Published by HQN on February 19, 2019
Purchase: Amazon, Barnes & Noble
He’s hoping to bury the past. She’s ready to settle the score.
The Sterling Ranch’s season opening isn’t going so smoothly. With the ranch’s lodge full of guests and a Montana blizzard threatening, Will Sterling needs help—and he needs it fast. So when his childhood friend Poppy Carmichael agrees to lend a hand, he’s grateful for a second chance…and more enticed by the woman she’s become than he cares to admit.
For Poppy, it was supposed to be a retreat full of horse rides and hoedowns—with a side of showing Will what he’s been missing all these years. But as the snow deepens outside, the guests’ suspicion and mistrust turn sinister inside, catching Will and Poppy in the crosshairs.
Weathering the storm in each other’s arms is all too easy for Will and Poppy, but will a confrontation with a killer mean their reunion is short-lived?
New York Times and USA TODAY bestselling author B.J. Daniels starts her Sterling’s Ranch series off with a bang in this suspenseful story of romance and revenge.
~~Reviewed by Monique~~
Will Sterling was asked by Big Jack Hanson, a friend of Will’s late father’s, to let him use the Sterling Montana Guest Ranch for a retreat in the off-season. Will was reluctant, fearing an unexpected snowstorm, and with his cook sidelined with a broken leg, it was less than ideal. Will’s brother Garrett suggests he ask Poppy Carmichael, who owns a catering business. Given what had happened when they last saw each other, Will is not exactly enthused but he needs a cook. It’s only four days after all. From the moment the guests arrive, the tension that surrounds Big Jack Hanson and his entourage could be cut with a knife. Dorothea, the Ranch’s superstitious housekeeper, has a feeling that something bad is going to happen.
The first chapter gave me the impression of stepping into a cowboy Agatha Christie mystery; unfortunately, it went downhill from there. The slow pace, the repetitions, exposition, and stating the obvious failed to capture my attention. I felt indifferent as to what happened to whom because I didn’t feel invested in what was going on. The suspense part improved somewhat after the 75% mark, for a little while. My biggest issue though was with the romance, which might not bother most readers. Will and Poppy hadn’t seen each other in twenty years. At twelve years old, Poppy was wildly in love with the then fifteen-year-old Will. She had planned to use those four days to exact revenge on Will, for a peccadillo. Why would someone carry a torch for twenty years over a childhood crush? Had Poppy pined after Will for twenty years? I felt the timeline was all wrong: if only ten years had passed, it would have been more believable, particularly since Poppy has no backstory to speak of. So after twenty years, he saw her, he fell in lust with her looks then her cooking. She crushed even more on the thirty-five-year-old Will; for the little that was mentioned, their youthful friendship didn’t come across as anything special. I thought she seemed rather pathetic, and he didn’t fare much better. Dorothea, however, is marvellous, as are Lamar and Mick Hanson – Big Jack’s sons – those are well-defined characters. Because of all the food and the three recipes at the end, STROKE OF LUCK reminded me more of a cozy mystery than what I expect from a B.J. Daniels romantic suspense. I’m not sure what happened with this book.
I voluntarily read and reviewed an advanced reader copy of this book. All thoughts and opinions are my own.