The Devil You Know


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"After a horse drags him through the countryside, Israel McKenna awakes bruised and battered in a field in Pancake Valley, Colorado. He can recall where he came from and where he was going, but the memory of how he came to be on the Pancake homestead eludes him. He's certain he did something wrong to deserve such a harsh punishment--and so is the beautiful woman who reluctantly comes to his aid"--Page 4 of cover.

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May 7, 2016

Another Winner from Jo Goodman

By its nature, a romance novel has an evolved plot line: Boy and girl meet, they resolve issues and walk into the sunset together. Well, Jo Goodman has set this tried-and-true method on its ear. Nothing in this novel seemed to be a sure thing; just when I'd accepted things were a certain way, I found that there were other truths that changed things. It is really hard to explain this unique story.

If you have read many of my reviews, I dislike amnesia stories. Period. But the author did such a superb job that I had no trouble accepting the hero's loss of memory; it seemed realistic and a likely result of his injuries.

Young Annalea Pancake finds a man more dead than alive on the family's property. He is in terrible shape because unknown characters have drug his body behind a horse and left him to die. When Annalea runs home to get help, we meet some strange characters. The father of the family is called Happy, but he isn't. The elder daughter (Willa) is deeply suspicious of the injured man; she calls her father 'Happy' instead of Pa. Happy spends so much time inside a liquor bottle that Willa runs the ranch. This story is fascinating because there are tensions in the family but no one is talking. The author spaces out tiny pieces of the truth over the 400+ pages.

If that weren't enough, there are tensions between the Pancakes and the Barbers, the large ranch neighboring Pancake Valley. The problems are of such long standing that no one needs to air the grievances. Everyone but Israel McKenna (the injured man), Annalea (the young girl) and the reader understand the hostilities between the two ranches.

Willa seems to be a singularly unattractive person; she's as hard as flint. However, Israel -- an extremely observant man -- starts to figure her out. Thankfully, he helps us understand what makes Willa as she is. Slowly, Israel helps her to change.

When the story opens and Annalea asks Israel what kind of a man he is, the suffering man tells her that he is a bad man. As Israel's memory starts to return, he realizes that he must share his past with Willa. The story of Israel's previous life is a bitter pill for Willa.

FYI: This is the second story of the McKenna brothers. They are standalone stories, but I understood some things about the situation because I had read the opening novel first.

This is definitely a multi-layered story.

The McKenna Brothers Series
This Gun for Hire
The Devil You Know

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