What if you have a hero who left the woman he loved because she had chosen to do something unforgivable, something that left another person dead because of the choices she made? That is what you see at the start of The Sheriff’s Surrender.
Reese Barnett knew he had loved Neely Madison even though they were opposites. She was a tough, smart defense attorney and he was in law enforcement. When her defense let someone free who turned and killed his original intended victim, he couldn’t continue to stay with Neely.
But that had been nine long years ago and Reese is now sheriff of his small hometown. Things were fine, just fine, until his cousin calls and asks him protect someone in danger of being killed. Of course that person is Neely. When Reese tries to back out, his cousin reminds him that by doing that he could be responsible for Neely’s death. Reese doesn’t want to care, certainly doesn’t want to relive the good old days, but he doesn’t want her death, either. By taking on his cousin’s request, he gradually is forced to confront Neely and reexamine what happened before . . . while he also has to watch for what is happening right now.
To his horror, he realizes there is another side to the story he thought he knew. What if a woman choose to do something very difficult, something she felt was the right thing and was shot for making that choice? What if the man she loved abandoned her when she needed him most?
Neely is an interesting woman, too. Neely could be portrayed as weak and dependent. She’s not. She’s normally tough but she’s in a terrible situation - caught between someone trying to kill her (and she already knows what it’s like) and trying to deal with someone she knows despises her. She’d like to despise him back, but she can’t. Instead she makes Reese face all the things he doesn’t want to face . . . even when she has to remember things she doesn’t want to remember.
This is a story about two complicated people who have strong passions and strong ethics which, due to circumstances, put them at odds with each other. Both of them are proud of their moral code and both are sure they did the right thing. As the story unfolds, both realize they might not have been as right as they had thought at first and both are given a dangerous second chance to make amends to each other.
The other characters in the story are interesting, too, from Reese’s much-married father who is out to marry for the final time to Neely’s competition, Isabella. While the focus in on Neely and Reese, of course, you are curious about the people around them.
Marilyn Pappano knows how to create characters and tension and how to craft a satisfying story. She does that here.