Wednesday, February 5, 2020

Catherine Anderson - Huckleberry Lake

Erin De Laney came to Mystic Creek hoping that the slower pace might rekindle her enthusiasm for law enforcement. Instead she feels as frustrated as she did in the city and when her disillusionment with the job increases, she takes a position on her uncle's ranch.
Her life has enough complications without her attraction to handsome, deaf cowboy, Wyatt Fitzgerald, the foreman on the ranch. Wyatt has sworn off dating, and Erin fears that nothing she does will ever change his mind. Yet while working with an abused horse under Wyatt's guidance, Erin comes to better understand herself. She also learns that love can heal almost anything.
Wyatt yearns to take Erin into his arms, but he's hesitant to pursue a romantic relationship. When their work sends them out alone together into a wilderness area, Wyatt is even more determined to hold Erin at arm's length.
But out of their time alone together on the mountain blossoms a chance for a once-in-a-lifetime love if only he's willing to give her his heart and make her his.

Comment: This is the most recent book published by author Catherine Anderson, the 6th installment in her Mystic Creek series.
Having read them all, and knowing what to expect in terms of style, I still can't help feeling a little disappointed the books have not been mixing the drama and the sweetness in such a balanced meaner I feel older books did.

In this book we have the (sort of) follow-up to the previous one, Strawberry Hill, which was a let down because I thought it would feature more prominently a certain couple and it was not so.
Therefore, here we have the story of Erin and Wyatt, as I thought the previous one would be about.
Erin and Wyatt feel attracted to one another but things don't seem to go very well between them because Erin is insecure an unsure of Wyatt's take on her but she still tries to find ways to talk to him and find if he might be interested, which he is, but he makes her realize her advances won't be welcomed.
This means there's a bad kind of tension between them, which is especially bad for Erin because she also doesn't feel happy with her job nor with the way her life is going.
Will they finally be able to talk and establish what they have could be great if they take a chance on each other?

Overall, this isn't a bad book and there were many situations I was interested in reading and to discover what would happen next.
It's still difficult, though, to not compare with how much I appreciated previous stories by the author. Some older titles (like my absolute favorite My Sunshine) combined very well this apparent sweetness we find in her stories featuring people who aren't perfect in other people's eyes but had hearts of gold with a cute and often dramatic romance.

When I think about the most recent work by the author, her style and "voice" are still there but the stories don't feel as heartwarming as I remember others of being. Perhaps it's me, but it feels as if the most recent ones try too hard to convey those feelings of older books, where the romance mattered more than other things. 
Besides, these new stories obviously include contemporary views on many things and in dramatic romances, some just aren't as cute looking as they used to be (an exaggerated example: in older books, the heroine was often wary of intimacy and that was inserted into the romance but these days the focus seems to be more on the politically correct rather than personality traits so it doesn't as important for the character's development in a specific story). It's just my POV, of course.

Regarding this book, probably what interested me the most would be how Wyatt, who is deaf, grew up to exploit all the other ways he could do the everyday things people who hear take for granted. I think the author incorporates difference quite well into her stories and I was interested in seeing this but part of me feels numb because Wyatt takes it as a normal thing while at the same time it just feels natural precisely because of that and Wyatt is a normal guy in everything, although his deafness caused him to go through a very traumatic situation.
This lead him to feel he couldn't really be in a lasting relationship but, of course, the reader knows better.

Part of the plot, then, had to be about heroine Erin helping him see he could be in love and be happy but Erin herself was going through some doubts that came from her childhood.
Their romance was a little more focused on the things they had to overcome and not as much on what they had in common so when their HEA is achieved,  I must confess it wasn't as intrinsically romantic as I wanted; the romance reached a point because it had to, not because the chemistry was so evident between Wyatt and Erin they couldn't not be together.

The story also gives us two other major POVs, from Wyatt's brother Kennedy and Erin's friend Julie. Both have their secondary sub plots that take quite enough plot time. Nothing wrong with it and I don't mind multiple POVs and complex family ties but yes, it was a bit distracting, especially since Wyatt and Erin only synced romantically very close to the end.

There are many cute scenes, interesting drama situations I could imagine people struggling with in real life and enough background on the main and secondary characters (a positive from the previous books) to make me feel I knew those people and was invested in what happened to them.
However, it wasn't as wonderful nor addictive as my favorites by the author made me feel.
Grade: 7/10

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