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Review: Big Sky River by Linda Lael Miller

Big Sky River by Linda Lael Miller Review: Big Sky River by Linda Lael Miller

With a fair chunk of romance novels under my belt now, Ive developed a few tentative hypotheses and correlations about the genre. One of these is that the more ridiculous the heros name, the more fun the book. (I remember fondly a book last year involving a hero called Obediah Dyer Straits.) If this correlation holds true, then with names like Slade, Hutch and Boone, its little wonder Ive enjoyed Linda Lael Millers Big Sky series.

Part of what makes Millers books such a delight is the humour that infuses them. Shes not at all afraid to plant tongue firmly in cheek as she writes, and there are plenty of fun little metafictional moments in her books. A personal favourite is that the aforementioned Slade is named after a hero in one of his mothers favourite romance novels. Hermeneutic recursiveness at its best, folks! In this one, too, we have a bit of a piss-take regarding our hilariously named hero:'Boone? thinks our heroine Tara. Good heavens, even his'name was redneck.

Miller has an inordinate amount of fun pairing up poor Boone, an overworked widower who lives in a rundown trailer, with Tara, a Mercedes-driving city girl who owns a snazzy property with a lovely view of said rundown trailer. Taras attempting to transform from urban to chicken farmer despite an utter inability to harm so much as a feather on a fowl, while Boone is trying to learn the ropes of fatherhoodand learning pretty quickly that an entertainment system comprising an old black and white TV doesnt hack it with the youth of today. The fish-out-of-water trope is milked to delightful effect here, and Miller good-humouredly skewers both city and country natives by contrasting the two to highly entertaining effect.

As with the other stories in the Big Sky series, we have a Mr Darcy and Elizabeth Bennett animosity-turning-to-love type narrative on our hands, only of course in this case our Mr Darcy is still only on ten thousand a year (not quite so impressive in 2013) and has a toilet blooming with flowers in his front yard. And our Lizzie has a thing for chicken eggs and overalls. Oh, and both have kids/step-kids from previous marriages. Often Im not a huge fan of romance novels that are overrun with wee ones, because its very easy for the story to become more focused instead on the adults interactions with their kids, and that is an issue here. That said, the youngsters in this are surprisingly enjoyable to read about, and much of the character growth we see from Boone and Tara occurs because of their interactions with their own and each others kids.

Unfortunately, although we spend quite a bit of time watching Boone and Tara develop their relationship with their kids, their own romantic relationship is given far less page space. At the beginning of the book the two have only met a handful of times in passing, so its not as though theyre building on a relationship that was begun and aborted some time in the past, which from memory is the case for the two previous books in this series. Because of this, the shift from using each other as babysitters (and general sources of consternation) to moving in together seems abrupt at best, and though I appreciate that (minor spoiler alert, but cmon, its a romance, you know how it ends) Miller allows a bit of a postponement to the formalising of the HEA, it still feels as though their relationship has emerged, fully formed, out of thin air.

I think partly my ambivalence over this whole series is that it falls somewhere in between romance and womens fiction, and doesnt quite fit with my expectations regarding the conventions of either genre. Although a romance is certainly present, its not the key story arc. Much of the story, in factand of the series as a wholeis focused on the town and townsfolk of the small town of Parable. If anything, its more a novelisation of a soap opera than it is a romance novel.

And yet, my repeated misgivings about the lack of emphasis on the romances in this series aside, I really have enjoyed reading these.'Miller writes settings and people you want to get caught up in, and even if half the book is about water towers and puppies (and kittens and chickens etc) rather than smouldering looks and spunky men in tight jeans, theres something delightful in sitting back and letting her imagined worlds and cheeky names wash over you. Im looking forward to the fourth in the series, which should be released mid this year.

Rating: star Review: Big Sky River by Linda Lael Millerstar Review: Big Sky River by Linda Lael Millerstar Review: Big Sky River by Linda Lael Millerblankstar Review: Big Sky River by Linda Lael Millerblankstar Review: Big Sky River by Linda Lael Miller (good)

With thanks to Harlequin Australia for the review copy

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See our other Linda Lael Miller reviews

Other books by Linda Lael Miller:

Big Sky Country by Linda Lael Miller Review: Big Sky River by Linda Lael Miller

Big Sky Mountain by Linda Lael Miller Review: Big Sky River by Linda Lael Miller

creed in stone creek miller Review: Big Sky River by Linda Lael Miller




  1. I loved when you wrote: If anything, it's more a novelisation of a soap opera than it is a romance novel. I totally agree with that sentiment from my reading of Big Sky Country. I liked the characters and the setting, but didnt think there was enough relationship building or even bodice ripping to be a true romance novel.

    • Stephanie /

      Thanks, Jami! I guess its hard to ride around on a horse when wearing a bodice. ;)

      I really enjoy the characters in these, but I definitely could have handled some more lurve. :D

  2. The romance was much too underdeveloped for my taste. I was really disappointed with the second and third book in the series.

    • Stephanie /

      I thought the second one was the weakest, but I did enjoy reading about the characters, even without much time given over to the romance. :)

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