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Joan Johnston's, "The Loner" is the third in the Bitter Creek series. The stories of family feuds between the Blackthornes and Creeds, and Romeo and Juliette type romances over many years. These are the modern day ancestors of the Sisters of the Lone Star series("Frontier Woman", "Comanche Woman", and "Texas Woman"), which is a prequel to Bitter Creek. "The Loner" follows, "The Texan", and "The Cowboy".
If you have read those first two in the series, you shouldn't have too much trouble following the intricacies of the family trees. Also there is some mention of previous characters and their roles touched upon in the story. If you haven't read the other two, I would highly recommend those first, to get a better idea of the complicated history these feudin' folks have with each other. This is the first in the Joan Johnston's books, that I felt would probably not stand on it's own.
"The Loner", is the story of "Bad" Billy Coburn", the illegitimate son of the Blackthorne patriarch(Blackjack), and Summer Blackthorne, heiress to the Bitter Creek fortune, and daughter of Blackjack. Okay now, don't worry, it had already been established that Summer was not really the biological daughter of Blackjack(see what I mean, it can get very complicated). There are other star-crossed love affairs going on as well. The older generation, has a serious and deadly triangle going on, and "Sam", the eldest of the Creed siblings - who you will remember from the first story is in a wheelchair due to one of the Blackthorne kids - has also fallen in love, and almost off the wagon as well! Whew! are you with me so far?
So there are a ton of romantic complications, and there is even a homicide to be solved, although the reader will already know who is at fault, even though the characters will try to solve the case on their own. This story though, was not up to par with the others of Miss Johnston's wonderful works. The others in both the Lone Star and the Bitter Creek series always had some other exciting, page turner, intriguing adventure going on. Miss Johnston had previously seemed to do much research to support the sub-plots. Often even a bit of a history lesson was gained from the read as well. This story had none of that.
Even without the adventure, if you have already been reading the Bitter Creek series, you will want to read this one to catch up with the family story before moving on the the next one, "The Price". "The Loner" wrapped up some of the story lines nicely, and was good but not great as far as romance novels go. I personally prefer a little more of the action and adventure to go along with it.
One of these days, one of the characters will fall for someone who isn't part of the family feud, and that should make for a pretty fresh take. So a bit predictable, but worth the read for fans of the series.