Friday, December 19, 2014

Audio #Review: Starry Montana Sky by Debra Holland

15096266Title: Starry Montana Sky
Series: Montana Sky #2
Author: Debra Holland 
Format: Unabridged Audio/Paperback, 344 pages
Published: August 28th 2012 by Montlake Romance
ISBN: 1612184677
Narrated by: Natalie Ross
Length: 9 hrs and 35 mins 
Links: Goodreads | Amazon | Audible | B&N
Source: Author
Reviewer: Linda
Rating: 4.5/5

The telegram Samantha Sawyer Rodriguez holds is her key to freedom: her late uncle, Ezra, has left her his ranch in Sweetwater Springs, Montana. At last, she and her young son will have a true home, and she can finally pursue her dreams of raising her prized miniature horses and building a sanctuary for wayward orphans.

Prosperous rancher Wyatt Thompson has long coveted that river property. It’s bad enough that Ezra’s niece refuses to sell it, but worse by far that she’s stubborn, proud, and breathtakingly beautiful. The lovely widow and her adopted sons awaken memories of a shameful past he’s struggled to overcome. Yet when Samantha’s safety is threatened, he’ll risk everything to save the unexpected family he’s come to cherish.

In this follow-up to Wild Montana Sky, her acclaimed USA Today bestselling romance, Debra Holland sweeps listeners back to that majestic, historical landscape in an extraordinary story of redemption, courage, and tender, steadfast love.

Linda's thoughts:
Samantha - "Daniel!"  She waved the letter.  "I have news," she called in the English she always used with him.
Her son straightened up from the horse.  "What, Mama?"
Eager expectancy glowed in his blue eyes, and for a moment he looked so much like his father that a familiar pain pierced her heart and tempered her excitement.  From long practice, she shoved her sadness aside.  "I've inherited Uncle Ezra's ranch in Montana."

Wyatt - "Wyatt.  I've just received a letter from Mrs. Samantha Sawyer Rodriguez.  She's Ezra's niece and has inherited his ranch." ...  "She lives in Argentina." ... She's a widow with one son."  ... "She's moving out here."  ... "Going to breed horses and take in orphan boys to raise up as God-fearing citizens."
"You say this Rodriguez woman is goin' to raise horses?" ... "Horses from Argentina?"
"A stallion and five mares.  Falabellas.  Must be some South American breed."

STARRY MONTANA SKY by Debra Holland is a lovely, clean western romance which begins in Argentina and then moves quickly to Sweetwater Springs, Montana for the balance of the story. It is the second book in her Montana Sky series and has interconnected characters with hers and Caroline Fyffe's other Sweetwater, Montana books but it can easily be enjoyed as a standalone. That said, I highly recommend reading all of Debra's and Caroline's western books as they are all fantastic. Be aware that these books are all sweet romances - the heat level is almost non-existent.  STARRY MONTANA SKY is the story of widow Samantha Sawyer Rodriquez and widower Wyatt Thompson. 

Samantha is a breeder of Falabellas, a breed of miniature horses. Her delightful little horses garnered quite a bit of attention in Montana when she arrived to settle in her deceased Uncle Ezra's run-down ranch. Remember ... This is the old west where women are fragile and it's not common for women to independently own and run their own ranches.  Her neighbor, Wyatt Thompson, had hoped to buy Ezra's ranch and add it to his holdings but selling was not in Samantha's plans. 

Both lead characters were likeable, genuine and strong-willed. They were also each single parents and stubborn as could be. Samantha had a good heart taking in orphans to raise along with her son; Alternately, she was spirited and passionate with a quick, feisty temper. Wyatt was wealthy, successful, strong and determined to find a mother for his daughter - but this time, he didn't want to involve his heart.

Supporting characters shined. They are diverse from Samantha's son, a half Mexican and half American, to one of her adopted children who is an American Indian. Social issues such as bullying and racial discrimination are addressed within the story. In addition, I enjoyed reading how the characters coped with extreme adversity.

I had an "oh no, not again" moment when I realized that the Livingstons, who have appeared in quite of few of both Debra's and Caroline Fyffe's books set in Montana, are possible love interests for each of our lead characters. Caleb, the banker, makes a play for Samantha and Wyatt was preparing to court Edith Grayson, Caleb's sister. LOL! I can't wait to see each of the highborn Livingstons paired with someone to bring them down a notch. :-)

Following please find a few of my favorite quotes.  The first will be wonderful news for fans of the series; I was happy dancing when I read it as it was an update on previous favorite characters, Nick and Elizabeth, who were featured in WILD MONTANA SKIES (Montana Sky #1). The second quote illustrates Debra's beautiful writing style that shows how she makes the reader feel that they are right there... in Montana... under the big gorgeous moon...

Red seeped into Nick's face.  "Elizabeth and I were married two weeks ago, " he explained to Samantha.  
Laughter crinkled the skin around Wyatt's eyes.  "Nick built her a house before the wedding.  I never saw one go up so fast in my life."
Nick's flush deepened.  "It's not completely finished yet.  Elizabeth just refused to wait any longer."
There was a touch of wonder in his tone.
Emotion welled into Samantha's throat and she swallowed.  She remembered how Juan Carlos had acted those first weeks they were married.  Proud, happy as not quite believing his good fortune.  What a special time that had been.  How she missed him.  
"I wish you happiness in your marriage, Mr. Sanders," she said.  
"Call me, Nick, Ma'am."  The red receded from his cheeks, leaving behind a glow.  "Thank you, I'll pass your good wishes to Elizabeth."

On the road leading from his ranch to Samantha's, Wyatt drove his surrey up a small hill and caught his breath as the beauty of the large crescent moon dangling just out of reach over the crest A full moon would have been plump with luminescence, yet the pearly surface of the sickle still cast enough light to shadow his surroundings and seemed close enough that once he drove to the top of the hill, he'd be able to touch the bottom horn or at least toss a rope around it.  He slackened the reins, slowing the horse, knowing that the higher he climbed, the sooner the illusion of closeness would disappear and he wanted to preserve for a moment the fantasy that the moon was within his grasp.  

The stars, by contrast, were distant pricks of diamond light farther out than a man could dream. He sighed. Life as a rancher or as a rancher's wife was not moon and stars easy or romantic.  What would put stars in Samantha's eyes? 

One of my favorite scenes involved the rebuilding of the school's outhouse that had been maliciously destroyed... twice. When the outhouse was rebuilt... twice,  a celestial display was carved over the door in honor of Samantha.  I know it sounds strange, but you'll have to read it... it's quite a moving moment that still makes me smile thinking of it.
Natalie Ross returns as the amazing narrator. She continues to do a great job capturing  the essence of the characters and seamlessly differentiating between them. Under her care, the story flows smoothly and quickly keeping listeners spellbound. Her pauses, accents and mannerisms enhance this delightful tale. 

Debra's writing, as always, is first rate. If you are looking for a book with a rich storyline, set in gorgeous Montana, teeming with suspense, with a plethora of action and engaging, genuine down-to-earth characters whose stories will keep you turning the pages until the very end, then I highly recommend STARRY MONTANA SKY. For lovers of heartwarming, western historical romances, it's a must-read!

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