Code Name: Cowboy

Her Counterfeit Husband

Man on a Mission

Once Forbidden

Reluctant Dad

Reluctant Wife

Rodeo Dad

Strangers When We Married

Out of Exile by Carla Cassidy
(Silh. Int. Mom. #1149, $4.50, PG) ISBN 0-373-2721-7
Out of Exile concludes Carla Cassidy’s four part series featuring the Delaney Heirs. She saved the most intractable, recalcitrant heir for last - Matthew the eldest. Matthew and his three siblings grew up in the classical dysfunctional home, where fear reigned because of the physical and mental abuse of their father.

Learning early not to trust each other as well, it was a rude shock to find upon their father’s death that the large ranch had been willed to the four of them, but only if the four of them worked together on the ranch for a year. Otherwise, the ranch goes to their aunt Clara.

This novel opens as Clara is relocating to the ranch because she had been swindled out of her assets and is reduced to asking for sanctuary. Her adopted daughter Lilly is with her to help her settle in. In her teen years Lilly had visited the ranch each summer and had been under Matthew’s tutelage. Unrequited teenage yearnings had faded into the past for both of them.

Following Lilly is a man who has murdered two other women because he thought he could mold them into Lilly. Why he knows Lilly and why he believes she is to be exclusively his is a long time coming in the book, and an interesting surprise. The stalker-killer is working at the ranch and becomes angry when he perceives that Matthew and Lilly are interested in each other.

The ranch is now a dude ranch and the stalker vandalizes indiscriminately in order to keep Matthew busy and away from Lilly. This book is a typical stalker-rugged protector novel, except for the interaction of the Delaney heirs who are finally learning to trust each other.

Cassidy displays her usual talent in defining her characters and is greatly aided by the fact that she has had three prior books to build them slowly. She sustains the tension well in the building of the suspense plot as well as in the growing romance between Matthew and Lilly.

Where the novel falls a little short is the resolution of the emotional baggage of Matthew and Lilly. It seems that almost overnight Lilly overcomes hers, and then we witness one confrontation between Lilly and Matthew where she says the magic words and Matthew is able to confront the guilt and fear of a lifetime. Nice, but not too credible.

--Thea Davis

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