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Secrets abound on a Texas ranch…

As a teenager, Gracie worshipped her stepbrother, Jason, a strong, silent cowboy who left home early to seek his fortune. Now the wealthy owner of Comanche Wells ranch, Jason has finally come back home and discovered that the little girl he knew is all grown up.

In a moment of unbridled passion, Jason realizes that he's falling for Gracie. But Gracie harbors a shameful secret that makes her deeply afraid to ...

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Secrets abound on a Texas ranch…

As a teenager, Gracie worshipped her stepbrother, Jason, a strong, silent cowboy who left home early to seek his fortune. Now the wealthy owner of Comanche Wells ranch, Jason has finally come back home and discovered that the little girl he knew is all grown up.

In a moment of unbridled passion, Jason realizes that he's falling for Gracie. But Gracie harbors a shameful secret that makes her deeply afraid to love. Stung by her rejection, Jason leaves, ready to put the past—and the one woman he can't have—behind him once more.

Gracie thinks she's lost Jason forever. But when danger threatens her she can only hope that her long, tall Texan will come blazing home to save her.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly

A handsome rancher-tycoon and his shy, sheltered stepsister fall in love in Palmer's latest romantic melodrama (after Fearless) that's long on humid heat but hampered by cornpone theatrics. Gracie and Jason Pendleton share no bloodlines, but they've been close ever since Gracie came to live with her now-deceased mother, Beverly, who married Jason's cruel (and also now dead) father, Myron. Jason is a good ol' boy who prefers his Rocking Spur ranch to the family mansion old-fashioned Gracie tends to. Gracie, meanwhile, harbors a dark secret that has made her frightened of romance even though she's desired Jason for years. The feeling's mutual, and, eventually, their hearts collide despite the interference of Kittie Sartain, a bitchy redhead supermodel who tries to lasso Jason. Palmer, a romance veteran, knows how to concoct a savory chicken-fried love plot, but sometimes the gravy's laid on a little too thick. (June)

Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
Library Journal

When Gracie flees from her stepbrother's kiss, Jason assumes his affections aren't returned and angrily heads for New York—and disaster. But Gracie is hiding a violent, soul-scarring past—one she fears will turn Jason against her if he ever learns the truth. VERDICT Long-kept secrets, misunderstandings, and an over-the-top other woman cause numerous but not insurmountable problems for Jason and Gracie in this sensual, Western-flavored romance that is the latest in Palmer's popular "Long Tall Texans" series. Palmer (Fearless) lives in Cornelia, GA.

—Kristin Ramsdell
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780373773787
  • Publisher: Harlequin
  • Publication date: 5/26/2009
  • Pages: 384
  • Product dimensions: 6.40 (w) x 9.52 (h) x 1.13 (d)

Meet the Author

The prolific author of more than 100 books, Diana Palmer got her start as a newspaper reporter. A multi-New York Times bestselling author and one of the top ten romance writers in America, she has a gift for telling the most sensual tales with charm and humor. Diana lives with her family in Cornelia, Georgia.
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Read an Excerpt

Gracie Marsh's cell phone exploded with the theme to the newest science fiction motion picture. She jumped, and dirt from the ground where she was busily cleaning out her flower beds splattered her spotless yellow sweatshirt.

"Oh, darn," she muttered, wiping her hands on her old jeans before she dived into a pocket for the very loud instrument.

"Where's that music coming from?" Mrs. Harcourt, the housekeeper, called from the front porch, where she was setting out pansies in a massive planter.

"It's just my phone, Mrs. Harcourt," Gracie assured her. "It's probably Jason…hello?" she gasped.

There was an amused pause. "Don't tell me," came a deep, drawling, masculine voice. "You're up to your neck in dirt and now your pocket and your cell phone are smeared with it."

She laughed in spite of her frustration. Her stepbrother knew her better than anyone else on earth. "Yes," she admitted.

"I'd be cussing."

"I did say 'darn,'" she replied.

He sighed. "I'll have to take you in hand, Gracie. Sometimes the situation calls for something more elegant and descriptive than 'darn.'"

"You'd know," she retorted, recalling that he cursed eloquently in two languages, "especially when one of your cowboys does something you don't like." She frowned. "Where are you?"

"At the ranch," he said.

The ranch was his property in Comanche Wells, where he ran purebred Santa Gertrudis cattle and a new equally purebred Japanese breed that was the basis for the famous Kobe beef. Jason Pendleton had millions, but he rarely stayed in the family mansion in San Antonio, where Gracie spent most of her time. Jason was only here when business required it, but his heart was on his huge Santa Gertrudis ranch. He lived there most of the year.He could wheel and deal with the international business set, chair board meetings, run huge corporations and throw incredible parties, with Gracie's help as a hostess. But he was most at home in jeans and boots and chaps, working cattle.

"Why are you calling me?" she asked. "Do you need somebody to come help you brand cattle?" she teased, because he'd taught her to do that—and many other things—over the years. She was as much at home on the ranch as he was.

"Wrong season," he replied. "We drop calves in the spring. It's late August. Almost autumn."

She frowned. "Then what are you doing?"

"Rounding up bulls, mostly. But right now I'm getting ready to come up to the auction barn in San Antonio for a sale," he said. "They've got some open Santa Gert heifers I want," he added, referring to the purebred native Texas Santa Gertrudis breed that was founded on the world famous King Ranch near the Texas coast. "Replacement heifers to breed so they'll drop calves next spring."

"Oh." She tried to remember what that meant.

He sighed loudly. "Open heifers are young cows that haven't been bred for the first time," he explained again. "They're replacements for cows I've had to cull from the herd and sell off because they didn't produce calves this year."

"Sorry," she murmured, not wanting to emphasize her memory problems. She forgot things, she plunged down steps, she lost her balance in the most unexpected places. There was a physical reason for those lapses, one which she'd never shared with Jason, not since she and her mother had moved in with him and his father almost twelve years ago. Her mother had been frantic about keeping the past secret, swearing Gracie to silence. Cynthia Marsh had even told everyone that Graciela was her stepdaughter, not her real daughter, to make sure any background checks on Graciela didn't turn up information on her daughter, herself and her late husband that would damage Graciela's place in the Pendleton family. Graciela's father, a widower with a young daughter, had died in the Gulf War, Cynthia emphasized again and again. He was a war hero. It wasn't the truth, of course. The truth was more traumatic.

"One day you'll get the hang of it," he said easily. He was patient with her, as some people in her life hadn't been.

"Why are you calling me, if you don't need an extra ranch hand?" she asked merrily.

"I thought you might like to go to the sale with me," he said comfortably. "I'll buy you lunch after we're through."

She grinned. "I'd love to," she said.

Not only did she enjoy his company, but she loved the atmosphere of the sale barn. It was always crowded, always fun. She liked hearing the auctioneer's incredibly rapid spiel as he prompted buyers to go higher and higher on prices for the various lots of cattle. She liked the other cattlemen who turned up there, many of them from Comanche Wells, as well as Jacobsville, which was only a few miles from Comanche Wells. There was a select group of environmentally staunch ranchers to which Jason belonged. They raised old grasses that were earth-friendly, they improved the land and provided habitat for wild animals, they used modern methods of feed production that were kind to the ecology, and they were fanatics about the good treatment of their purebred cattle. These cattlemen never used growth hormone and they only used the necessary antibiotics, most particularly those that prevented bovine pulmonary disorder. They didn't use dangerous chemicals to control weeds or pests. Cy Parks had introduced the idea of using predator insects to control many pests. The lack of poisonous substances on plants helped grow more colonies of honey bees, which were essential to pollination of grain and feed crops.

None of the environmental group of Jacobs County ranchers ran beef cattle; they were all producers of herd sires and champion young bulls, cows and heifers, which they sold for herd improvement. It got them into trouble sometimes with beef producers who wanted a quicker profit. There had been some notable fistfights at cattle conferences in the past. Jason had been involved in one of them. Gracie had gone to bail him out of jail, bursting into laughter when she saw him, disheveled and bloody and grinning like a Cheshire cat as they led him out of the detention cell. He loved a good fight.

"I said I'll pick you up in about twenty minutes," he repeated, because she hadn't answered him.

"Okay. What should I wear?"

"Jeans and a T-shirt," he said. "If we walk in wearing designer clothes, the price will jump twenty dollars a head before I sit down. I don't want to be recognized."

"Fat chance if we show up in your Jaguar," she drawled.

"I'm driving one of the ranch pickups and wearing working clothes," he drawled back.

"All right. I'll finish cleaning out my flower beds later."

"As if we haven't already got enough damned bulbs poking up in the front yard. You're getting soil ready to put out more this fall, aren't you?" he muttered. "And I'll bet you've got Harcourt refilling those planters on the porch."

He knew her too well. "It's just pansies—they'll last until late autumn. I won't plant bulbs until October. But bulbs are beautiful in the spring, Jason," she defended herself.

"Why do I pay a yard man to do outdoor work?" he grumbled.

"Because he does the heavy work that Harcourt and I can't," she replied saucily. "I'm hanging up now."

"Don't keep me waiting," he said. "We'll barely make it there in time, as it is. I got held up with an accident."

"You weren't hurt?" she exclaimed quickly.

There was a slight pause. "No," he said softly. "Not me. One of my cowboys got stepped on by a bull. Broke his foot, but he'll be all right."

She let out the breath she'd been holding. Jason was her life. He didn't know how she felt about him. It was impossible anyway. She could never do those things with men that most modern women did. She remembered her mother coming out of the bedroom, the blood staining her nightgown…

She grimaced. "I thought you just hired a new man to go to local sales representing the ranch to buy cattle for you."

"I did. But I've heard some things about him I don't like. He's supposed to be at this auction. I can see for myself."

"He'll recognize you."

"In my working clothes? Fat chance! Besides, he's only seen me once, behind a desk."

"Suit yourself. I'll be ready."

"Better be, or I'll dress you myself," he warned.


But he'd already hung up.

She got up, putting aside her trowel. "Mrs. Harcourt, we need to tell Manuel to finish clearing these beds for me," she said as she mounted the steps. "Jason's taking me to a sale."

"All right, darlin'," the graying old woman said with a smile. She was tall and amply padded, with black eyes and a lovely smile. She'd come to work for the family before Jason was born and was considered part of it. She and the maid, Dilly, and the chauffeur, John, were all part of the family. There was other staff that worked part-time, but the old retainers were full-time.

Gracie loved living here on the big estate in San Antonio. The staff did go down to the ranch in Comanche Wells occasionally for a few weeks, especially when Jason had company down there. If he did, though, it wasn't the same local society crowd he invited to the San Antonio mansion. It was often world leaders who needed a break from the backbreaking pressure of their daily lives, high government politicians running from scandals, even an occasional billionaire who wanted privacy even for a few days. Jason chose his friends by their character, not their wealth. It was one of many things Gracie loved about him. He had a big heart and he was a soft touch for people down on their luck. He gave heavily to charities. But he didn't seem the sort of man who could be approached.

He was an introvert. It was hard for him to connect to people. Consequently he was intimidating to a lot of guests, who found him hard going in private conversations. Only with Gracie could he relax and be himself. It was, she considered, a matter of trust. He felt safe with her, as she did with him.

What a pity, said her friend Barbara, who ran a café in Jacobsville, that Jason and Gracie were brother and sister, when they had so much in common. Gracie had reminded her that there was no blood relationship there. Jason's father had married Gracie's mother, who was killed only a couple of weeks after the wedding in an automobile accident. Myron Pendleton had kept Gracie, who had no other living relatives, and soon gave her another stepsister, Gloryanne Barnes—now Mrs. Rodrigo Ramirez—when he married Glory's mother, Beverly, months later. Glory and Gracie had more in common than anyone else knew. They were best friends. It was the two of them against the world when they were in school, because both had scars from their childhoods and neither was comfortable with boys. They rarely dated. They were targets of some vicious bullying, which Jason had quietly and efficiently nipped in the bud. Even today, Glory was still the closest thing to a sister Gracie had ever had.

She showered and dried her hair, dressing in jeans with a vine of pink roses embroidered down one leg, with a pink T-shirt. Impulsively she brushed out her long, pale blond hair and braided it into pigtails. She grinned at herself with twinkling gray eyes. She had a soft complexion with radiant smoothness. She wasn't beautiful, but she was pretty, in her shy way. She frowned, wondering if it was appropriate to wear pigtails at her age. Sometimes she did things that seemed odd to other people. That little glitch in her brain did a lot of damage to her ego, from time to time.

Well, it was too late to worry about it now. She put on her fanny pack and pulled on her boots over thick socks. A horn was blowing outside the front door. Jason, impatient as always.

She ran down the staircase, almost stumbling head over heels, remembered that she'd left her cell phone in her room. She hesitated. What the heck, Jason had his. She continued down the stairs and out the front door.

"I'll be out for lunch!" she yelled.

"All right, dear," Mrs. Harcourt called back.

Jason was tapping his fingers on the steering wheel. He glowered as she quickly descended the front steps of the elegant brick mansion and hurried down the paved walkway to the circular driveway where his big black ranch truck was waiting with the door open.

She tumbled in beside him and slammed the door.

"I know, I know, I'm late, but I had to have a shower," she rationalized as she fumbled with her seat belt. "I couldn't go out with dirt on my hair!"

He glanced at her from under the wide brim of his creamy Stetson. He didn't smile, but his black eyes did.

He was wearing jeans, too, with wide leather batwing chaps, old disreputable brown boots with turned-up toes from too many soakings and stains everywhere. His shirt was chambray and faded. Despite the immaculate cleanness of his beautiful, tanned hands, he looked like a poor, working cowboy.

Heavens, he was sexy, she thought as she gave him a covert appraisal. Tall and broad-shouldered, with that physique rarely seen outside a Hollywood Western film, jet-black hair in a conventional short cut, and a light olive complexion that was a legacy, like his black eyes, from a Spanish grandfather. He wasn't conventionally handsome, but he had a very masculine face, lean and square-jawed, with deep-set eyes and high cheekbones and a mouth that was so sensuous it made Gracie squirm. He'd never kissed her. Well, not in the way a man would kiss a woman, anyway. They didn't have that sort of relationship. Nor was he a womanizer. He had women, certainly, she was sure. But he never brought them home.

"Deep thoughts, tidbit?" he teased, grinning at her with perfect white teeth.

"I was thinking how handsome you are," she blurted out and then flushed and laughed nervously. "Sorry. My mouth and my brain are disconnected."

He didn't smile. His black eyes slid over her face and back to the road. "You aren't bad yourself, kid."

She toyed with her seat belt. "Are any of the Jacobs-ville crowd coming up for this sale?"

"Cy Parks, J. D. Langley and Leo Hart," he said. "The Harts are after another one of those Japanese bulls grown for Kobe beef. They're moving into new breeding programs."

"Don't tell me Leo's gone off Salers bulls?" she exclaimed.

He laughed. "Not completely. But when you consider how well Japanese beef sells, it's no surprise. It's tender and lean and appeals to shoppers. We're in a consumer-driven market war, grubbing for new methods of production and new marketing techniques to overcome the slump in sales."

"Don't you still chair a committee on marketing with the cattlemen's association?"

"I did. Had to give it up. This damned German business is wearing me ragged."

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4
( 101 )
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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 102 Customer Reviews
  • Posted April 5, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    My first and last Diana Palmer book

    This was a B&N recommendation based on my library and I must warn others. If this book is recommended to you skip it.

    First the book is beyond repeptitive. She says over and over again in the first two chapters how well the two main characters (Gracie and Jason) know each other. Phrases were repeated. My gosh, you even have a repetitive kidnapping.

    Early in the book you're told that Gracie and Jason are stepbrother and sister, and that Gracie's mother kept her from telling Jason or his father about their life before she met them, which is now this long term secret that she doesn't want to tell him. What is so shameful about growing up in an abusive home that you can't tell the person who you say knows you best? Gracie then openly shares her background with a kidnapper when she hasn't even shared it with Jason yet.

    The book dragged on and on and I found myself skipping pages and pages especially through both kidnappings. The book is overly dramatized, makes little sense, and the characters are so stupid it's hard to like them or even care if they get togther, make up, or have a HEA. I've never read a Palmer book before and after this I don't think I'll waste my time on another.

    3 out of 5 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 25, 2009

    Great reading anytime

    As always Diana Palmer gives you a great book to read and to put in your own library

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 10, 2009


    This is just as bad as fearless of course Glory and Gracie are sisters, however Gracie doesn't have as much wrong with her as her sister. The scene when Gracie tells Jason about her father biting her mother until she was bleeding, please. This are suppose to be romance books and make you feel better not worse. If you want to feel bad you can watch the news and read the paper. I really like Diana Palmer's old books, not anymore, she is going way to far out on limb. When Diana writes a story on the characters you want to know more about she, the man turns out to be a mean jerk. I didn't buy this, but checked it out of the library, which is a good thing, I wouldn't waste my hard earned money on this garbage. I will no longer read Diana Palmer's books. Not worth the time or money.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 31, 2009


    This book is not worth the price you have to pay for it. I've never read anything by Diana Palmer until this book, and I won't read anything by her again. I couldn't help but wonder if a 13 year-old wrote the story by the way it was being told. Don't waste your time.

    2 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted April 27, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    an engaging tale

    When she was a teen Gracie March was attracted to her older stepbrother Jason Pendleton, but she hid her feelings though not her hero worship of him. Jason also was somewhat attracted to her, but felt it was inappropriate so he blocked his feelings. He ultimately left with plans to make it on his own. However, when her mom died, he arranged for Gracie to be cared for.=============

    Jason comes home for the first time in years as he owns Comanche Wells Ranch. He and Grace share a passionate kiss and he realizes he loves her. However, she rejects him as she fears her secret shame will drive the only man she ever loved away so thinking convoluted she leaves first. Jason becomes engaged on the rebound; unaware his fiancée plans to rid his hanger-on family members starting with Gracie who is thinking of leaving Comanche Wells anyway. A couple of abductions led by the "General" leave Gracie and Jason reconsidering the past, present, and mostly the future.===============

    The latest Texas contemporary romance (see FEARLESS) is an engaging tale starring a lead female used to being care for by family and an older experienced champion used to getting his way. His plan is to take care of his stepsister and ignore their attraction, but that proves futile. As Gracie becomes independent, Jason knows he must give her the chance to fail though his gut is killing him. Although the suspense seems more a detractor even if it forces Gracie to act, readers will enjoy the omega female trying to become at least a beta as Diana Palmer provides an entertaining ranch romance.-------

    Harriet Klausner

    2 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted July 18, 2009

    My library is full of Diana Palmer!!!!

    I have had an opportunity to read lots and lots of her books, I mean lots, and this one was one of the good ones. She has a style that you look forward to, that draws you to her, and she has better ones out there. But this one was good and a keeper. Be your own judge. Buy it and add it to your collection. You won't regret it.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 16, 2014

    The best book Diana Palmer has written

    I loved how with everything grace had been through in her past she was finally able to work through it with Jason and was free to love

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 20, 2013


    This could have been a very good book, BUT, it is not written as well as it could have been. It is very amatuerish. The story does not come together like it should. The characters were all unbelievable. A kind kidnapper? A stupid woman blackmailer who really didn't know how to do that well. A man who is supposably intelligent not knowing something was strange about his "parents". A woman who who has no way to take care of herself financially but we find out at almost the end of the book she has several hundred thousand dollars left to her by her stepfather? Come on, get real. Big waste of time, money, and Ms. Palmer's talent.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 13, 2013


    Loved the friendship, the yearning and the conflict. Love that though perfect at heart, Gracie was physically and emotionally imperfect. Great story!

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  • Posted November 30, 2012

    more from this reviewer

    Highly Recommend - a must read!

    I would recommend all of Diane Palmer's books they are great.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 23, 2012


    She is from georgia. Lives one 2 hour away from were i live andi would love to meet her one day to tell her ilove all her books. I wish i knew how that
    could happen and it would be a dream come truei

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  • Posted December 9, 2011


    The story was good but nothing else.

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  • Posted August 5, 2011

    more from this reviewer

    Didn't like this one

    First of all I just found it difficult to listen to a male read a romance novel. Maybe I'm strange but I kept having flashed of Robin Williams as Mrs Doubtfire. No offence to Phil Gigante....I think he did a good job with what he had.
    As for the actual story it was a little on the corney side.

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  • Posted June 16, 2011

    more from this reviewer

    Better then some

    The beginning was good when the other woman comes in it's to much drama but once the book hits the middle the it becomes great and I could put it down.Think maybe Diana needs to try a different plot

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  • Posted May 22, 2011

    Highly Recommended

    Check it out if you love cowboy's you'll enjoy this series

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  • Posted June 20, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    Amazing Read

    I have to say this is a great book by Ms.Palmar. Amazing I dont have words to describe this book. You wont regret getting this book. Its very exciting ........

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  • Posted October 1, 2009

    Makes you feel

    Diana Palmer has a great way of telling a very moving feeling story in a short amount of time. I enjoyed the quick read that really made me get into the story and feel.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 18, 2009

    Another great read

    I have read all of Palmer's books and particularly enjoy all of those that have the Jacobsville connection; this is no exception. I thought this one was particularly good, and I felt great empathy for the main character as she struggled to find her role in life and her own sense of empowerment; the "witch" in this story was particularly nasty--anybody who would want to put down somebody's beloved pet simply because the cat was old has no redeeming qualities, and, when Jason finally wised up and ditched her (and I was beginning to wonder if he was ever going to "get it"), he finally realized what he had had all along and finally began to value it. In addition, Palmer introduced another new character in the form of the exiled Latin American "kidnapper"--is he going to be good or evil (my guess is good), and I'm hoping we meet him in another of her books. Anybody who likes a good romance with a little suspense will enjoy this, but the emphasis is on the romance; people unfamiliar with the "Jacobsville Saga," though, might be a little confused.

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  • Posted July 2, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    fell in love

    I recently came across Heartless by just chance. Now I can't get enough of diana palmer. She knows how to tug at the heart strings.

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  • Posted June 23, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    I Love the Jacobsville visits!

    Diana Palmer's always got me willing to travel to Jacobsville! While this book didn't totally stay in Jacobsville, I'm seeing that the new town is beginning to have its own place on my map. This book was a great old fashioned love story and hooray for Diana's keeping it that way.

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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 102 Customer Reviews

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