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Rescue Me
by Rachel Gibson
(Avon, $7.99, R)  ISBN 978-0-06-206912-2
****
Mercedes Johanna Hollowell, called Sadie to everyone who knows her now, is a former beauty queen contestant turned real estate agent with a chip on her shoulder about her hometown. Toss in a pink bridesmaid's dress and a much-dreaded trip to Lovett, Texas, and all of a sudden she's transformed into Sadie Jo, the girl who was always too obstinate to fit in.

Fans of Rachel Gibson may or may not remember Lovett from her 2004 release, Daisy's Back in Town. Eight years later, we have the second book in the Lovett series, Rescue Me, which also has a Chinooks Hockey Team tie-in, Vince Haven (known as Vinny to his sister), who was a major secondary character in last year's Any Man of Mine.

Vince, a bored and restless retired Navy SEAL with what he considers a shameful bit of PTSD, has to bum a ride into Lovett from Sadie Jo Hollowell after his truck breaks down near her daddy's ranch ... and their relationship just gets more exciting from there.  Both are looking for the short-term, neither wanting a relationship or planning to stay in Lovett.  Then Vince's aunt talks him into buying out her gas station and Sadie's elderly father's stubbornness leads to a debilitating accident. Though Sadie and Vince try to keep things light, it's not just the timing that has made this relationship different for both of them.

Thankfully, Rescue Me is in a league entirely separate from Any Man of Mine - in a very good way. There is just as much humor as I recall from Daisy's Back in Town, but there are a lot of well-written bittersweet angles. And Gibson didn't wrap everything and everyone up in a pretty little bow at the end (a trait I complained about in Any Man because it was shallowly done); there are still details that the reader knows about various characters that they haven't yet learned about one another at the end of Rescue Me.  This time, Gibson gets it right, leaving readers with the sense that, though they're getting their happy ending, our hero and heroine still have room and a need to grow.

--Sarrah Knight


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