24 August 2014

Review: Diana Palmer's recent titles feature down-home romance, suspense, and a great deal of faith


Diana Palmer's Long, Tall Texans series is a secret addiction. I got hooked on these books a while ago and did a crazy happy dance in June when the last of these titles was reissued digitally by Harlequin. I'll be rereading the series soon - this time entirely on my Kindle - but first I needed to catch up with some of her new titles.

I received a galley copy of Invincible from the publisher and read it a week ago. But, I'll be frank, even though this is a stand-alone title there were so many references to what happened in a previous title - Wyoming Bold - that it only made sense to read that one as well (actually all three of her Wyoming Men titles - Wyoming Tough, Wyoming Fierce, and Wyoming Bold). 

One of the reasons I really enjoy this series is that Diana Palmer threads well-known and loved characters throughout her stories. Going by a list from a fan on her website, in the world of Long, Tall Texans, Invincible is about book 85. Yes, I'm beginning to feel the need of a flow chart to keep track of who's who, but since most of her characters imprint on my memory, I haven't pulled the whiteboard out yet. 

Now, does this mean that you too need to read each and every book?

No, but they're fun, although in this age of 50 Shades of Gray quite old fashioned, that's actually why I enjoy them. Her heroes tend to be tough on the outside, harsh, sometimes with comments that are downright cruel, but they always turn out to be pretty marshmallow soft inside. That's if you resist slamming the cover closed over some of their actions. (I never toss an eReader, but the magnetic cover does give nice click.) As to her heroines, they tend to be quite moral, upright, usually virginal if single, or quite innocent even if widowed. How do these heroes and heroines interact? It's usually like worlds colliding and that's where the cruelty - as self-protection - usually comes in. 

So, what about her two most recent books?

A fast and furious suspense-filled read
WYOMING BOLD
Harlequin HQN ⎜ 9780373777242 ⎜ $7.99 ⎜ Oct 29, 2013

I'll admit that the hero of Wyoming Bold, Dalton "Tank" Kirk, is the exception to the standard Palmer type. Yes, he's a tough, no nonsense, rancher, who almost died after a drug cartel border ambush, and whose nickname comes from taking out a tank in Iraq, but he is one of her heroes who doesn't seem to run from the idea of love. 

Merissa Baker, the heroine, and her mother Clara, are considered to be witches and live in a cottage close to the Kirk ranch. When she arrives on Dalton's doorstep in the midst of a snowstorm to warn him of danger she's seen in a vision - he's definitely skeptical. But soon Dalton's a believer and very quickly for Palmer accepts his attraction to her. 

I really like the character of Merissa and only wish there was more of her in this story. Like other Palmer heroes and heroines she has that something extra and can "see" the future. Unlike Cash Grier's Celtic wife, she and her mother trace this spiritual connection to their Native American ancestors. 

Unlike the previous two Wyoming Men titles, Wyoming Bold has strong links to Jacobsville as South African mercenary Rourke and Native American Carson join Dalton to protect the Kirks as well as Merissa and her mother. In fact, Dalton goes to Jacobsville to visit Cash Grier and stays with Cy Parks, as the threat against him is entwined with a story line from previous Long, Tall Texan books. (See why I mentioned the whiteboard earlier.)

This was a fast and furious read for me as I wanted to know what happened. How all the threads connect and what the outcome for Dalton and Merissa would be. The story is definitely driven by the search for the unknown assassin as well as to discovering why he's targeted Cash Grier, Dalton Kirk, and Carlie, Cash Grier's secretary. But along with all the action there is also a very gentle and genuine romance that flowers between Merissa and Dalton. 

If you haven't already picked this title up, do. It's a fun, fast, and quite interesting read. If you're a Diana Palmer fan like I am, it's also quite intrinsic to her current story arc. 


Carson is not my hero of choice, but Invincible is a must-read for Diana Palmer fans
INVINCIBLE
Harlequin HQN ⎜ 9780373778805 ⎜ $21.99 ⎜ July 29, 2014

The action of Invincible picks up where Wyoming Bold left off, with the threat to Cash Grier's secretary Carlie, and takes us back to Jacobsville, the familiar Long, Tall Texan stomping ground.

Yes, minister's daughter and proud virgin Carlie is the heroine of this story. Out-of-step with her contemporaries, Carlie devotes herself to her job, her father, and her World of Warcraft gaming and on the surface seems happy. However, it's clear from the outset that she has a thing for Carson, the mercenary who works for Cy Parks. While Carson seems to only drip scorn upon her.

I'll be frank, I didn't like Carson when I first read this book. I didn't like him at all. I found Carlie far more interesting with her photographic memory, her quick wit, and her abiding faith. At times, I almost wanted the story to arc a different way and perhaps Carlie would find a South African merc attractive. But as I'm guessing Rourke's story already has a different heroine plotted out, I knew that wouldn't be possible.

Frankly, Carson is one of the Palmer heroes I really couldn't warm up to for most of the book. I kept reading, believe me I really wanted to know what happened in this story arc of the narco-gang and crooked politician, but at times I found it hard going as I just got so angry with his actions and his words. By the time his backstory was revealed, it was almost too late for me to even care. But that was on the first read.

Yes, this was the book that made me go back and finally read the three Wyoming Men titles and once I did, especially Wyoming Bold, I had a bit more sympathy for him with the foreshadowing that Merissa provided in her vision. In addition, I finally understood the all the allusions to what happened in Wyoming that popped up throughout the book. Yes, this could be a stand-alone title, but there really is so much back story to understand that I would think it might be confusing for a reader going in cold.

When I reread this book today, I still had quite a few issues with Carson, but I understood him a bit more. I still find the ending somehow truncated. I understand Palmer's intent, but feel that somehow we - as readers - were shortchanged. As I don't want to provide spoilers here, I'm not going to go into details, except to say that sometimes three month skips in action work - and sometimes they just don't. I really wish that there had been an extra chapter that provided the reader with information about what Carson and Carlie were each really doing. Yes, I can fill in the blanks, but in this case, I really feel that it would have been better if Palmer had done so.

At the conclusion of Invincible it seems like this narco-gang / politician story arc that has spanned quite a few titles is finally wrapped up. It will be interesting to see what's up next for Jacobsville and the Long, Tall Texan stories. The next Long, Tall Texan book is Texas Born (Oct 1, 2014) and focuses on Carlie's good friend Michelle Godrey and Gabriel Brandon, while the next Wyoming Men title, Wyoming Strong (Nov 1, 2014), focuses on Wolf Patterson and Sara Brandon.