After Hudson Savage betrayed her, Dana Cardwell hoped never to lay eyes on the seductive cowboy again. Until a bunch of old bones showed up on her family ranch. Suddenly her former lover was back in her life in a big way to investigate a decades-old crime.

Five years ago, Hud left town with a heart load of regrets. But now, as acting interim marshal, he had a job to do. And this time he wasn’t walking away. Because now Dana’s life was on the line-as the unsuspecting target of a killer who still walked the canyon. Hud would do whatever it took to keep Dana close. Even if it meant risking his own heart for a second chance for both of them.

Titles in the Montana Mystique series include – Crime Scene at Cardwell Ranch – Keeping Christmas – Big Sky Standoff – Justice at Cardwell Ranch – Cardwell Ranch Trespasser 

*note – there are connected series including Cardwell Cousins and Cardwell Ranch: Montana Legacy

Title:  Crime Scene at Cardwell Ranch
Series:  Montana Mystique #1
Author:  B.J. Daniels
Genre:  Romantic Suspense, Modern Western Romance
Published: original 2004
Publisher:  Harlequin Intrigue
My Rating:  4 stars

In my reading life, there are so many books that I’ve never reviewed because I read them long before Keeper Bookshelf was even a remote whisper of an idea to talk with others about books through reviews.  I grew up with the various Harlequin lines but there were a few that drew me back over and over again – one was Harlequin Intrigue (actually still is), especially the ones with a Modern Western Romance feel to the mystery.  So, of course, I very often ended up reading a lot of B.J. Daniels’ books and series over the years.  And when there is a new connecting series to one that I’ve followed I’ll often do a re-read of that series to catch myself up on the history or background.  With the new Cardwell Ranch: Montana Legacy series launching recently, well, I went back again.  Only this time I can leave reviews for a series I’ve enjoyed over the years.

In many ways, Dana and Hud’s romance is the beginning of a kind of legacy which will, over time, include cousins, friends and a new generation living around and connected to the Cardwell Ranch.  It’s a legacy that almost never happened because of lies, deception, and a murder in the past and attempted murder in their future.  At one time, Hud and Dana were deeply in love, planning a future together until those lies and deceptions tore them apart.  Dana’s refusal to listen to Hud’s side and Hud taking off to Los Angeles put the end to any future they might have had.  Until human bones were found in a well on the Cardwell Ranch which brought Hud back home opening old wounds, searching for answers to a decades-old murder, and protecting the woman he’s never stopped loving from the danger she is now in.

While I enjoyed CRIME SCENE AT CARDWELL RANCH very much, I do have to admit that there are several story threads to keep track of both in the present and in the past.  Add to that some necessary world building with two very stubborn main characters and you have an intriguing yet at times frustrating beginning to this series.  Dana’s siblings caused her such pain on several fronts.  Even knowing what I do about this series I can still not like them very much at all in this first story.  Hud ran from the problems that those lies and deceptions began.  I always understood his frustration and anger at the events that happened back then but also could wish that he had stayed to face them down and learn the truth for himself and for Dana.  But I also understood that sometimes things destroy us so deeply that leaving is the only choice to remain sane.  Dana’s stubbornness often drove me to clenched teeth and growling at her actions.  Hud and Dana will find their way back to each other, but it is a very dangerous and rocky road to get to that point.  Add to that drama an old murder mystery to solve with interesting results and you have a complex yet completely enjoyable Romance/Mystery.

I own a paperback edition (somewhere in storage boxes) and a newer Kindle edition of this title.

Available in paperback and for the Kindle