Big Sky Mountain

Big Sky Mountain

3.9 141
by Linda Lael Miller
     
 

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With his rugged good looks, vast wealth and family name, hell-raiser Hutch Carmody is still the golden boy of Parable, Montana. But he's done some growing up—making peace with his illegitimate half brother and inheriting half of Whisper Creek Ranch, which should have been all his. These days, Hutch knows there are some things money can't buy: like

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Overview

With his rugged good looks, vast wealth and family name, hell-raiser Hutch Carmody is still the golden boy of Parable, Montana. But he's done some growing up—making peace with his illegitimate half brother and inheriting half of Whisper Creek Ranch, which should have been all his. These days, Hutch knows there are some things money can't buy: like the heart of loving, ladylike divorcée Kendra Shepherd.

Kendra's quiet mansion reminds her of what she wants most—a devoted husband and the pitter-patter of little feet. She can't get Hutch Carmody out of her mind. But a rough-and-tumble cowboy like Hutch, coming home for family dinner? Seems crazy! Then again, crazier dreams have become reality under the vast Montana sky.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"Miller tugs at the heartstrings as few authors can." -Publishers Weekly

"Miller's ability to bring a cast of characters to life is on full display here . . . the veteran romance author doesn't disappoint in her sizzling love scenes and fine sense of place."– Publishers Weekly on McKettrick's Luck

"Linda Lael Miller creates vibrant characters and stories I defy you to forget."—#1 New York Times bestselling author Debbie Macomber

"Miller's masterful ability to create living, breathing characters never flags, even in the case of Echo's dog, Avalon; combined with a taut story line and vivid prose, Miller's romance won't disappoint."– Publishers Weekly on McKettrick's Pride (starred review)

"Miller excels at creating extended-family dynamics in an authentic western small-town setting and richly populating her stories with animal as well as human characters."-Booklist on A Creed in Stone Creek

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780373776610
Publisher:
Harlequin
Publication date:
07/31/2012
Pages:
384
Sales rank:
272,967
Product dimensions:
4.28(w) x 6.46(h) x 1.01(d)

Read an Excerpt

A fine sweat broke out between Hutch Carmody's shoulders and his gut warned that he was fixing to stumble straight into the teeth of a screeching buzz saw. The rented tux itched against his hide and his collar seemed to be getting tighter with every flower-scented breath he drew. The air was dense, weighted, cloying. The small church was overheated, especially for a sunny day in mid-June, and the pews were crammed with eager guests, a few weeping women and a fair number of skeptics.

Hutch's best man, Boone Taylor, fidgeted beside him.

The organist sounded a jarring chord and then launched into a perky tune Hutch didn't recognize. The first of three bridesmaids, all clad in silly-looking pink dresses more suited to little girls than grown women—in his opinion anyhow—drag-stepped her way up the aisle to stand beside the altar, across from him and Boone.

Hutch's head reeled, but he quickly reminded himself, silently of course, that he had to live in this town—his ranch was just a few miles outside of it. If he passed out cold at his own wedding, he'd still be getting ribbed about it when he was ninety.

While the next bridesmaid started forward, he did his distracted best to avoid so much as glancing toward Brylee Parrish, his wife to be, who was standing at the back of the church beside her brother, Walker. He knew all too well how good she looked in that heirloom wedding gown of hers, with its billowing veil and dazzling sprinkle of rhinestones.

Brylee was beautiful, with cascades of red-brown hair that tumbled to her waist when she let it down. Her wide-set hazel eyes revealed passion, as well as formidable intelligence, humor and a country girl's in-born practicality.

He was a lucky man.

Brylee, on the other hand, was not so fortunate, having hooked up with the likes of him. She deserved a husband who loved her.

Suddenly, Hutch's gaze connected with that of his half brother, Slade Barlow. Seated near the front, next to his very pregnant wife, Joslyn, Slade slowly shook his head from side to side, his expression so solemn that a person would have thought somebody was about to be buried instead of hitched to one of the choicest women Parable County had ever produced.

Hutch's insides churned, then coalesced into a quivering gob and did a slow, backward roll.

The last bridesmaid had arrived.

The minister was in place.

The smell of the flowers intensified, nearly overwhelming Hutch.

And then the first notes of "Here Comes the Bride" rang out.

Hutch felt the room—hell, the whole planet—sway again.

Brylee, beaming behind the thin fabric of her veil, nodded in response to something her brother whispered to her and they stepped forward.

"Hold it," Hutch heard himself say loudly enough to be heard over the thundering joy of the organ. He held up both hands, like a referee about to call a foul in some fast-paced game. "Stop." everything halted—with a sickening lurch.

The music died.

The bride and her brother seemed frozen in mid-stride.

Hutch would have sworn the universe itself had stopped expanding.

"This is all wrong," he went on miserably, but with his back straight and his head up. It wasn't as if he hadn't broached the subject with Brylee before—he'd been trying to get out of this fix for weeks. Just the night before, in fact, he'd sat Brylee down in a vinyl upholstered booth at the Silver Lanes snack bar and told her straight out that he had serious misgivings about getting married and needed some breathing space.

Brylee had cried, her mascara smudging, her nose reddening at the tip.

"You don't mean it," she'd said, which was her standard response to any attempt he made to put on the brakes before they both plummeted over a matrimonial cliff. "You're just nervous, that's all. It's entirely normal. But once the wedding is over and we're on our honeymoon—"

Hutch couldn't stand it when a woman cried, especially when he was the cause of her tears. Like every other time, he'd backed down, tried to convince himself that Brylee was right—he just had cold feet, that was all.

Now, though, "push" had run smack up against "shove."

It was now or never.

He faced Brylee squarely.

The universe unfroze itself, like some big machine with rusted gears, and all hell broke loose.

Brylee threw down her bouquet, stomped on it once, whirled on one heel and rushed out of the church. Walker flung a beleaguered and not entirely friendly look in Hutch's direction, then turned to go after his sister.

The guests, already on their feet in honor of the bride, all started talking at once, abuzz with shock and speculation.

Things like this might happen in books or movies, but they didn't happen in Parable, Montana.

Until now, Hutch reflected dismally.

He started to follow Brylee out of the church, not an easy proposition with folks crowding the aisle. He didn't have the first clue what he could say to her, but he figured he had to say something.

Before he'd taken two strides, though, Slade and Boone closed in on him from either side, each taking a firm grip on one of his arms.

"Let her go," Boone said quietly.

"There's nothing you can do," Slade confirmed.

With that, they hustled him quickly out of the main chapel and into the small side room where the choir robes, hymnals and Communion gear were stored.

Hutch wondered if a lynch mob was forming back there in the sanctuary.

"You picked a fine time to change your mind about getting married," Boone remarked, but his tone was light and his eyes twinkled with something that looked a lot like relief.

Hutch unfastened his fancy tie and shoved it into one coat pocket. Then he opened his collar halfway to his breastbone and sucked in a breath. "I tried to tell her," he muttered. He knew it sounded lame, but the truth was the truth.

Although he and Slade shared a father, they had been at bloody-knuckled odds most of their lives. They'd made some progress toward getting along since the old man's death and the upheaval that followed, but neither of them related to the other as a buddy, let alone a brother.

"Come on out to our place," Slade said, surprising him. "You'd best lay low for a few hours. Give Brylee—and Walker—a little time to cool off."

Hutch stiffened slightly, though he found the invitation oddly welcome. Home, being Whisper Creek Ranch, was a lonely outpost these days—which was probably why he'd talked himself into proposing to Brylee in the first place.

"I have to talk to Brylee," he repeated.

"There'll be time for that later on," Slade reasoned.

"Slade's right," Boone agreed. Boone, being violently allergic to marriage himself, probably thought Hutch had just dodged a figurative bullet.

Or maybe he was remembering that Brylee was a crack shot with a pistol, a rifle, or a Civil War cannon.

Given what had just happened, she was probably leaning toward the cannon right about now.

Hutch sighed. "All right," he said to Slade. "I'll kick back at your place for a while—but I've got to stop off at home first, so I can change out of this monkey suit."

"Fine," Slade agreed. "I'll round up the women and meet you at the Windfall in an hour or two."

By "the women," Slade meant his lovely wife, Joslyn, his teenage stepdaughter, Shea, and Opal Dennison, the force-of-nature who kept house for the Barlow outfit. Slade's mother, Callie, had had the good grace to skip the ceremony—old scandals die hard in a town the size of Parable and recollections of her long-ago affair with Carmody Senior, from which Slade had famously resulted, were as sharp as ever.

Today's escapade would put all that in the shade, of course. Tongues were wagging and jaws were flapping for sure—by now, various up-to-the-minute accounts were probably popping up on all the major social media sites. Before Slade and Boone had dragged Hutch out of the sanctuary, he'd seen several people whip out their cell phones and start texting. A few pictures had been taken, too, with those same ubiquitous devices.

The thought of all that amateur reporting made Hutch close his eyes for a moment. "Shit," he murmured.

"Knee-deep and rising," Slade confirmed, sounding resigned.

Kendra sat at the antique table in her best friend Joslyn's kitchen, with Callie Barlow in the chair directly across from hers. The ranch house was unusually quiet, with its usual occupants gone to town.

A glance over one shoulder assured Kendra that her recently adopted four-year-old daughter, Madison, was still napping on a padded window seat, her stuffed purple kangaroo, Rupert, clenched in her arms. The little girl's gleaming hair, the color of a newly minted penny, lay in tousled curls around her cherubic face and Ken-dra felt the usual pang of hopeless devotion just looking at her.

This long-sought, hard-won, much-wanted child. This miracle.

Not that every woman would have seen the situation from the same perspective as Kendra did—Madison was, after all, living proof that Jeffrey had been unfaithful, a constant reminder that it was dangerous to love, treacherous to trust, foolish to believe in another person too much. But none of that had mattered to Kendra in the end—she'd essentially been abandoned herself as a small child, left to grow up with a disinterested grandmother, and that gave her a special affinity for Madison. Besides, Jeffrey, having returned to his native England after summarily ending their marriage, had been dying.

Some men might have turned to family for help in such a situation—Jeffrey Chamberlain came from a very wealthy and influential one—but in this case, that wasn't possible. Jeffrey's aging parents were landed gentry with a string of titles, several sprawling estates and a fortune that dated back to the heyday of the East India Company, and were no more inclined toward child-rearing than they had been when their own two sons were small. They'd left Jeffrey and his brother in the care of nannies and housekeepers from infancy, and shipped them off to boarding school as soon as they turned six.

Understandably, Jeffrey hadn't wanted that kind of cold and isolated childhood for his daughter.

So he'd sent word to Kendra that he had to see her, in person. He had something important to tell her.

She'd made that first of several trips to the U.K., keeping protracted vigils at her ex-husband's hospital bedside while he drifted in and out of consciousness.

Eventually, he'd managed to get his message across: he told her about Madison, living somewhere in the U.S., and begged Kendra to find his daughter, adopt her and bring her up in love and safety. She was, he told her, the only person on earth he could or would trust with the child.

Kendra wanted nothing so much as a child and, during their brief marriage, Jeffrey had denied her repeated requests to start a family. It was a bitter pill to swallow, learning that he'd refused her a baby and then fathered one with someone else, someone he'd met on a business trip.

She'd done what Jeffrey asked, not so much for his sake—though she'd loved him once, or believed she did—as for Madison's. And her own.

The search hadn't been an easy one, even with the funds Jeffrey had set aside for the purpose, involving a great deal of web-surfing, phone calls and emails, travel and so many highs and lows that she nearly gave up several times.

Then it happened. She found Madison.

Kendra hadn't known what she'd feel upon actually meeting her former husband's child, but any doubts she might have had had been dispelled the moment—the moment—she'd met this cautious, winsome little girl.

The first encounter had taken place in a social worker's dingy office, in a dusty desert town in California, and for Kendra, it was love at first sight.

The forever kind of love.

Months of legal hassles had followed, but now, at long last, Kendra and Madison were officially mother and daughter, in the eyes of God and government, and Kendra knew she couldn't have loved her baby girl any more if she'd carried her in her own body for nine months.

Callie brought Kendra back to the present moment by reaching for the teapot in the center of the table and refilling Kendra's cup, then her own.

"Do you think it's over yet?" Kendra asked, instantly regretting the question but unable to hold back still another. "The wedding, I mean?"

Callie's smile was gentle as she glanced at the clock on the stove top and met Kendra's gaze again. "Probably," she said quietly. Then, without another word, she reached out to give Kendra's hand a light squeeze.

Madison, meanwhile, stirred on the window seat.

"Mommy?"

Kendra turned again. "I'm here, honey," she said.

Although Madison was adjusting rapidly, in the resilient way of young children, she still had bad dreams sometimes and she tended to panic if she lost sight of Kendra for more than a moment.

"Are you hungry, sweetie?" Callie asked the little girl. Slade's mom would make a wonderful grandmother; she had a way with children, easy and forthright.

Madison shook her head as she moved toward Ken-dra and then scrambled up onto her lap.

"It's been a while since lunch," Kendra suggested, kissing the top of Madison's head and holding her close.

"Maybe you'd like a glass of milk and one of Opal's oatmeal raisin cookies?"

Again, Madison shook her head, snuggling closer still. "No, thank you," she said clearly, sounding, as she often did, more like a small adult than a four-year-old.

They'd arrived by car the night before and spent the night in the Barlows' guest room, at Joslyn's insistence.

The old house, the very heart of Windfall Ranch, was undergoing considerable renovation, which only added to the exuberant chaos of the place—and Madison was wary of everyone but Opal, the family housekeeper.

Just then, Slade and Joslyn's dog, Jasper, heretofore snoozing on his bed in front of the newly installed kitchen fireplace, sat bolt upright and gave a questioning little whine. His floppy ears were pitched slightly forward, though he seemed to be listening with his entire body. Joslyn's cat, Lucy-Maude, remained singularly unconcerned.

Madison looked at the animal with shy interest, still unsure whether to make friends with him or keep her distance.

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What People are saying about this

From the Publisher
Miller tugs at the heartstrings as few authors can." -Publishers Weekly

"Miller's ability to bring a cast of characters to life is on full display here . . . the veteran romance author doesn't disappoint in her sizzling love scenes and fine sense of place."– Publishers Weekly on McKettrick's Luck

"Linda Lael Miller creates vibrant characters and stories I defy you to forget."—#1 New York Times bestselling author Debbie Macomber

"Miller's masterful ability to create living, breathing characters never flags, even in the case of Echo's dog, Avalon; combined with a taut story line and vivid prose, Miller's romance won't disappoint."– Publishers Weekly on McKettrick's Pride

"Miller excels at creating extended-family dynamics in an authentic western small-town setting and richly populating her stories with animal as well as human characters."-Booklist on A Creed in Stone Creek

Meet the Author

The daughter of a town marshal, Linda Lael Miller is the author of more than 100 historical and contemporary novels. Now living in Spokane, Washington, the “First Lady of the West” hit a career high when all three of her 2011 Creed Cowboy books debuted at #1 on the New York Times list. In 2007, the Romance Writers of America presented her their Lifetime Achievement Award. She personally funds her Linda Lael Miller Scholarships for Women. Visit her at www.lindalaelmiller.com.

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Big Sky Mountain 3.9 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 141 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This is NOT the same author that wrote the McKettrick series and the Man from Stone Creek, Mojo Sheepshanks etc. Tear 10 pages out of this book and it would be appropriate for 2nd graders on how to treat a dog and a pony. For a very long time Ms. Miller was one of my top three authors but the last three books have all been the same. She has undertaken a one woman campaign on behalf of shelter animals to "educate the world". I am an animal lover who has owned countless dogs, cats, horses and cows during my 77 years and I have rescued my share but these books are just not up to her writing standards... Every page, every other word is about the antics and the care of animals. PLease go back to writing more of what you were famous for...
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I agree with other reviewers who felt this book spent more time on animals and children, despite how much we all love animals and children. Has it now become the prerequisite to writing Historical & Modern Western Romance novels that you also be an animal rights/animal shelter advocate who infuses her books with promoting that agenda, and also writes (conveniently on the heels of the Twilight storyline success) about paranormal/vampire/werewolf stories? That's quite the unique formula until you realize a lot of these Romance authors are all towing the line and doing exactly the same thing as the next writer. Not unique at all, and entirely disappointing. As for this book, as much as I like animals and children, I got annoyed with the over-engaging storyline of how the dogs had play dates, the long descriptions on how the dogs interacted with each other and the human emotions they expressed, and how it took a 4-page spread to talk about the dogs and how they "shimmered" in the sunlight when they were sleeping, and how Kendra took out her cell phone to capture the loveliness of the moment. UGH!! Yes, little Madison sure was cute but too much of Madison's cute sayings and behavioral issues (waste of time talking about her stealing her peer's cowgirl boots at school because she was anxious to have her own!) along with the dogs antics just made me gloss over those parts. Linda seems to be in a grandmotherly frame of mind when she wrote this book. I thought this would be more about the main characters, but it was more about superficial side-stories and setting up Boone and Tara. Let's hope that book does not spend an inordinate amount of time talking about Boone's trouble boys. Because let's face it, that's not why we want to read these books.
Lynn56ls More than 1 year ago
I am done with LLM books she can't get the job done anymore I have read her books for a long time but the last few have been hard to stay with its more about taking care of the dog and pony so don't waste your money on Big Sky Mountain.
simple344 More than 1 year ago
There are only few books with a great storyline. This was one of them. A great summer read.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
In true Linda Lael Miller fashion, this book is “eye candy”. True, you know how the book is going to turn out, but getting there is the fun. I will always have this author in my read list.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Wonderful and entertaining story, looking forward to the next one
Nanawabbit More than 1 year ago
Love all her books, they are always a good read and I can never put them down.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I almost passed on reading this book based on some of the reviews. I am glad, I took the time to find out how wornderful this book was for myself. I do think the second book is better then the first.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I really enjoyed the story of Hutch and Kendra. I love all of this author's books. Her characters are easy to fall in love with and the story keeps you interested.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I can't wait for the next book comes out. I like the story line. The author makes it like you are there.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Can't wait for the next one
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
What is going on......these kids should be on facebook ,not on reviews..B & N has got to block this crap.I want to know about a book, not some 15 year old girl.:
RtBBlog More than 1 year ago
Posted on Romancing the Book's blog Reviewed by Stacey Review Copy Provided by Netgalley I am normally a fan of Linda Lael Miller’s books but Big Sky Mountain, in my opinion, was not a favorite. Book two in the Parable, Montana/Big Sky series, found me a little lost and the blurb did not truly represent the book. Kendra and Hutch have a past together; one that clearly neither of them are over. Their lives currently have them both in places where the last thing they need is the complications of renewing their relationship. Hutch just recently left someone at the altar and Kendra just adopted her dead ex-husband’s illegitimate daughter! Seriously! Realistically, those two stories could have made Big Sky Mountain interesting but Ms. Miller was clearly more interested in setting up plots for future books because there were so many other things going on in this book that at times Hutch and Kendra were merely background noise. There were three other stories (at least!) brewing in this book and they were a little too distracting because it made you forget your main characters. Too much stopping and starting of the stories. Linda Lael Miller is a wonderful writer. The way she tells a story makes even a story that’s hard to read easy. Kendra and Hutch deserved a full story considering this was their book.
DaniC More than 1 year ago
I was halfway through reading Big Sky Mountain when I found out that this is a second in a series. Somehow I missed that but it made no difference, Big Sky Mountain is a wonderful story and I enjoyed every bit of it! Big Sky Mountain opens with a wedding. Hutch is standing at the altar when he shocks everyone by calling off the wedding. The would-be-bride and her friends are understandable upset and start a website bashing Hutch. That night he goes to his half brother Slades’s house for dinner and runs into his lost love Kendra and her adopted daughter Madison. Kendra’s story along with her adoption of Madison is such an interesting one. Madison just touches your heart and totally steals the book. Kendra has some issues but it is see how she and Hutch finally come back together for good Now I need to go back and read Big Sky Country the first in the Swoon-Worthy Cowboys series. I can’t wait to see what I missed!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
She walked back over to him quietly.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Watched. He had already absorbed so many souls that he possibly had learned every shout in the book.
Jasmyn9 More than 1 year ago
I'm really loving the characters and stories from Parable, Montana. Book two is just as laid back and casual as book one, but throwing in a four year old girl adds a bit of craziness in a good way. I loved Madison - the daughter Kendra adopted sometime between the two books. There's a short story all on its own there that is revealed as you read through the book, so I'll let you read the details yourself. I always love the antics of young children in these fun light-hearted romances, and Madison definitely fit the bill to liven things up a bit. The opening of this story was not handled well though. I understand that Miller was probably looking for some shock factor, but starting with your leading man (Hutch) at his wedding to someone other than Kendra was very confusing. There was also a lot of things that happened in between books and I felt like I had missed an entire story. Too much happened "off pages" to have it flow well right off the bat. Now once I figured out all the things that were going on, I really enjoyed the story. Kendra and Hutch have been crushing on each other for years, but never really acted on it. Kendra doesn't think Hutch is mature enough to be a father to her new little girl, and Hutch just seems to hold a grudge against Kendra for their last break up. Everyone around them begins to conspire against them though, and eventually they cave and decide to give it a go. There is still a lot of doubt on both their parts though, and this continues Miller's theme of over-coming your past to move on with your future so you can be happy.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Ha he hi ho hu
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Can i rp Smokekit?
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
?...
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
~~Shadowclaw
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Sure his sister and brothers are at lisp res eleven
Anonymous More than 1 year ago