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LOVE SOMEBODY LIKE YOU
Caribou Crossing #6
Released Sept 29th,2015
Since the death of her husband three years ago, young widow Sally Ryland has kept to herself and focused on her struggling business, Ryland Riding. Folks assume she’s still grieving, because Sally has never shared the truth about her abusive marriage, or the trust issues that remain. But when a sexy rodeo rider from her past turns up for a visit, he’s a reminder of the feisty woman she once was—and maybe still could be…
Ben Traynor was always attracted to Sally, but he didn’t move fast enough. Now what Sally needs is patience and gentleness. With an injury keeping him from his next rodeo, Ben has the perfect excuse to stick around and help with her chores—and her healing. And as Sally finds the courage to face her demons and open her heart again, she’ll have to decide if what she has with Ben is more than safety, gratitude, and short-term passion, but a forever love…
“Fox knows how to strike just enough sway between sweet and bitter, homespun and steamy.”
Moving awkwardly and painfully, Ben got to work bringing the horses in, removing tack, and giving them a light grooming. He enjoyed being with the animals even though his shoulder ached something fierce.
He was finishing up when a middle-aged couple in casual Western clothing entered the barn. “Can I help you?” he asked them.
The pair gazed at him curiously. The man said, “We board our horses here and we’re going out for a ride.”
“Need help with anything?”
“No, we’re good,” he said.
“You’re Sally’s new assistant?” the woman asked.
Ah, that explained Sally’s air of tiredness and strain. She’d had an employee who’d quit on her. Ben shook his head. “Just an old friend, passing through.”
The couple gathered halters and left the barn. Ben gave the horses a little water. Unsure whether Sally wanted them turned out to pasture, he left them in stalls and went out to watch her lesson.
A smile lifted the corners of his mouth at the sight that met his eyes.
She’d set up three barrels in the cloverleaf pattern of a barrel racing course and she was urging a compact buckskin around the first barrel and on to the second. She looked intensely focused, yet vibrant and joyful— and years younger, like the old Sally. The horse wasn’t a patch on that striking silvery quarter horse she used to own, but Sally herself looked mighty fine.
When she finished, the sound of clapping drew Ben’s attention to the petite, ponytailed girl atop a black-and-white horse just outside the gate to the ring, and to the woman in the bleachers.
“You still got it, Pantages,” Ben called.
Sally swung the horse around, her gaze finding him where he stood near the barn. She shook her head, took off her hat, and ran a hand through tousled redgold curls. “It’s been a long time since I was in shape to compete.” She glanced away from him to the girl. “But Jude here is a rising star. Come on into the ring, Jude, and you and Puffin give it a run.”
For the next ten minutes, Ben sat with the mom and enjoyed watching Sally work with her student, who did indeed show promise. Following the doc’s instructions, he let his left arm hang free in the sling rather than supporting it with his other arm, which could push the broken bones into the wrong position. And he kept the fingers and wrist on his left side moving, to help prevent stiffness and swelling.
By the time the lesson ended, two more riders, a middle-aged woman and a teenaged girl, had arrived in separate vehicles. Ben caught Sally for a moment, asking, “Anything I can do to help?”
Sitting atop the buckskin, she gazed down at him. “Thanks for the offer, but I’m good. I’m using the same horses for my lesson with Margaret, and it’s the last one of the day. The other rider, Chrissie, boards her horse here and she’s going to work her in the small ring. She’ll look after her own needs.” She rolled her shoulders, loosening them. “Once I’m finished, you can tell me about Penny, okay?”
“How about I take you for dinner in town? It’ll give us a chance to catch up.”
Her eyebrows pulled together. “I don’t go into town.”
“Huh? Why not?”
A quick, dismissive flick of her head. “Takes too long. I’m too busy.”
Wasn’t the town of Caribou Crossing only fifteen or twenty minutes away? Before he could ask, she had ridden away to join her new student, who was getting mounted.
As the lesson started in the ring, Ben watched for a few minutes. The teenaged student wasn’t a barrel racer, just working to improve her riding skills. Sally had her trot and lope the horse in a variety of patterns around the barrels. She lacked natural talent, but had a great attitude.
His stomach growled, reminding him that lunch had been too long ago. He went to the trailer to get a handful of cherries from the fridge. Sally hadn’t accepted his invitation. Nor had she invited him to stay for dinner, but it was getting late and they both needed to eat. Easy fix: he’d drive into town and pick something up. Takeout, some beer, and a bunch of flowers.
Easy, friendly stuff. Hopefully, she wouldn’t be offended.
Susan Fox knows how to write a fantastic novel about a difficult subject. The subject in this case was spouse abuse. Please know that if anything you read here or in the book sounds like what you or someone you love is going through, there is help available. The numbers are available at the bottom of this post.
Sally had been a vivacious barrel racer, ready to take on the world at the time she met the man she was going to marry, Pete Ryland. A short time after they were married, she gave up barrel racing, her family and all of her outside connections, in an effort to focus solely on Pete and what he asked of her. Asking became telling became forcing became punishing and the abuser was in full swing. What had begun as tender sexual relations became rough and ugly. What was sweet talk and kindness became yelling, belittling and degrading. Sally could do nothing right - not cook right, not dress right, nothing and her life was a living hell. Mercifully, Pete had a stroke and died although he left her with a stack full of bills and no money to pay them with. So she did the best she could. She started taking in horses for boarding and teaching riding lessons. Although he was gone, he still played on in her mind - "You're nothing. No one wants you. You don't even know how to dress right. What good are you?" and on and on and on.
One day a rodeo cowboy she knew named Ben Traynor rolled up to her place and was actually glad to see her. She was wary but as he was wounded, he offered to trade work around the ranch for some place for him to heal until he could return to the circuit. She nervously agreed. That was the beginning of the smartest thing she'd ever done. As Ben began to heal his body, his constant encouragement and support helped Sally begin to heal her spirit. He didn't always have the right words but that just made him more endearing. And he was really insightful considering the way he was able to understand some of her issues without her having to explain them. And when it came to intimacy, he was so totally willing to take it slow... what a good guy! That is so thoughtful and kind. And they really communicated - verbally, heart and soul. It was Kleenex time for sure.
I just cannot say enough good things about Sue Fox for writing this book and doing so the way that she did. Yes, it is fiction and yes, it is a wonderful second time around romance but it is so much more than that. Her writing makes these characters oh so real and complex, feelings, warts and all. And it was not at all clear if we were going to have a HEA or a HFN right up until the end and that is hard to do. She used good wording to get across both the good and the bad - both physical and emotional. And above all, she wrote about a highly relevant and socially important subject and did it well. I would give her a thousand stars for that if I could. As for who should or shouldn't read it, I think that is fairly simple. People need to use wisdom. If abuse could be a trigger for you, you probably do not want to read this book. Otherwise, read it and learn and enjoy! 18 yrs+
Rating: 5 Stars - A Must Read!
Heat: 3/5 - Blush Worthy
Remember, if anything you read here or in the book sounds like what you or someone you love is going through, there is help available. The National Domestic Violence Hotline is there for you. Just call 1-800-799-7233 or TYY 1-800-787-3224. There is also a website but be careful as it is often possible to track internet history, no matter how well you cover your tracks. It is www.thehotline.com.
A gifted copy was provided by Kensington Books via NetGalley for an honest review.
Award-winning, international best-selling author Susan Fox (who also writes as Savanna Fox and Susan Lyons) is a Pacific Northwester with homes in Victoria and Vancouver, British Columbia. She has degrees in law and psychology, and has had a variety of careers, including perennial student, computer consultant, and legal editor. Fiction writer is by far her favorite, giving her an outlet to demonstrate her belief in the power of love, friendship, and a sense of humor.