When I received Judie Aitkenís newest book, A Place Called Home, as a review book, I was pleased because I had read her first book, A Love Beyond Time, and truly enjoyed it enough to recommend it to several people. Iím sorry to say that I was disappointed by her newest effort and really cannot recommend it.
Cody Butler is the last remaining Butler on land that has been in his family for generations. He is now in danger of losing the ranch to developer, Glenn Hubbard, who is building a wildlife park and needs the resources of Codyís land. Hubbard has used a number of tactics to encourage and pressure all of the other area landowners to sell their land. Cody is trying to hold out, but a few financial problems have occurred and the bank will foreclose is just a few weeks if he does not make a substantial payment. The newest hardship that is plaguing the ranch is a mysterious illness that has attacked the cattle.
Shaye Frazier is Glenn Hubbardís lawyer and is sent to Codyís ranch to try and convince him to sell. She has a lot riding, both financially and personally, on the successful completion of the deal. Shaye is Glenn Hubbardís daughter, the daughter that he basically ignored after her motherís death. She wants to succeed so that he will finally notice her and love her as she has wanted for years. They have decided that they will keep her relationship with him quiet for business reasons. Shaye is a widow and has a different last name, so no one has suspected that they are father and daughter.
Shaye and Cody meet the morning after he has drunk enormous amounts of alcohol and has a very painful hangover. He is not at all open to her buyout plans, but each of them is quickly attracted to the other. She tries a number of ways to convince him to sell, including befriending his adopted teenage sister. He is interested in her, but doesnít trust her. His friends and family, however, do their best and their worst to throw the two of them together.
The major problem with the story is how inconsistent both Cody and Shaye are. Despite Codyís belief that Hubbard is up to no good, he allows his underage sister to go with Shaye to Hubbardís house to swim. Shaye is just as confusing. Despite her insistence that people not know that Hubbard is her father, the very first time she meets Julie, a local cop and the wife of one of Codyís workers, she tells Julie the truth and asks her not to tell anyone. This behavior does not fit with the previous description of Shaye being closed-mouthed about herself. The first time Shaye and Cody are about to be very intimate, she pitches a fit that he has condoms with him. How dare he think that just because they had been getting closer all the time, that it might lead to this? A few minutes later, she is ready to see how many of them they could use!
The intrigue about the mysterious illness among Codyís cattle involves a number of red herrings. Was the illness just bad luck or someoneís fault? Is it dangerous just to cattle or are horses also affected? Are the state veterinarians truly too tied up with work to get to his ranch or are they purposely delaying? I found the resolution of this aspect of the story a letdown.
Aitkenís descriptions of the land and all of its wonders are very vivid. She conveys the depth of feeling Cody has for the land and the importance of it to the honor of both his Native American and white ancestors. His visits to the graves of his parents and other ancestors are moving, especially since he is allowed to show his emotions very believably.
I recommend you go back and read or re-read A Love Beyond Time. It is a much better book and has enough layers to stand up to a second reading. Hopefully, Ms. Aitkenís next book will be more like her first book than this one.
--B. Kathy Leitle