Montana Renegade

Montana Renegade (Bear Grass Springs Book 4)  - Ramona Flightner

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Bear Grass Springs is the newest series by Ramona Flightner and Montana Renegade is the latest installment. Even though, regrettably, I hadn’t been able to connect with the series like her previous series Banished Saga, I’ve been eagerly waiting for this one. Why you ask? Because this story has been in the making since the beginning of this series.

Whereas Banished Saga is set in the early 20th century America, Bear Grass Springs is set in the 1880s Montana. It’s also quite different that Banished Saga in the sense that each story ends in your traditional HEA. 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.

Book 1, Montana Untamed, introduces us to the MacKinnon brothers Cailean, Alistair and Ewan and their younger sister, Sorcha. They came to America from Scotland to settle down after they were forced from their lands. Cailean and Alistair are very successful livery owners, the only one in the small town of Bear Grass Springs. Ewan’s skills lie with carpentry, which the people of the town appreciated, so he’s been doing good as well. Both well-liked and respected among the people and, alongside Ewan, they’re also well sought after bachelors. There were certain people had seemingly been tripping over themselves to get the MacKinnons to marry their daughters. 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 coming to Bear Grass Springs 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 without any help, she became a prostitute. 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. 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. While she was on her mission to save Fidelia, Annabelle also opens the first bakery of the town. Soon, one thing led to another and she found herself married to the grumpy livery owner. 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.

Book 2, Montana Grit, is centered on Alistair and his fiancée, Leticia. They had been engaged ever since Leticia arrived in Bear Grass Springs with her little daughter Hortence in toe. She claimed to be a widow and her attraction to Alistair was instant. They have been courting ever since but she had put the marriage on hold until now. Every gossipy biddy on the town has been wagering on their match, and to put a stop to it, they decide to marry after Cailean and Annabelle’s wedding. Unfortunately, on her wedding day, very conveniently, Leticia’s long estranged husband decides to show his ugly mug and destroys any chance at happiness. After this unfortunate incident, the wedding is ruined and Alistair spends the night at the town’s bordello to ‘feel like a man again after such a betrayal’. Uh, okay... Personally, for me, that was strike one against him. After that, instead of confronting Leticia as to why she hid such a massive secret from him, he begins to ignore her. He remains in denial of anything other than his own ‘I’m-the-victim’ state. If I had any sympathy for him in the beginning, I lost it as well as any respect I may have had thinking he was the brother with a level head. So much for that! Instead, my sympathies through the entire story lay with Leticia after reading about her past, and what she went through in the hands of that nasty man she refuses to consider her husband even if they’re still married. She ran away and created a new identity not only to save herself but also to save her daughter whom the man refused to acknowledge as his own, which Hortence undoubtedly is. It was a mess TBH. I’ll give it to Alistair that he later acknowledges his a$$holly behavior and asks for forgiveness to Leticia. But the amount of distrust he’s shown for her throughout the story begs the question whether he could keep on trusting her, or lose his sh!t when the next trouble heads their way.

Montana Maverick, book 3, is the story of Ewan, the more easy-going brother. He wasn’t paired with anyone before, and his penchant for the bordello made it look like he had no plans of settling down anytime soon. TBH he didn’t make any mark on me even though I didn’t dislike him or anything. Sadly, his story was also the most disappointing to say the least where he wasn’t even the reason behind my disappointment. At the end of book 2, there was the hint that Ewan was going to be paired with the newly arrived town newspaper editor/reporter/printer with the name of JP McMahon. In the beginning, everyone thought it was man they’re hiring. However, it wasn’t. JP finally turns out to be Jessamine, a new character to the series.

I won’t go into details, but this; Jessamine was ruthless. She’d do anything for a story that will run her newspaper and earn her money. When I say anything, I mean it. She didn’t care how many people she hurt or whose feelings she trampled on and how many lives she destroyed. She targeted anyone she could find in such a small town; whatever news, however gossipy it was, she’d publish that. She targets the town gossipy biddy Mrs. Jameson’s daughter Helen on more than one occasion. She targets Leticia, trying to do a sensational story of her sad past when that she was trying hard to forget. She targets Bears, a part Native, part White man who was in partnership with Cailean and Alistair, running the livery. Who didn’t need any more trouble than he already got from being a so-called ‘half-breed’ at a time when racism was so rampant. And the list goes on. But Ewan has been her steady target from day 1, with stories less than sterling. I’d say most of what she ‘reported’ on him was either inane or humiliating. A big chunk of it based on gossip. Ewan wasn’t amused in the beginning and truth be told, I was getting fed up with Jessamine as I read on. My review of book 3 details it all. I, simply put, found her to be an annoying twit who thought she was something she never was.

At any case, I didn’t know why Ewan suddenly started caring for her when she was bend on bringing unhappiness everywhere, including his own family. Never got their chemistry, and I thought there was no logic to anything that happened Romance-wise. In the end, the author tried to ‘redeem’ Jessamine by throwing in some excuses for her behavior and showing us that she may have had a change of heart after her marriage to Ewan. But by then I could care less and wanted to move on to the next book. She’s not a person I’ll ever trust.

Helen Jameson has been one of the characters in this series since the beginning. I rarely, if ever, mentioned her in my reviews because her circumstances were never good and I never felt like bashing her in any way. Living with the meanest mother ever Helen’s life has been pretty much hell. Though in the beginning it was difficult to know whether she was her mother’s daughter or not, I always felt there was more to what meets the eyes where she was concerned. Though Helen did what her mother bid her to do (or shall I say forced, coerced, sometimes even beat her into submission), the author gave us plenty of hints that all was not how it seemed. Montana Renegade, book 4, is Helen’s story.

Helen had been forced by her mother to do WHATEVER it takes to snatch one of the MacKinnon brothers when they were bachelors. I sat by with Warren Clark the town lawyer, watching her disgrace herself with in the process because no one, not even the MacKinnons, wanted her as a part of their family just because of how her family was. Yep, even the elder brother was a true mother’s son, mean and nasty and made Helen’s life hell because they thought she wasn’t anyway useful unless she’s bringing them the cash they want, greedy as they are. Marrying one of the MacKinnons would’ve given them that opportunity. But Helen couldn’t really convince any of them to marry her. She was very desperate yet she wouldn’t turn to Warren who obviously cared for her, as was shown throughout.

It left me wondering why Helen would do this to herself and not give him a chance. Initially I thought it was a one-sided thing from Warren but with each installment, it became clearer that wasn’t the case. There was definitely a history between them that made Helen avoid Warren, who I personally thought was a good man. He also earned well and was renowned in his professional arena. What in the world happened? I was hoping that the author would consider Helen’s story because that’s only fair after dropping hints after hints about them.

I was so glad to FINALLY have read Warren and Helen’s story after 3 installments and I thank the author for writing it. This is probably the best one in the series because I wanted to find out more, and wasn’t disappointed.

It seemed like Helen and Warren had a brief affair, more specifically a one night stand, 3 yrs. ago. Helen was kinda naïve back then, though her mother was still mean to her. Maybe not to the extent she was presently cause she wanted to wash her hands off Helen given she got a hefty cashback in return. In that regard, Helen has been a ‘disappointment’ to her so far. Helen and Warren had known each-other even longer than their time together, ever since Warren came to Bear Grass Springs to begin his practice. I don’t know how long but must’ve been over 6 yrs. because she was pretty young when he arrived. Warren had liked her since the beginning, and as time went by, they became friends… then, one night when something happened and Warren drank a few too many glasses, they ended up in bed together.

Things went horribly wrong the next day. All I can tell you there were many misunderstandings where Helen’s mother manipulated things, praying on her vulnerabilities. Helen had (still has) low self-esteem, thanks to her mother’s nasty barbs and jibes on how ‘fat and plain’ she was and how no man will ever be interested in her. That b!tch made Helen think Warren took advantage of her and now doesn’t want her anymore. This broke them apart, with Helen never forgiving Warren, who was told Helen won’t marry him or even care for him since she’s got better prospects to look forward to. Sigh.

The misunderstanding went deeper than it looked and the chasm it created was getting bigger each year. Even though Warren tried to talk to Helen, she was still so hurt from what she thought he thought about her that she resolutely avoided him as much as was possible. Yes, her life was a hell created by the two people who should’ve been her lifeline; people on whom she should’ve been able to rely on. Her father left them when she was quite young, and as we learn later, Helen’s mother even manipulated this story to fit her own agenda; to control her offspring however she wanted them to so they never want to know more about their father. What really happened, along with many other secrets, is revealed later in the story with quite the twist!

At the end of book 3, it seemed like Helen had finally had enough. She ran from her home to do something so drastic that it was the most ridiculous thing ever! All so her mother would stop hounding her to marry this cousin of theirs who was equally as mean as her mother and brother. She went to the ‘virgin auction’ that was taking place in the town brothel. She was already feeling scared and dizzy but I didn’t know it was also because she wasn’t sure what’s gonna happen when it’s found she isn’t a virgin anyway!

Thankfully, this time Warren put his foot down. Whatever happened, he wasn’t sitting there and let Helen do something this stupid. After getting the news from one of the MacKinnon brothers, he went in the brothel, threatened the Madam with some twisty lawsuit and brought Helen home, who was so dazed from the series of incidents that she went with him quite meekly. Truth be told, she was relieved that Warren came to her rescue; that he cared enough to do so. How unimaginably sad that she thought no one would care enough... :(

Whereas this gallant step of Warren’s should’ve start melting the ice, nothing goes that easy. Helen, though thankful for his help, still had her fear and low self-esteem getting in the way. The chasm created by a nasty mother and the years in between was difficult to overcome, especially where she thought Warren found her unattractive. Seriously, after her first sexual encounter, that’s not what a girl wants to hear even if didn’t come from the man himself. One can question why Helen never confronted Warren. But you have to read to get her situation and why she was so scared and always hesitating. It was maybe that hearing it from his mouth would destroy her completely because she was already more than halfway in love with him. Remember, they were friends before that. I just wish Warren acted on her behalf. But he was also misled and had his own issues that kept him from pursuing her actively. I can only imagine the years wasted when Helen could’ve been under Warren’s protection and her nasty family couldn’t abuse her ever again!

It takes a few weeks for them to begin opening up about what had happened 3 yrs. ago and why, when they should be married and together, they aren’t. In the meantime, Helen’s family was now spreading lies about Helen’s character and her questionable stay at Warren’s home, who was a bachelor. By then Helen and Warren had talked, though she was hesitating saying ‘yes’ to him. Yep, Warren had already proposed because that was the only viable solution. And of course, he wanted her, though Helen was still unsure. I didn’t blame her but was glad she was slowly, but surely, coming around.

When I thought Warren would be able to succeed is when the author decided to throw in the usual utterly dumb misunderstanding. The men in this series are infected with this thing, where, when they’re in love, they act like idiots and do things that I don’t expect from them. Any trouble and the first thing they do is to distrust the person they claim to love. Oh boy! Helen’s brother (or was it her mother?) put some maggot inside Warren’s head about Helen having an affair with the café owners’ grandson Frederick, and he falls for it! Um, really Warren?? REALLY???? Because Helen was reluctant to marry him, his first thought was she was seeing someone else or had someone else in her mind. I mean, c’mon, you just rescued her from a brothel where she went cause she didn’t freakin’ know where else to go. Thought no one would ever help her! She chose one hell over the other because she thought that was the better option!!! *SMH*

I know this review is getting longer but I was so disappointed in Warren. One night, he returns from his practice to find Helen not in her room. When she returns the early next morning, he just throws her out of his home. He wouldn’t give her a chance to explain because Frederick, a successful ranch owner on his own, was accompanying her.

Lord help me! *facepalm*

If I ever thought Warren gallant, and a gentleman, my image of him was completely ruined by his idiocy.

So, in actuality, where was Helen? If you can remember, told you Helen had more to offer. She had been secretly training to be a midwife under the town midwife’s guidance. Though I understood why she had to keep it a secret from her family, I wasn’t sure how she managed to keep it a secret for a year or so. One could ask though, why she didn’t take up on the profession to support herself. Again, you have to read to understand just how her nasty and manipulative her family was and how completely they tried to destroy her personality so they can manipulate her forever. So many doubts were put inside Helen that even when she was pretty good at midwifery, she hadn’t the courage to take it up as a profession.

At any case, this part of the story dimmed my enjoyed a bit because, though I was still cheering on for Helen, I was really disappointed in Warren. But he does realize soon enough how dumb he’s been and that it’s possible he’s burned any bridge with Helen with what he did KNOWING how badly her family treated her. I mean, I can’t even........ Sigh. Warren begins drinking again thinking he’s just destroyed any chance at his own happiness falling for the same manipulation that Helen must’ve been a victim of all her life. But with the help of the MacKinnon brothers, Warren finally picks himself up and apologizes, proposing to Helen again, promising not to be an a$$hole again. This time though Helen doesn’t hesitate to say yes because she’d had enough of the separation and the misery it brought both of them. Secretly she was hoping Warren would apologize and explain cause she also felt guilty of not confiding to him early on, to avoid exactly the same thing that happened between them.

I was quite happy when they finally married cause it was long time coming. Unfortunately, Helen’s family wasn’t done yet. They were planning to create more trouble for her, and now Warren too, so they can never be happy...

I can go on and on, but the review will be even longer than it already is so I’ll stop here. Apart from that stupid misunderstanding and the occasional cheesiness, I loved the story. I was extremely happy to see Helen’s transformation. It’s still a work in progress, but I’d say it out loud that she is a fighter. Even after everything, she didn’t give up on life. I say she deserved all the happiness in the world. The story had its own twist and turns and surprising revelations (like the one with her father) that kept me turning the pages. 4 stars.

I don’t know who is going to get the next book in the series since there has been no indication of any sort, or pre-order up. I think it maybe Sorcha who already has something going on with Frederick. Either way, I can’t wait to find out!