Loving Lindsey by Pat Van Wie
(Loveswept #905, $3.50, PG) ISBN 0-553-44678-9
***
There's trouble at the Silver Creek Ranch. What once appeared to be a series of accidents is becoming increasingly suspicious, and Lindsey Baker, the majority owner of the ranch, is anything but pleased. First a shipment of feed went missing, then some cattle strayed through a mysteriously cut fence. With every "mishap," the Silver Creek is losing money money Lindsey can't afford to part with. Her unreliable brother Stuart isn't interested in the ranch, so Lindsey is on her own. Not that she minds. In fact, she prefers to remain completely independent, accepting help from no one. Especially not Will Claxton.

But Will has a certain interest in seeing Lindsey's ranch succeed. For one thing, the Silver Creek now encompasses land that used to belong to his family. His ultimate goal is to reclaim his family property, so he can't stand by while these "accidents" force Lindsey into bankruptcy. For another thing, Lindsey is or was his friend.

In fact, these two were best friends during childhood, back when Lindsey divided her time between proving she was as tough as any boy and hiding her secret crush on Will. But when Will left Wyoming fifteen years ago without a word to anyone, Lindsey felt betrayed and abandoned. When he returned eight years later, the two fought, finally ending their friendship. They've avoided each other ever since, although Will stayed on in the area, landing a job as foreman of a local ranch.

The way Will sees it, there's an easy way to resolve at least some of their differences. If Lindsey would sell the Claxton land back to Will, she could buy out her brother's half of the ranch, thus freeing him to living a life of his own choosing. Stuart would be happy, Will would have his land back, and Lindsey would have a smaller ranch, one that would be easier to manage on her own. And that would all be well and good, except that Lindsey promised her father on his deathbed that she wouldn't sell off any part of the ranch.

So they're pretty much deadlocked on the whole land issue. And then there's all the personal trouble between them. Lindsey still hasn't forgiven Will for disappearing for eight years, and Will hasn't forgiven Lindsey for not siding with him when he lost the Claxton land to the Bakers. But now, due to their mutual concern for the Silver Creek in the face of these mysterious "accidents," they're forced together once again. And strangely, a new dimension to their relationship starts to take shape.

So these two have to work through all the history between them, as well as the problems of the present, to save Lindsey's ranch and restore their friendship and possibly form a whole new kind of relationship.

That's a lot of background to explain what is basically a simple story with a generally predictable plot. Loving Lindsey is an easy read. The action moves right along, sustaining the reader's interest sufficiently, and the writing is smooth if not remarkable. But there's nothing here to make this book a standout in any way. The characters are consistent, but not well-developed. The sexual tension feels obligatory, with lots of overused phrases like "she needed to feel his lips on hers more than she needed her next breath." I'm rating this book "acceptable" because I can't find anything about it to condemn completely. But by the same token, I certainly can't get excited enough about it to recommend it to anyone.

-- Ellen Hestand


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