Rancher’s Redemption
by Beth Cornelison
(SRS #1532, $4.99, PG) ISBN 0-373-27602-8
The Coltons: Family First, multi-authored  miniseries continues with this contribution by author Beth Cornelison. The Texas ranch of Clay Colton is the setting for this novel; as the story opens when Clay finds an abandoned car on one of his ranch roads. It could have been a simple matter of the sheriff calling the rental car company for a pick up, but…found in the trunk is $100,000 in cash.

The Sheriff immediately secures the services of  the investigative forensic crime team from San Antonio. To Clay’s surprise his former wife Tamara Brown arrives with the team. During the sweeping of the car Tamara finds a spot which laboratory examination will confirm as blood, thus the scene becomes a conformed crime scene. She returns the next day and while walking around the scene falls into a sink hole and lands next to the remains of a dead man.  Tamara is able to extract herself from the hole and drives herself to the ranch house, and Clay takes her to the hospital.

Clay and Tamara had married soon after high school. At that time, Clay was single handed trying to run the ranch his parents left while supervising his wayward brother Ryder. So young, and with so many problems to deal with, he had become more distant when a quarrel erupted over the putting down of his prize stallion. Tamara opposed the action and when Clay ignored her, it became the confirmation that theirs was no longer a real partnership. She left Clay to work on a career in forensics. Clay let her go, merely because it was what he thought she really wanted and he wanted her to be happy.

Years pass without contact until this crime. Each brings the hurts and insecurities of their failed marriage into the present, and their respective angst becomes a major part of the sexual tension reawakened by proximity. Tamara’s injuries require someone with her after her hospital release, and in a traditional plot line she moves into the ranch house with Clay.

Meanwhile at the crime scene, the investigators cannot find the body. There is evidence of its removal, so the crime scene turns into a confirmed murder scene. Tamara reenters the town life and it is through these contracts that the mystery slowly unravels.

Cornelison adroitly fashions characters who generate a great deal of empathy which soon overpowers the story. The mystery almost becomes a minor sideline, the solution of which requires a great deal of coincidence and some pretty fast DNA testing results.

The story is not centered on the Colton family as such, so it is not necessary to have read any of the other books to enjoy this one.

--Thea Davis

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