He hates his father, especially when he discovered that he probably killed Wyatt’s mom in an effort to get Wyatt.  Kate reluctantly agrees to move with him to Houston so they can live in Wyatt’s protected estate. 

Meanwhile, Jack has his own problems. It seems that he and his almost ex-wife had sex one night after a major argument over the custody of their eight-year-old son Ryan. Holly ended up pregnant. Now she and Jack agree they have to stay married until the child is born so it bears its father’s name. Holly stipulates that Jack must live with her and Ryan.  Holly has rethought her life and realized how much she really loved Jack.  She wants to make things work.  Life is complicated by the fact that Jack is undercover “working” for D’Amato in hopes of finding JD so he can turn evidence. And when Ryan gets sick with leukemia, life gets even more complicated.

There is a lot going on with this story.  JD is a snake and is out to get everyone, even as everyone is out after him. His goal is money and escape.  The twins are drawn into his troubles because he gave them a major piece of evidence against D’Amato before he went to Afghanistan and JD believes this evidence may be his ticket out.  There is a major dynamic between Wyatt and D’Amato due to their history and Kate is drawn into that.  In addition, she and Wyatt share something she has never felt before, even with Jack.  She is torn loving Jack but being attracted beyond belief to Wyatt.  Throw in her guilt about hiding the twins from him when he so obviously loves her sons and her guilt about liking his lovemaking and we have one tormented woman.  It doesn’t help that Jack has his own demons, loving Kate yet having never really stopped loving Holly. 

Shattered is a taut suspenseful drama with lots of romance albeit often bittersweet, lots of energy and action and a whole lot of bad guys threatening the good guys.  It took almost half the book to really set up the story, but once engaged, it was hard to put down.  I liked Wyatt and Jack, making it hard to know who to root for with Kate.  Holly is also likable and she and Kate are both strong women who deserve a happily ever after.  The kids are good additions and smart to boot.  There wasn’t much not to like, and yet, there was a sense of over-dramatization and a bit too many “convenient” situations that felt surreal.  It was like watching an action packed movie with some amazing stunts and thinking…no way would that happen like that!

Regardless, Shattered is too good a book not to recommend.  Knowing the backstory is helpful and suspension of belief doesn’t hurt either.  

--Shirley Lyons

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