Ambush Before Sunrise
by B.J. Daniels
Release Date: May 19, 2020
Publisher: Harlequin Intrigue
Book #3 in the Cardwell Ranch: Montana Legacy series
Number of pages: 256
Source: Net Galley/Publisher ARC
Romantic Suspense/Western M/F
Read 5/14/20 to 5/15/20
Wrangler Angus Savage has come to Wyoming to help Jinx McCallahan get her cattle to high country. He’s signed on for the dangerous drive, eager to reconnect with the woman he knew when they were kids. Now in the wilderness the no-nonsense cowboy and the strong-willed rancher must navigate the trail’s many hazards—like her treacherous ex who wants her back…or dead.
This one will have to be another addition to the good, the bad, and the ugly. There were things I enjoyed about this story, for sure. Unfortunately, there were quite a few things that drove me nuts. The first being that, although I initially believed this to be a standalone story, I could tell almost right away it was somehow connected to a series. And boy is it! There seems to be a few series by this author that deal with the Cardwell family. Do you need to read them to read this? Nope. I understood what was happening perfectly. But I did feel that I was missing out on some of the deeper emotions and/or meaning with those from the Cardwell family that came to help Jinx.
One of the things I loved was the sweetness between Jinx and Angus. While I didn’t feel high chemistry, there was definitely an attraction and, more importantly, a respect for one another. They both felt the pull but knew it wasn’t the time or place to act on those feelings. Yet, when they were alone together, they were so open and honest and it gave me hope for their future.
Now, I’m going to admit that the biggest thing that drove me nuts may be something others will greatly enjoy. I have no issues with multiple points of view, especially in romance. I love seeing things from both angles…or more than 2 if there are more than 2 people in the relationship. But there are six points of view in this story. SIX! And only two of them are falling in love. The depth into which the author goes into the minds of Jinx’s ex-husband, his girlfriend, and the man in love with his girlfriend was just too much for me. I don’t mind knowing the motivation of the bad guy in a suspense, but it almost seemed like there as also a justification for their actions. Like the reader would somehow find forgiveness for the awful things these characters were doing if we could just understand where they were coming from. Ugh! No! Too much for me.
Which reminds me, I wanted to give a trigger warning on this one. Jinx’s ex, T.D., is truly a terrible human and is very aggressive with women. Not only physically, but also sexually and in verbal ways. Because the author did an amazing job writing these scenes, it could prove to be too intense for some readers.
I look back on that last paragraph I wrote and realize that I do think this author is a great writer. She is able to paint a picture with her words and that’s a beautiful talent to have. But, until the end of this story, I didn’t feel the suspense. I knew Jinx’s group was in danger intellectually, but didn’t feel the danger like I would have liked. Now, like I said, the ending did have that feeling for me. But I expected it more throughout.
Will I try out another of this author’s works? Probably. Most likely something from the beginning of her writing of the Caldwell family. I know others who greatly enjoyed this story, feeling as though they were revisiting old friends. So who know? It’s surely a decent read, it just didn’t hook me as I had hoped it would.
**I received an ARC of this book courtesy of Net Galley and the publisher. All opinions expressed in this review are my own and given freely**
JINX WATCHED ANGUS GO. She still hadn’t figured out why he seemed so familiar. Nor had he said anything. She sighed and rose to take her dishes back to Max.
“I can take those for you,” Brick said, shooting to his feet.
She smiled but shook her head. “Stay here by the fire with Ella.” She was glad when he sat back down. She needed to be alone. Brick was sweet and a good wrangler. He amused her with his blatant attempts to charm her, but he was wasting his time. While he resembled his brother, they didn’t seem to be anything alike. Angus was a mystery to her.
The more she was around him, the more she felt a strange sense that they’d been here before. She couldn’t shake the feeling that she knew this man, as in another life. It was crazy. Sometimes she’d find herself studying his face as if a memory was so close she could almost touch it.
“He’s handsome, isn’t he?” Max asked, startling her. She hadn’t realized that she’d reached the chuck-wagon. Her mind had been miles away.
“Pardon?” she asked, turning to face him as she conjured up her most innocent face.
Max laughed. “You were staring at Angus Savage—and not for the first time, I might add.”
“I don’t know what you’re talking about. I was…thinking.”
“Thinking? I can just imagine.” He turned back to his cooking.
She didn’t want to know what he’d imagined. Nor did she want to continue this conversation. Still, she asked, “Have you ever run across someone you felt as if you knew in another life?”
He chuckled. “That your story?”
Max turned to look at her. “I can see that. I suppose it’s possible the two of you met before. Your mother and his were good friends.” The cook frowned. “I think she took you with her up to Cardwell Ranch once years ago.” So that could have been it, she thought. “You don’t remember?”
She shook her head and yet as he said it, she had an image come to mind of mountains shooting up from a green river bottom and a large red barn set against a wall of rock and pine trees. A memory teased at her. “How old would I have been?”
“Eight or nine,” he said as he turned back to his cleaning up. “You didn’t stay long, just overnight, I think. That’s probably why you don’t remember.”
But she did remember a little. Now it really nagged at her. It wasn’t just that she’d seen him before. She couldn’t shake the feeling that something had hap-pened during that visit; she was sure of it.
She turned to look at Angus again. He’d rejoined his brother and cousin on a log by the fire. His face shone in the campfire light. Max was right about one thing; the cowboy was handsome as sin. Had he re-membered her? He would have been a little older than she was by a couple of years at least.
“Why don’t you just ask him?” Max said with a laugh. “Otherwise, it’s going to drive you crazy.”
He was right about that, as well, but what if Angus didn’t remember her? She’d feel foolish. Then again, what if he did? What if he was just waiting for her to say something?
“While you’re making up your mind, why don’t you hand me your dishes?” Max said with a shake of his head as he took them from her.
Leaving camp, she checked the cattle, glad that Brick and Royce had volunteered to take the first shift. She didn’t expect trouble. Not tonight. T.D. was angry and vengeful, but he never planned ahead. He knew she was taking the herd up into the high country for summer grazing today. Maybe he would even wait until she returned to continue threatening her, rather than try to catch them. His laziness might pay off for her.
But unfortunately, she also knew that her being up here in the mountains put her at a disadvantage. T.D. wasn’t stupid. He would realize how vulnerable she was up here. Anything could happen in the mountains on a cattle drive. People got injured. Others died. And T.D. was desperate to get his hands on her ranch. He would come after her.
In the distance she heard a coyote howl. Another answered, then another. She was more worried about wolves and bears, than coyotes. But she could only protect her herd so much. It was the nature of the business.
The camp was quiet as she walked back toward the fire. From out of the dark shadows, she spotted a lone figure still illuminated in the flames. Ella gave her a nod as she pulled up the log next to her again. The heat of the blaze felt good this high in the mountains since it was only early June.
Jinx could feel the long day in the saddle in her muscles. She yearned for sleep, but it had been hard to come by for some time now. It wasn’t just T.D. who haunted her dreams.
About B.J. Daniels:
New York Times and USA Today bestselling author B.J. Daniels lives in Montana with her husband, Parker, and three springer spaniels. When not writing, she quilts, boats and plays tennis. Contact her at www.bjdaniels.com or on Facebook or Twitter.
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