A Montana Man by Jackie Merritt
(Silh. Desire # 1159, PG) ISBN 0-373-76159-7
***
With a deep breath, Sierra Benning packs all her belongings and heads out of San Francisco in search of the rest of her life. Recently divorced and vowing to start over, she has returned to her ex-husband the assets awarded to her in the divorce. Sierra intends to trust rarely, if ever, again.

Sierra meanders through Montana and is driving a narrow road exploring a mountain pass when a speeding oncoming truck hits her and forces her off the road. Her van somersaults down the mountainside and the last thing Sierra remembers doing is unlocking her seatbelt. She is thrown clear of the van which ends up on the side of a river.

Tom Barrow, the teen-aged driver of the truck, was rushing to school with his best friend, Eric. Running late, he was taking the curves too fast. Tom sees the van catching fire and drags the injured Sierra to safety. Her van explodes, taking with it her identity and her assets.

When she regains consciousness in the hospital, Sierra has no memory of what happened, who she was, or who she is. Clint Barrow, Tom's father, joins him at the hospital, and is present when Tom tells the state trooper that no one was at fault in the accident.

When Clint realizes that Sierra has amnesia, he is unable to leave her. After spending a few with her at the hospital, he is hopelessly ensnared by her charm and her vulnerability. It quickly becomes apparent that his presence soothes her, and she trusts him even more than her doctors.

Clint is a truly nice person who fortunately has enough money to pay for her private room and replace her entire wardrobe. Knowing she no place to go, Clint insists on taking Sierra back to the ranch. Tom, of course, resents her being there because he is afraid she will regain her memory and tell his father he caused the accident.

Clint and Sierra fall in love. They are both worried that she will not recover her memory and yet, they are even more terrified that she will. For Sierra, she is haunted by the possibilities of being married with children in another life, and Clint is fearful once she regains her memory she will be gone. But they cannot be secure in their relationship until they know.

Although Clint and Sierra are both well developed and likeable characters, they seemed to be permanently stalled in the angst of "what if" possibilities. Their anguish doesn't change but is merely restated page after page. The conflict that was set up by Tom lying about the accident is never fully developed, and is resolved unconvincingly after he comes back from a vacation.

A Montana Man would be best appreciated by readers who have not recently read one or more other novels with an amnesia theme. Those readers may enjoy the story as it ambles along exploring all the ramifications of a love affair when one of the partners has a suppressed memory.

--Thea Davis


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