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Montana Grit is the book 2 of Ramona Flightner’s newest historical romance series, Bear Grass Springs. Even though I’ve enjoyed the premise, I have mixed feelings about this one. Will try to explain in my review in the following.
I always talk about Banished Saga, Ramona’s debut series, whenever I review her books. I’m a huge fan of that series and glad that there are a few more installments left before we bid adieu to it. Bear Grass Springs, IMO, is quite different from Banished Saga. Yes, it’s still a clean romance and yes, we still get to know about a family and see them find love one after another but you get your traditional HEA, rather than a Saga where it spans years and includes new characters of new generations. Of course, I’m not comparing the two. I like both styles. In fact, I’m a reader of traditional HEA who has come to love the idea of growing with a family and seeing them grow and expand, becoming their friend in the process.
Book 1, Montana Untamed, introduces us to the MacKinnon brothers Caliean, Alistair and Ewan and their younger sister, Socha. They came to America from Scotland to settle down after they were forced from their lands. Cailean and Alistair arrived first. Eventually, Ewan and Socha joined them. Cailean and Alistair are very successful livery owners, the only one in the small but surely budding town of Bear Grass Springs. They’re well-liked and respected among the people and, alongside Ewan, they’re also well sought after bachelors. Ewan’s skills lie with the carpentry. He’s also earning good. Among the brothers, Cailean the eldest is what I’d call a grumpy bear. Very serious and moody. Alistair, the middle brother, seemed like the one with a sound head on his shoulders. Cool and calm as they say. Ewan is the happy go lucky charmer who can be impetuous at times. His gambling habit is one of those things that his brothers do not approve of. Sorcha is still young and brash, she has her own burdens to bear too as you will read, but her brothers love her all the same.
Cailean had lost his wife to childbirth and swore never to go through that pain ever again. So when he met Annabelle Evans of St. Louis, coming to Bear Grass Springs Montana in search of her long lost sister, Fidelia, marriage was the last thing on his mind. In fact, marriage wasn’t on his mind at all since Annabelle was claiming Fidelia said she was to be married to Cailean... which wasn’t really true. The sad truth was, when Fidelia fell on hard times she had no one to turn to. And the only path open to her was the bordello of the town. She had been estranged from her family for many years and lost a husband or a fiancé, the reason why she left home to begin with because her father wasn’t amenable to the match. We still don’t know the entire story, which I can only imagine, would be revealed on her own book. Whereas Fidelia was the beautiful sister, Annabelle was the plump, reclusive one. She liked baking and eked out a living off of that. After their father died, however, is when she felt she can seek her sister out and try to amend the rift. But it wasn’t to be. Fidelia, who still held grudge that Annabelle didn’t help her when she needed it the most, refused any help now, ignoring her sister’s plea of leaving the bordello. Annabelle promises to work on it until she understood that she has a family to turn to now.
While she was on her mission to save Fidelia, Annabelle also opened the first bakery of the town. She left St. Louis and there was nothing for her to go back to. Soon, one thing led to another and she found herself married to the grumpy livery owner, one of the most sought after bachelors of the town. Their path to HEA was anything but smooth, their relationship quite fragile. Too many misunderstandings and each pushing other away (Cailean could be an a$$ when he’s of a mind to it) left its negative mark on my enjoyment. BUT I liked the idea of the story, the introduction to a new setting and new characters.
Montana Grit is the story of Alistair and his fiancée Leticia Browne. They’ve known each-other for a while, fell in love and been engaged for the same amount of time. The town was waiting for them to finally tie the knot. Leticia was one of those few people who welcomed Annabelle with open arms, even helping her opening the bakery when she needed another pair of hands badly. Because when the townspeople knew of her relationship with Fidelia (or Charity as she went by), many were hoping she’d also join her sister, trying to besmirch her name whenever they could. Leticia still helps Annabelle since her baked goods are so high in demand now that she never lacks of orders. It’s also probably one of these things, alongside her marriage to Cailean, that helped Annabelle find a strong footing in the town. Now it was Leticia’s turn. So when they finally set up a date, Leticia takes a few days off to prepare for that one most anticipated day of her life.
Leticia had been married before and has a child of 5 yrs, Hortence (can’t say I liked that name on a sweet little girl like her). But she has been hiding a dark secret, something that led her to delay the marriage as long as possible. But it couldn’t be delayed any longer. Everybody was getting impatient. Busybodies were already after her for keeping Alistair waiting for so long.... even Alistair was getting impatient. Unfortunately, on the day of her wedding, her one worst nightmare becomes reality when her estranged husband returns to ruin everything for her. When her seemingly disturbing story was revealed in aplomb by the horrid man, everyone was left flabbergasted, and Alistair heartbroken at the treachery of the one woman he’d loved. How is it that she couldn’t trust him that bit, couldn’t even think of confiding in him? That she was still married, when the whole town knew her to be a widow?
Everyone was so quick to judge Leticia, no one asked the questions that begged to be asked: What made Leticia not even trust Alistair with her secret when everyone knew them to be in love? What was she hiding from? If this man was the one she was hiding from, why exactly was she hiding?
Regrettably, what Leticia was trying to hide was the fact that her past isn’t as neat and clean as she’d made everyone believe. In fact, she knew that if some of what she was forced to do because of her first husband, would’ve marked her as a woman of bad reputation and her destination would’ve been the bordello, instead of the school where she’d worked as the teacher for the past few yrs. And even though she loved Alistair, she wasn’t sure he’d be so understanding when her past was revealed (ironical because that’s exactly what happens). Leticia, it’d seem, was just waiting for the axe to fall while also hoping that her husband would never find out about her new destination. She hated him, and didn’t want to be found ever. She also had hoped he was dead by now. Yes, her reasoning was faulty but I couldn’t blame her seeing what happens next. With a child to take care of, she had to do whatever it takes to survive, as respectably as possible for her.
Hence starts the unfortunately ‘big misunderstanding’ of the story. Alistair did a horrible thing after the broken wedding by visiting the bordello. He had been true to Leticia before the disaster but would that he’d act matured. *SMH* I did NOT like it and didn’t think he couldn’t be more of an a$$ to think that shagging a prostitute will make him feel like a man. Really? Of course nothing was described in detail but the implication was there. Leticia tried to explain a few times, he won’t give her a chance at first. For days. In the meantime, her nasty husband would come by and threat her. Mentally abuse her. He’d nag her to have her leave with him so he can continue fleecing people off of their valuables in the card game. Leticia was to be a distraction with her blonde beauty. We’re never told what else she did but it seemed like her charms worked so well that it was quite a profitable venture for him until she ran away. So the guy won’t leave her be. He wouldn’t acknowledge Hortence as his, but threatened Leticia nonetheless with the child’s well-being.
Annabelle, who knew a bit of struggle of her own and how much of an a$$ MacKinnons can be when they’re cross, tried her best to help Leticia; from horrible gossips and from the nasty old biddies who were out to do anything to see Leticia kicked out of the town. There were times I did sympathize with Alistair cause his reasoning were sound. Like Leticia had enough time to explain but she never did. However, there were times I wanted to smack him on the head with something for not giving her the chance when she was asking for it. If he loved her that much, he’d have listened to her and not make a muck of it, then drag it on. He was an utter a$$. I did quite a bit of SMH and eyerolling at his antics. Poor Leticia, I felt heartsick for her, when she finally felt she had no other choice but to leave with her scoundrel of a husband. She gathered Hortence would be the safest if she’s with the MacKinnons and they loved her, so despite the hurt and the possibility that she’d never see her little girl again, Leticia leaves Hortence behind.
When Leticia vanished without a trace leaving Annabelle distraught, with her Cailean too, Alistair felt like he’s missed out on his chance to show her that he still loved her. Cailean’s buddy, a lawyer named Warren, stepped in to help Alistair sort out this mess. Now all he had to do is the chase her to wherever her husband had taken her and save her. He had to convince her to divorce the man and come home with him. But would Leticia give him that chance? After all, he had been an idiot and an a$$ to her (he acknowledges so himself later in the story) and may have killed any chance he may had with her.
My main problem was, again, those regretful misunderstandings and the H and h pushing each-other away. Not giving each-other the time to finally talk until it’s too late. I was TBH frustrated as hell. Did I say I thought Alistair to be the calmest of 3 brothers, the one with a sound head on his shoulders? Who can reason and see reason without being blinded by anger? I take it back. -_- Actually, if I’m brutally honest, that illusion was shattered the moment he went to the brothel. Then, in the middle of the story when I thought he was finally coming around, he listens to another bit of gossip of Leticia kissing her husband (which was NOT true) and immediately assumes the worst again. Good God. :/ So where is the trust? Could I believe that they’d maintain the fragile trust they formed, even though they’ve had their HEA and Alistair promised to not jump to conclusions ever again? Could he stick to that promise in the long run? I really don’t know but I wished them all the best.
After all said and done, I do feel invested in the characters because I want to read about the remaining MacKinnon siblings’ stories. I’ve quite enjoyed their banters in the past. Ewan is getting his book next in Montana Maverick, maybe Sorcha’s will follow soon. There’s also Fidelia and I do hope she’ll get the chance to tell her story. I’m super thankful that Ramona is considering a book for Helen too! If you’ve read the first two books, you’ll understand why I’m surprised but pleased as well. She deserves her HEA so bad, poor girl. :( I’m thoroughly intrigued by whatever ‘history’ she and Warren share and her book is not far behind! 3.5 stars for Montana Grit.