Punya Reviews...

An avid reader of Romance novels and her reviews...

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Montana Wrangler

Montana Wrangler (Bear Grass Springs #6) - Ramona Flightner

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Montana Wrangler is the book 5 in Ramona Flightner’s Bear Grass Springs series. I’ve had quite a love-hate relationship with this series, yet I can’t help but being curious about what the characters are up to, all credit is to the author! I’ve enjoyed this series enough to keep coming back to it.

 

I keep saying it because it’s the truth. I’m a big fan of Ramona’s Banished Saga series, which will end pretty soon. Bear Grass Springs is quite different than Banished Saga in the sense that the latter is more of a family saga spanning generations, rather than your typical story and HEA for one couple per installment. The Saga always comes highly recommended from me. Though Bear Grass Springs does have HEA in each installment for each H and h featured, you still get the vibe of being with a family and getting to know them better while reading about the MacKinnons.

 

Bear Grass Springs began with the stories of the 3 MacKinnon brothers Cailean, Alistair and Ewan, in the first 3 installments respectively titled Montana Untamed, Montana Grit and Montana Maverick. They also have a younger sister called Sorcha. They’re from Scotland, but have settled in the Bear Grass Springs Montana in search of a better life. Cailean and Alistair own the only livery in town, which they’ve managed to make a successful business out of. Ewan is a carpenter and his business is thriving as well. The brothers were much sought after bachelors until they settled down with the love of their lives, Cailean with the town baker Annabelle, Alistair with Leticia who was a school teacher before she began helping Annabelle with her rapidly growing bakery business. Ewan finally found someone to love in Jessamine, a news reporter at that time newly arrived in Bear Grass Springs. The backgrounds of all 3 of heroines are told in their books. However my feelings for all 3 books were pretty ambivalent. The first two, the brothers were being obtuse and in turn, there were loads of misunderstanding and frustration that made me wanna kick their a$$. And for book 3, I didn’t like the heroine AT ALL.

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Second Chance Love (Review of Mrs. Sartin’s Secretary)

Second Chance Love: A Regency Romance Set - Cynthia Sterling, Jenna Jaxon, Wendy LaCapra, Catherine Tinley, Annabelle Anders

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3.5 stars. This rating and review is ONLY for “Mrs. Sartin’s Secretary” by Wendy LaCapra. If I read the other stories later, I’ll try to review them. Of course, the rating may change too.
****

Mrs. Sartin’s Secretary by Wendy LaCapra

 

When I read book 1 of Wendy LaCapra’s Lords of Chance series titled Scandal in Spades last year, I was blown away not only by Wendy’s beautiful writing but also the story and its protagonists. The H and h shared amazing chemistry that was palpable right from the moment they met. It was a straight winner so I was eagerly waiting for book 2...which turned out to be Heart’s Desire.

 

While I waited, I heard about Wendy writing a short story in between these two books, somehow connecting to book 2 through its hero, Lord Markham or Heart. But why is Markham called ‘Heart’? I talked about it a bit more elaborately in my review of book 1. In a nutshell, the other heroes of this series formed a group of sort where Markham joins later, and they called each other by sobriquets taken from the cards. The hero of book 1, the Marquess of Bromton Giles went by as Spades. Two of his close friends that will have the next books in the series, Lord Farring and Lord Rayne, are known as Club and Diamond. In that order.

 

In book 1 I had the hint that Markham, the youngest of them all, was a bit of a rake, hence he was the Hearts. It was said that he never left his lovers wanting. Just how much of a rake, you get a glimpse of it in this really short story here. From the beginning though, I had issues. I had a difficult time connecting this story with the series. For one, Mrs. Sartin or her secretary, the two protagonists were never even introduced in book 1 so I had no earthly idea who they were and why they even had a story to begin with?! Well apart from the fact that it becomes clear very early on that Mrs. Sartin is Markham’s lover. (note here that Mrs. Sartin may well have been briefly introduced in book 1 but I don’t remember her at all so my point stands)

 

In the end though, Wendy’s note explains that we’ll be seeing more of Mrs. Sartin in Markham’s book, Heart’s Desire. She wanted the lonely widow to have a story so she gave her one.

 

Fair enough.

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It's been a while.............. :P

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Not the Duke's Darling

Not the Duke's Darling - Elizabeth Hoyt

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Elizabeth Hoyt’s Not the Duke’s Darling is the book 1 of her brand new historical romance series, Greycourt. It was one of my most anticipating releases of 2018. Her previous series, Maiden Lane, which stole many hearts and made many new Hoyt fans—as a huge fan myself I’d like to think that’s happened!—had ended in 2017 after a long run with 12 books and some novellas under its belt. Naturally, we fans were eagerly waiting for this new series to see what Ms. Hoyt has in store for us in this new journey. I’m excited that there’s a new series, even if the introductory installment wasn’t as good as I was hoping it’d be.

Not the Duke’s Darling, so far, doesn’t look to have any connection to Maiden Lane whatsoever. I haven’t come across anything that pointed to me to that direction. However, it’s only the beginning and one can only hope! Though still set in the Georgian-era, the setting is slightly after the time-frame of Maiden Lane. But that doesn’t mean there aren’t any possibilities of.......

Okay okay, that’s the Maiden Lane fan in me blabbering away. :P I’ll just get into the review... The story begins with our heroine, Freya de Moray, running from some miscreants while also protecting a baby and his nanny as they ran. At first, it’s all very confusing. Is the baby hers? Or is he a family member? Then, within a few pages we discover that she’s the ‘Macha’ or spy of a secret ladies group called the Wise Women and been working for them for a while now. The Wise Women were women with healing powers (healers) who existed for generations and openly helped people with their knowledge. They abounded all over England since the ancient times. But as time went on and the threat of witch hunt—as they were termed at one of point of history—and many killed, the number of Wise Women has now gone down drastically.

The Wise Women were, and still are, selected from various families (wasn’t sure if only peers or from any family) and given education and training from a young age. These days all that is done in secret. Well they don’t have any magical powers but they have other knowledge to help. Nowadays, with a new form of witch-hunter fanatics called the Dunkelders after them, they had to go in hiding. Wise Women also love living an independent life that doesn’t go with the social norms. Some live unmarried, while others marry and go as far as to have children. Some would take lovers. Many of them live among normal people hiding that part of their identity. After all, they have to be very selective of who they trust. Many now live in Scotland where their headquarters is. Or so I thought it was. I’m not sure how far the Wise Women are still scattered all over England cause, for this book, we only learn about the Wise Women that live in an estate called Dornoch in Scotland conveniently close to Freya’s own ancestral home.

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The Unlikely Master Genius

The Unlikely Master Genius (St. Brendan Book 1)  - Carla Kelly

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After reading and loving a short story ‘The Christmas Angle’ by Carla Kelly in an anthology, I was anticipating The Unlikely Master Genius, book 1 in the St. Brendan series. The above mentioned short story is kind of a prequel to this one and I enjoyed it so much, I was totally invested in the series already. I mean, who doesn’t like a hero who is a nerd and a genius with a heart of gold? Who is also a gentleman that loves his wife to distraction? However, after reading it can’t say I loved it as much as I thought I would. I’ll try to elaborate as best as I can.

Born in a street behind a church in Scotland, where his supposed mother died right after his birth without even giving him a name, Durable or ‘Able’ Six has come a long way. The name he’s got is the aftermath of becoming a nameless orphan left unclaimed in a workhouse of Dumfries, where his life was everything that was never nice, loving or pleasant. He’d shortened the silly name to Able later in life to give it some semblance of normalcy. After his initial resistance to death–hence he surpassed the first 5 ‘Durables’ and became number Six that lived—Able fought to survive. He fought hunger, abuse at the hand of his so-called teachers but most of all, he fought death to stay alive.

Able joined Navy to escape the workhouse so I doubt he had any big ambition but as Sailing Master Able Six at 26 he’d already climbed the ladder of success when it comes to HRM Navy. At least as far as success is concerned for a total nobody like him. No one ever heard a person becoming a sailing master at the age of 22 but Able had become what no one has been before. Hell, he’s someone so unique that no one probably had seen anyone like him in the past decades, maybe more, and likely won’t see another for a long time to come. Able Six, what you can describe in the simplest terms possible, is a genius. A prodigy if you’d like that word too. Someone with photographic memory. He’d read/see/hear, basically experience anything, and he’d remember every single crisp detail.

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Prince of Magic

Prince of Magic - Anne Stuart

Wanted to give it 3.5 stars but don't know. I thought it'd be an interesting read... which it sadly was not. I didn't connect with the heroine at all (from the beginning TBH) though I tried. She was the typical immature and rash heroines who 'grace' Anne Stuart's novels now and then. Sometimes I like them, other times I just wish them gone. This one was neither here nor there. Didn't care for her at all. The hero was your typical a-hole rakish Anne Stuart hero who thought he's beyond redemption. He tried to be over-the-top but he won't really top our favorite Killoran from To Love a Dark Lord. And though you could see Killoran's vulnerability under the mask, and in turn him garnering a bit of your sympathy if nothing else, the hero of this story was just an entitled and presumptuous a-hole. Though it sounds like I hated him, I didn't cause he failed to leave any mark on me really. These two had some chemistry and if the heroine was mature and smart enough to be his equal, I think we'd have had the interesting story I had hoped to find in Prince of Magic.

Once again, I liked the secondary romance between the hero's half-sister and a servant of the house - who was more hero's friend than a servant - more than the original romance. I'm not going into the whys and the hows cause I have no intentions of doing a full review. Needless to say, even with all the paranormal happenings, didn't enjoy it as much as I thought I would. :/

 

Guess for now I'll take a break from Anne Stuart's books for a bit.

SPOILER ALERT!

Guarding the Countess

Guarding the Countess - Lily Reynard

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Guarding the Countess by Lily Reynard was definitely a breath of fresh air. I love me a good medieval romance so I picked this up totally randomly cause I was bored. Then I began reading, and found a gem that hooked me pretty much right from the beginning. I loved the flow of the story, as well as the historical aspects as went so well with it. The book wasn’t a short read by any means but I wasn’t bored once. Needless to say but I’m a new fan!

Guarding the Countess is set around the time of King Charles II (in 1666) with nicely done descriptions of that era. Bonus was the incorporation of historical figures such as Charles II himself and his famous mistress Barbara Palmer. If done well, I really enjoy it in a historical novel because it lends the story a different kind of richness. I’d recommend Morgan O’Neill’s Elizabethan Time Travel series if you’re interested in checking out a few more novels that takes this direction. But, for me, Guarding the Countess—though oftimes pretty dark and intense—romance-wise came off very sweet. Kit and Antonia were simply adorable together. Their journey to HEA was by no means a smooth sailing but they belonged to one another pretty much the moment they met. I give the author a round of applause for her knack for storytelling, her character-building and the way she incorporated those historical characters into this novel.

Antonia, a widowed Countess, have been trying to fend off suitors most of the past year and a half since her husband passed away from small pox. It seemed like though they had a big difference in age, the marriage was a success, in the sense that they had affection for one another and the sex life wasn’t dull either though it didn’t result in any offspring. Antonia is still grieving her husband’s passing but the majority of those suitors didn’t care. It’s mainly because now she’s an extremely wealthy widow and greedy, fortune hunters had no time to wait despite the rumors that Antonia’s beauty was marred by the pox which she contracted while taking care of her husband. Unfortunately, it was no rumor because it did happen. Poor lady’s face was marred, still red from the wounds, though they’re healing and may fade quite a bit in the coming years. But there was no doubt she’s scarred for life.

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A Country Christmas (Review of The Christmas Angle)

A Country Christmas - Josi S. Kilpack, Jennifer Moore-Mallinos, Carla Kelly

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It’s been a while since I read a Carla Kelly book so gathered it’s time to read something new. I bought her latest back in May 2018, which is book 1 of the new St. Brendan series. Then I found out that the H and h of the story were introduced in a novella in the anthology A Country Christmas. This review and rating (4.5 stars) is solely based on Carla Kelly’s “The Christmas Angle”.

Sailing Master Able Six maybe only 26 years old but he’d already climbed the ladder of success when it comes to HRM Navy. At least as far as success is concerned for a total nobody, a bastard (and an orphan) like him. No one ever heard a person becoming a sailing master at the age of 22 (I don’t know a whole lot about this bit of HRM Navy so I’m solely relying on the author’s knowledge) but Able had become what no one has been before. Hell, he’s someone so unique that no one probably had seen anyone like him in the past decades, maybe more, and likely won’t see another for a long time to come. Able Six, what you can describe in the simplest terms possible, is a genius. A prodigy if you’d like that word too. Someone with photographic memory. He’d read/see/hear, basically experience anything, and he’d remember every single crisp detail. His memory is like sponge; it takes everything and can reproduce when the need arrives. Detail by detail.

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Gunsmoke and Lace

GUNSMOKE AND LACE -  Linda Broday

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4 stars as a whole. A collection of short stories that leaves you wanting for more. They read like slivers from bigger novels. However, as the author explains in the author note, these stories weren't meant to become full-length novels. I've been meaning to read this collection since I bought it but anthologies aren't my favorite things so I kept pushing it back. Right now I'm glad I finally read it. :)

I liked all the stories, though some more than the others. Following is a short review of all 4 of them. I'll just copy the blurb and try to express what I felt about that particular story with my rating after each:

The Telegraph Tree
Desperate and alone, Maura Killion writes notes to God and ties them to a scrawny tree. But who's writing new ones?

4 stars. This one probably had the strongest message of never giving up on hopes and dreams than the other 3. A widow basically living in the middle of nowhere with a small baby to feed, who was gradually giving up on life because of the tough living condition and acute loneliness, finds hope anew in a message for her, tied on a tree on her land. I really liked it, though the following bugged me; how come she never saw/noticed who it was leaving those messages. From the description it didn't sound like the tree was too far away. In any case, the story was way too short for me to even seriously think of it. Would've loved for it to have a few more chapters.

Moon Dog Night
Bounty hunter Bonner Raine is surprised to see a nine-year-old boy and his little sister riding into his camp. The boy wears a gun and holster, determined to find the outlaw who took their mother. But will they find her alive? Or dead?

4 stars. Also loved this one a lot. Very short but packed a lot of punch. The story pretty much goes as noted in the blurb. The ending was about finding a new lease on life for both Bonner and his prospective sweetheart. If you're looking for full-on romance you won't find any. BUT, there's the hint of a new beginning that I simply adored. Could've been a great full-length novel IMO.

The Gunslinger
Skye O'Rourke thinks she's seeing a desert mirage when a gunslinger staggers across her field and awakens buried memories. But do second chances really exist for people like them?

3 stars. I wanted to like this one but I didn't as much as the previous 2. Skye was a widow and the gunslinger was someone from her past. They had a history, which is all good. However I hated the way they simply forgot about her deceased husband like he was a nobody, considering the gunslinger is also related to him. He wasn't a bad person from the meager description of things. His only failure was he couldn't make Skye love him the way she did the other man. And now that he's dead he didn't matter at all? Poor guy. :(

Hard Luck
Bank robbing isn't ever easy—especially when it's in Hard Luck, Texas. Logan and Wade discover that crime doesn't pay, and love can come from unexpected places.

3 stars. This one read more like an excerpt of a bigger story than the rest. There was no exact beginning or ending that can mark it a story on it's own. A robbery going wrong introduces us to two childhood friends; one is relatively smart, the other... not so much. From there we find them attending a dance not expecting much yet ending up with prospective sweethearts. Love? I'm not so certain in such a short space. In time, maybe for Logan. But Wade? I doubt it.

Happy New Year!!

Happy New Year everyone! :)

 

SPOILER ALERT!

A Tough Man's Woman

A Tough Man's Woman (A Wild Hearts Romance) - Deborah Camp

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A Tough Man’s Woman is the book 3 and presumably the last installment of Deborah Camp’s Tough Man/Too Tough series. I already talked about my disappointments with this series in the previous 2 books. Unfortunately this one wasn’t any better. Even with 2 quite likable main characters this might be my least favorite of the series. :(

I’d begin again by suggesting Deborah Camp’s recent western historical romance releases such as Lonestar’s Lady and Solitary Horseman. I became her fan reading those 2 books. I can vouch for her great writing style and her knack for storytelling. However this series in particular was publish in the mid-90s and there were work to be done where characters were concerned. Books 1 and 2 were okay reads. I liked reading both but there were issues in both that bothered me.

Book 1, Too Tough to Tame was the story of a small town doctor’s assistance and a Native American warrior. The heroine, Tess meets Storm in His Eyes under a very uncommon circumstance, where she was kidnapped then was forced to take care of the bullet wounds on him. With the demeaning way white folks viewed and treated Indian people, maybe that’s why Storm’s cousin thought this is how he could get some help for him. But apparently Tess didn’t have the same kind of hatred for the Indians so after the initial shock, she was happy to be taking care of the ‘manly’ Storm In His Eyes. Tess’s blonde beauty and Storm’s aforementioned ‘manly attributes’ playing a vital role, their romance (or ‘lust at first sight’ as I called it) takes off. It wasn’t an easy road to travel but they finally find their HEA after many ups and downs, revenge and a few murders.

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To Steal a Viking Bride

To Steal a Viking Bride (Norse Series Book 2.5)  - Gina Conkle

A very short story originally meant for the author's newsletter subscribers, though now it's published on amazon w/KU. My copy was obtained via instafreebie when it was free.

I remember Gunner from the previous Norse series books, though not a whole lot if I'm honest. Even then I liked the story and wished it was a bit longer, maybe novella-length, giving a bit of the background on our H and the h's relationship. In any case, it can be read as a standalone.

I'm a big fan of Gina's Viking stories and still waiting for the next book in this series, though there's no release date of that yet. The blurb sounded very interesting to say the least.

A Montana Christmas Wedding

 A Montana Christmas Wedding (A Banished Saga Short Story) - Ramona Flightner

Frankly speaking, I’ve been loving these short snippets from the lives of our favorite characters of Banished Saga for the past 3/4 yrs. They’re like Christmas gifts from Ramona for her newsletter subscribers. As usual been eagerly awaiting this year’s short story and gobbled it up within half an hour!

A Montana Christmas Wedding is a very short story that’s practically based on the wedding of Colin and Araminta, who are two recurring—and important— characters of the Banished Saga series. Anyone who has read this series will recognize them right away. They’d also understand why it makes me so very happy as a reader of this series to see them finally together. As bonus, you get visits from many of our beloved characters as their wedding guests! But be warned that this story is NOT recommended as a standalone read because it contains spoilers that may shock you, to say the least. So if you haven't read the previous installment Abiding Love, please avoid reading this short story until you do.

I know Banished Saga is almost at an end and it makes me extremely sad just to think of it. I’ll miss them all. :(

For anyone interested in signing up for Ramona's newsletter, Click Here.

SPOILER ALERT!

To Love a Dark Lord

To Love a Dark Lord - Anne Stuart

My reviews are honest & they contain spoilers. For more, visit:


After meaning to read her books for better of part of this decade, I’m finally on a Anne Stuart roll! I’ve read more books by her this year than ever before!! LOL I can honestly say that there’s something addictive about her writing that makes you read on even if you think this maybe isn’t going to work for you in the end. To Love a Dark Lord was one of those books. I’m very VERY torn about this book as it left me with such ambivalent feelings that I don’t even know where to begin. But I’ll try my best...


To Love a Dark Lord is a standalone dark historical romance set in the Georgian period, more specifically 1775. The story is kind of thrust on your face the moment we find our heroine had just murdered her lecherous uncle, trying to save herself from being violated. Yep, Emma did just that and was promptly saved (her reputation) by our hero, James Killoran, an Earl, within the first few pages of the book. But that was only the beginning of the total mindf*ckery that was this book. Boy, I wish I knew what I was getting into!

After Emma is saved, we learn a bit more about her background from her monologues. That was after she went to thank Killoran for saving her and came away hurt because of his glib reply that practically screamed ‘Yeah whatever. Now shoo!’. Emma became orphan at an early age and been living with her uncle Horace and his daughter Miriam for the past 7/8 yrs since then. Horace was related to Emma by marriage, meaning he was her maternal aunt’s husband. Miriam is in her 40s, a rigid spinster who is also zealously religious and made Emma’s life hell for as long as she could remember. She’d basically lived the life of an unpaid servant, practically hidden away from the world. She couldn’t even go outside without a chaperone and full veil! All because Emma was tall, voluptuous and had a head full of red hair. To Cousin Miriam she was sin incarnate and needed to repent for her invisible sins at least a few times a day. Then there was Horace’s pursuit of her that Emma had to dodge every day. Miriam, of course, always blamed it on Emma’s ‘sinful’ looks and all that. *eyeroll* Emma was fed up and equally miserable but she could see no way out. She had money that she inherited from her father but both Horace and Miriam had their death grip on that and Emma knew she’d never be able to pry a single penny out of them unless she could find some help.

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Merry Christmas!

Wishing my booklikes buddies a Merry Christmas!

Hope ya'll having a lovely day!

 

SPOILER ALERT!

Tough Talk, Tender Kisses

Tough Talk, Tender Kisses (A Wild Hearts Romance) - Deborah Camp

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Tough Talk, Tender Kisses is book 2 of Deborah Camp’s Too Tough/Tough Man series. I began this series with anticipation, however right now have to say I’m going down that slippery slope of disappointment. Even though I still like the author’s writing style and all that, the characters in this series are really trying my patience!

I’m a big fan of the author’s more recent western historical publications such as Solitary Horseman or Lonestar’s Lady. However this particular series was first published in the 90s and maybe, the storyline and the character kind of show the datedness (?). The first book, Too Tough to Tame was the story of a small town doctor’s assistance and a Native American warrior. The heroine, Tess meets Storm in His Eyes under a very uncommon circumstance, where she was kidnapped then was forced to take care of the bullet wounds on him. With the demeaning way white folks viewed and treated Indian people, maybe that’s why Storm’s cousin thought this is how he could get some help for him. But apparently Tess didn’t have the same kind of hatred for the Indians so after the initial shock, she was happy to be taking care of the ‘manly’ Storm In His Eyes. Tess’s blonde beauty and Storm’s aforementioned ‘manly attributes’ playing a vital role, their romance (or ‘lust at first sight’ as I called it) takes off. It wasn’t an easy road to travel but they finally find their HEA after many ups and downs, revenge and a few murders.

Book 2 isn’t directly connected to book 1 as it takes place several years afterwards. The H and h of Tough Talk, Tender Kisses weren’t ever introduced in there. In fact, they lived in a different state and were first introduced under a very different set of circumstance. Book 2 opens up with Adele Bishop, a restaurant manager in Whistle Stop, which was also built near a train station, waiting for her ‘mail order husband’ to arrive, much to the dismay (and amusement) of the townspeople. The daughter of a known do-gooder, who was also a very open minded woman, Adele had grown up with a mindset very different than the people she has to deal with everyday. Adele’s father died when she was but a child, and her mother just a few years ago, leaving her an orphan and quite alone in the world. Well, except for Sally, a girl she’d befriended in her teens when she was living in Kansas years ago with her aunt’s family while her mother was busy traveling for her own causes. Sally married Winston, the cousin who was more interested in Adele than her. But Adele knew she wasn’t interested in Winston. Not in the way she was interested in his friend, the wild soul called Reno Gold. Sally later followed her to Whistle Stop after Winston died.

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