Other Jodi Thomas reviews can be found in the Archives.

Can't Stop Believing
by Jodi Thomas
(Berkley, $7.99, G) ISBN 978-0425-25067-9
Harmony Texas is a place that Jodi Thomas has taken us before, with apparently five other tales set in this small farming town. In this edition, we get to meet some old friends and some new ones. It is a little hard to figure out why people are important but even if you have never read one of these tales, which I had not, you can quickly get into the swing of this tale. In Can't Stop Believing, Thomas has given us a romance filled with promise and one that is ending sadly but with hope attached.

There are two main storylines and several offshoots. The first is the unexpected marriage of convenience between wealthy but wild reputation Nevada Britain and ex-con Cord McDowell. Cord was accused of hitting a cop in a drunken stupor and has spent 10 years in jail. He is out trying to keep the family farm alive while working everyday as a mechanic. He keeps to his own business and just wants to keep things peaceful. But Nevada is in a bind and needs his help.

She approaches him with a bargain - help her get through the summer season, planting and running her cattle farm while she runs her horses and the oil company. Once they have finished harvesting and made a profit, he can walk away with a half million dollars and 300 acres. The only caveat is that they have to marry and convince everyone it is a real marriage.

The other main storyline features Ronny Logan and Marty Winslow. These two were apparently introduced in an earlier story. They fell in love but Marty, who is rich and disabled, left her. Now he is back, but he is dying. His employee and partial caretaker has approached Ronny and offered her the chance to see him. Ronny goes to the hospital daily and ultimately brings him home with her to "heal" or to die.

There is a lot going on with both of these stories and they pull the reader into their angst - each character has depth and their emotions wrap the reader into their spell. There is also a mysterious force at work, seemingly trying to run Nevada off her ranch and/or kill her. The prime suspect is her ex-husband Bryce Galloway, but he is good at hiding and setting up alibis. And through this all, Cord and Nevada start to trust and build a foundation that will turn into love.

I truly enjoyed the story, even as I was saddened by the obvious plot lines. I guessed much of what was going to happen and this detracted a bit from my pleasure. But ultimately, the two stories - one moving forward with hope and one headed to sure heartbreak, maintained my interest and the pages turning.

Readers will enjoy Can't Stop Believing even if this is your first trip to Harmony. I can't help thinking that if you have the background, you will enjoy it even more.

--Shirley Lyons

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