Evangelical Christian novelist Coble offers up a Texan-style serving of ranch, rodeo and rambunctious interpersonal conflicts. Single mom Shannon Astor returns to her hometown in Bluebird Crossing with her daughter, Kylie, in tow, to take over as local veterinarian. Immediately upon arriving at her late uncle's dilapidated house, Shannon is faced with a dead farmhand. Before readers can recover from that episode, Shannon gets an emotional revelation involving Jack MacGowan, a wealthy landowner who ruined her reputation years earlier. Now, she must decide what to do with her newfound knowledge, and in quick succession her life is threatened, her daughter's birth father re-enters her life, and she must put to rest demons from the past. Fans of Coble will enjoy the light banter and easy conversational tone of this story, but too many unlikely and unrealistic plot complications detract from what could have been a satisfying love story. (July)Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
Lonestar Secrets (Lonestar Series #2)by Colleen Coble
Can a secret be kept forever?
Five years ago, Shannon Astor left the beautiful high-mountain country of West Texas as a single mother. She was desperate for a fresh start and a way to keep the secrets of her past buried. It almost worked.
Until a chance to make a better life for her daughter leads her right back home. To the very place of the past/b>
Can a secret be kept forever?
Five years ago, Shannon Astor left the beautiful high-mountain country of West Texas as a single mother. She was desperate for a fresh start and a way to keep the secrets of her past buried. It almost worked.
Until a chance to make a better life for her daughter leads her right back home. To the very place of the past betrayals.
But it also leads Shannon to horse-trainer Jack MacGowanher handsome high-school nemesis, now a widowed father. His daughter looks so startlingly like her own that Shannon can't help but question the circumstances surrounding her daughter's birth. Wary of each other's intentions, Shannon and Jack reluctantly join forces to untangle a deep mystery that swirls around Shannon's parents, a lost Spanish treasure, and a legendary black stallion.
If Shannon can learn to entrust her secrets to the man falling in love with her, the truth just might set her free.
Read an Excerpt
By Colleen Coble
Thomas NelsonCopyright © 2008 Colleen Coble
All rights reserved.
Miles of empty road stretched ahead of her. Shannon Astor had babied the old Jeep along I-10 west from San Antonio until the traffic ran out. She watched a million stars in the sky through the windshield as the hill country gave way to desert and the sun began to peek above the dark horizon in her rearview mirror. The Big Bend area was only an hour away now. She smelled smoke from the wildfires in southwest Texas and hoped the flames didn't get any closer.
Shannon glanced in the rearview mirror, and her heart melted with tenderness. Her daughter Kylie slept peacefully in her booster seat, her head resting against the back of the seat. The glimmers of sunrise gilded her pale blonde hair. Shannon would do anything for her, even go back to the place she'd sworn never to set foot in again.
She was doing the right thing. She could never get ahead with the cost of living in San Antonio, and facing her demons back in Bluebird Crossing was worth getting her daughter out of the slum apartment. This job was her lifeline to something better for Kylie.
Her cell phone rang, and she grabbed it off the seat beside her before the chimes to "The Last Unicorn" could awaken Kylie. Who would be calling at six in the morning? Her friend Mary Beth's name flashed across the screen. Shannon flipped her phone open."Mary Beth, what are you doing up?" Only silence greeted her at first."Mary Beth?"
"I ... I shouldn't have called," Mary Beth gasped out. Music blared out of a radio in the background.
"What's wrong?" Shannon struggled to make sense of the sounds flooding into her ear: road noises, music, labored breathing.
"Listen, I don't have much time. I ... I'm going to be away for a while." Mary Beth ended the statement with a sob.
Shannon pulled to the side of the interstate and stopped the Jeep. "Mary Beth, have you been drinking?" Her friend had been known to tie one on every now and then.
The short bark of laughter on the other end of the line sounded all too sober. "I wish it were that simple."
Shannon heard the sound of screeching tires and the road noises. Mary Beth's gasps were louder. "Mary Beth? What's happening?"
"I was trying to help you. I had no idea it would come to this."
"Help me? What are you talking about?"
The phone went dead in Shannon's ear. Was Mary Beth in trouble? Or was Shannon reading too much into the strange call? She tried to call Mary Beth back but was dumped into her voice mail. Shannon punched in Horton's home number. He'd be up having his morning tea by now.
His proper British voice answered on the second ring. "Horton here. Shannon, have you broken down already?"
Hearing his voice made her long for the safety of her little apartment in San Antonio, even if it was a hole-in-the-wall. "Horton, have you heard from Mary Beth? I think she might be in some kind of trouble."
Shannon told him about Mary Beth's call. "Do you think something's wrong?"
He cleared his throat. "Maybe she had an argument with a boyfriend. Who is she dating right now?"
Shannon rubbed her arm. "I don't know. I think probably a married man. That seems to be her normal mode."
"What can I do to help?"
She glanced at her sleeping daughter. It would do no good to overreact. "Nothing. I'm sure I'll hear from her soon. If she calls you, let me know."
"Will do, my dear. Are you sure you don't want to come back? Your position hasn't been filled."
"I can't let this opportunity slip through my fingers. The clinic will be my own, the pay is good, and Kylie will get a chance to grow up in wide-open spaces."
"Be careful, my dear. I'll let you know if I hear anything about Mary Beth."
"I'm sure everything will be fine," Shannon said, more to reassure herself. She was beginning to regret she'd called Horton over something so silly. Driving through the night must have set her nerves on edge. "I'll call when I get to town and see if you've heard anything more." She disconnected the call and drove on into the dawn.
Tall and imposing, the old house dominated the Texas landscape and loomed over the weathered barn and outbuildings. Chickens still scratched in the thin dirt, and the buildings were even more ram-shackled than she remembered. The Chihuahuan Desert wind moaned through the eaves of the old house, and the familiar sound made Shannon realize she was really home. Even though it wasn't much, it was theirs.
Her work here was cut out for her. At least it was better than the trailer she'd lived in for so many years, and she'd hoped to show the town right off that she was a landowner now, not the quiet kid they'd been only too happy to ridicule. There was nothing to be gained by sitting here looking at it. She dropped her Jeep back into drive and accelerated toward the ranch.
"This isn't it, is it, Mommy?" Kylie looked up from her coloring book and peered over the edge of the door out the window. A dilapidated windmill creaked painfully around its axis. "It's scary."
With her uncle gone, it wouldn't echo with his disapproval any longer. "It just needs some work, sweetie. Uncle Earl lived here fifty years, and I don't think he painted a board. We'll get it shipshape in no time." Well, it would maybe take awhile. It would be several weeks before she had any money coming in.
She pointed to the side yard. "Look, we have a barn. We'll get a pony, and you can have a dog. In fact, Moses might still be here." She whistled for the old stock dog. "Here, Moses. Here, boy." Only the wind answered her. If Moses was still around, maybe he was roaming the desert.
Every bone in her body ached from driving all night, and her nerves were shot after Mary Beth's mysterious call. She parked the vehicle in front of the hitching post by the porch, then sat listening to the groaning windmill. The sounds had echoed her own pain when her parents died.
"Are we going to get out?" Kylie asked, fidgeting.
"Sure, baby." Shannon opened her door and moved around to unbuckle her daughter's car seat.
Kylie hopped out and took her hand. "Do we have to go in? Maybe there's ghosts."
"No ghosts. It's just a little dirty and run-down, but I'll give it a good cleaning," Shannon promised. "Our old apartment was way worse. Here you'll have your own room and a playroom too." She took Kylie's hand and they stepped past straggly creosote bushes that scented the air. The porch steps sagged as though to swallow them whole. She and her daughter mounted the porch and approached the door. The key in her hand needed to be jiggled in the lock before the door would open.
Stale air that stank of mouse droppings rushed to meet them. Kylie wrinkled her nose and pulled back on her mother's hand. "I don't want to go in. It smells nasty."
"I'll soon have it smelling like Pine-Sol and lemon," Shannon promised. But after letting her gaze sweep the foyer lit with dim morning light, her courage faltered. She was too exhausted to face the monumental task. They should have stopped for the night so it didn't seem so overwhelming.
Kylie tugged on Shannon's hand. "Can I sit out here until it's better?"
Shannon hesitated. Her gaze swept the barren landscape. There was nothing to see but the unbroken panorama of yucca and prickly pear cactus, and the crags and peaks of the hills until the desert met the Chisos Mountains in the distance. She'd once loved this devil's playground even when it was as hot as his home, but today it felt lonely and dangerous.
She rested her hand on the top of her daughter's hair, and the contact filled her with determination. "I need your help, honey." She took her daughter's hand again and led her into the foyer.
The flowered wallpaper was peeling and faded. A layer of grime dimmed the olive green paint on the woodwork. Shannon sneezed at the odor of decay. She could see their footprints in the dust on the scarred wooden floors. It seemed the moment her uncle died three months ago, the desert stepped through the doors and windows to reclaim the house.
She heard a squeak when they entered the kitchen, and a mouse ran for cover along the counter before disappearing from view.
"Ew, a mouse," Kylie said. "We're not staying here, are we, Mommy?"
Shannon grabbed a broom from the corner and shook the cobwebs from it, but the rodent didn't reappear. "You'll love it after I get it fixed up. I've got some mousetraps in the car." She stepped to the utility room on the other side of the kitchen and lit the propane gas water heater. It began to rumble and chatter. "We'll leave our stuff in the car until we get it clean."
The last thing she wanted to do was clean, but she had to have this place in better shape before she'd allow Kylie to sleep here. Nightfall wouldn't make its appearance for another twelve hours. Plenty of time to at least get the main rooms clean and the beds ready. Everything would have to be washed, every stitch of bedding, every towel, every kitchen utensil.
A monumental task when she was tired to the bone. But it was nothing new. Many nights she'd had to rush to the vet hospital and work all the next day on little or no sleep.
She looked under the sink and found cleaning supplies. She wiped off the table and the counter, then dived back under the sink for cleansing powder. While she was on her hands and knees, she thought she heard tires crunching on gravel outside. She sprang to her feet to peer out the window. Nothing there. She sure was skittish.
"Are there any horses in the barn?" Kylie asked. "I can go pet them with my sister."
Kylie's invisible playmate. Shannon never had the heart to tell Kylie of the real sister who died at birth, but somehow the little girl had never let go of her unknown sibling. "I don't think so." But now that she thought about it, Shannon realized Felipe Mendoza, her uncle's old ranch hand, hadn't come to greet them. He was always around the house. And where was Moses, the ranch dog?
"Tell you what, Kylie, you can play on the porch for a little while with your toys. I've got to get some things out of the car." And make a quick stop in the barn. Shannon took her daughter's hand and led her to the porch. After digging out a tub of toys and depositing them on the porch with Kylie, she made the little girl promise not to leave the porch.
Shannon went to the side yard where the big old barn stood. She glanced behind her to make sure she could see Kylie, then walked toward the building. The door yawned open, an unusual state. The hair on the back of her neck stirred. She told herself it was her exhaustion, but her senses tried to sample everything around her as she walked across the flat sand toward the outbuildings.
The barn needed a coat of paint and boards replaced. The desert claimed everything left uninhabited. She hurried to the barn and peered inside. "Hello? Felipe?"
She heard a dog whine, then begin to bark, an agitated sound that made alarm bells go off in Shannon's head. Her cell phone was inside the house in her purse. She could call the sheriff, but it would take him awhile to get here. What if Felipe had fallen and was lying injured? Moses would never leave him.
She ducked into the barn. The aroma of dust, hay, and manure struck her. Funny how after five years in the city, the normal smells of a ranch overpowered her when she didn't used to even notice them. She glanced through the open tack room door. Only bridles and saddles there.
Dust motes danced in the air, and she sneezed. "Felipe?" she called again.
Moses broke into another frenzied round of barks, and she followed the sound. She passed several stalls, unused now. No livestock lowed or rustled in its hay. "Moses, where are you, boy?"
The dog whined and barked again. Shannon climbed over a gate when she couldn't open it and then over the railing at the back of the stall. There she saw Moses, a border collie, standing over what she took to be a pile of clothing. A second later she registered that it was Felipe lying in a mound of hay.
"Felipe!" She dropped to his side and rolled him over. He was quite dead. She scrabbled back on her haunches and fought the shriek building in her throat. Kylie would be frightened if she heard her mother scream.
"Stay calm, stay calm," she muttered. She called the dog to her, and Moses came reluctantly with his tail between his legs. "Good dog," she crooned, burying her face in his fur. The dog's musky scent and rough coat soothed her nerves. He whined and licked her face.
She had to get hold of herself. Her legs trembled when she released the dog and stood. Moses made a move as if to go back to his watch at Felipe's side, but she grabbed his collar and dragged him from the barn with her. The barn door screeched when she shut it.
Even though Felipe had likely died of natural causes, the fact there was a dead man in her barn made her race to the house to get to her daughter. Kylie was still on the porch with her stuffed unicorn, and the tightness in Shannon's chest eased.
Her daughter saw her and jumped up with her gaze on Moses. "We have a dog?"
"His name is Moses. We'll take him inside with us to the living room, and you can pet him."
Moses looked up at the sound of his name, and Shannon called him to her. She ran her hands over him. No broken bones or abrasions, though his coat was rough and dull. She made a mental note to get him on better food.
A vehicle rumbled up the drive, and she squinted at the vaguely familiar male figure in a shiny black pickup. Rick Bailey, from the adjacent Bluebird Ranch, climbed out of the truck. A pretty woman with black curls was with him, and a little girl hopped out of the backseat. A border collie leaped from the truck bed. Shannon struggled to remember the dog's name—Jem.
She broke into a run. Rick would know what to do.
Two cups of tea later, Shannon still hadn't stopped shaking. The sheriff and his deputies were still in the barn investigating, but the sheriff said the cause of death was likely a heart attack. Felipe had suffered one three months ago.
Rick's wife, Allie, though hugely pregnant, had washed some utensils, then made Shannon sit down and drink some tea. The girls squealed and giggled in the living room, unaware of the drama playing out in the barn. Betsy was about Kylie's age, and the two had hit it off immediately.
"You should come home with us," Allie said. About thirty, she was short with dark curls and a ready smile. "This place isn't going to be ready to live in for a while."
Shannon glanced around the kitchen. "I know it looks bad, but cleaning will make it livable." Grit irritated her eyes, and she rubbed at them. It was only ten in the morning, but she longed to crawl into a bed with clean sheets and sleep for a week. Or at least two hours.
Allie watched her. "I've got cleaning stuff in the Jeep and came prepared with rubber gloves. What do you think, Rick?"
"I'd feel better if you both came home with us," he said. "There might be scorpions and spiders."
Shannon shuddered, then shook her head. "I want to get settled in before my job starts. I'll be too busy once things start happening there. I can't wait to get started. Me—a vet. It's about time."
The Bureau of Land Management and a West Texas mustang rescue organization were sponsoring the Mustang Makeover, a demonstration to the public of what great horses were up for adoption through the agency. She'd been hired to replace Big Bend's departing vet, Grady O'Sullivan, and her first task would be to make sure the mustangs stayed in good shape through the makeover training. The BLM tried to preserve as many wild mustangs roaming the western ranges as possible, and the herds needed thinning—by being either adopted or, in the case of the older horses, put down. Shannon meant to save as many of the mustangs as she could.
"The Mustang Makeover starts this afternoon at one. You're the vet in charge, right?"
"Sure am." Her smile widened at the thought. "I thought I wasn't supposed to be there until tomorrow."
"You're not. But if you want to take a look at what's waiting for you, we'll be glad to run you over."
"Have you seen Jewel around?" Shannon asked in a too-casual voice. Her pulse sped up as she waited for his answer.
Rick's smile extended to his kind blue eyes. "Not in about a week. He's still roaming the hills though."
"Who's Jewel?" Allie asked.
"He's a horse my dad bought before he died. I named him and pretended he was a unicorn in disguise." Shannon never forgot her first glimpse of the stallion. As he stood silhouetted against the sunrise, she was sure she'd seen a horn on his head. For as long as she lived here, she'd tried to surprise the horse to see the horn again. Even now, as an adult, she wasn't sure it had been an illusion.
Excerpted from Lonestar Secrets by Colleen Coble. Copyright © 2008 Colleen Coble. Excerpted by permission of Thomas Nelson.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Meet the Author
USA Today bestselling author Colleen Coble has written several romantic suspense novels including Tidewater Inn, Rosemary Cottage, and the Mercy Falls, Lonestar, and Rock Harbor series. Visit her website at www.colleencoble.com Twitter: @colleencoble Facebook: colleencoblebooks
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
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Colleen Coble does it again with Lonestar Secrets. This is a true 5 star book! Loved it from the first page to the last. The characters are all amazing and you find yourself falling in live with them. Few writers have the ability to grab their auidence as Colleen does every time. This is an awesome romance mixed with plenty enough mystery to keep you guessing. It is a must read! CH
I really liked the first book in this series, and Lonestar Secrets is just as delightful.
I love Colleen Coble! Shes such an amazing author :)
Iread this book, and could not wait to start the next one. I have gone on to read most of her most of her book's. She is an amazing writer, I can not put her books down.
Colleen Coble is great at keeping you interested in the story from the beginning. I love all of her books!
"No more secrets," Jack tells Shannon. But secrets are all she has. Colleen Coble relates this touching, yet suspenseful, account of a couple who must learn to love each other for the sake of their children. Set in the plains of West Texas, this story brought back childhood memories of sandstorms, cowboy hats, and ugly multi-legged critters indigenous to that area. I grew up in Brownfield (southwest of Lubbock). One "aha" moment for me was when Jack learned the truth about love from a former racehorse. How perfect is that? This author has a unique gift of creating an array of subplots, which she gathers together in one neat package in the end. She also offers riveting discussion questions in the end for book clubs. I loved the book in spite of the fact that Colleen Coble used the name of my protagonist in my novel, "Obedient Heart." No worries. Since mine isn't published yet, my Jack McGowan will have a name change. That's the beauty of fiction! :-} "Lonestar Secrets" - Buy it. Read it. Immerse yourself in it. TODAY!
Whenever I sit to write another book-review,inevitably I need to strain my brain hard enough to get to remember the niceties of the paperbacks I was lucky(or often unlucky enough) to go through! But this time,I did make it a point to get it done very soon,if not sooner.And so,here I am. Unlike the previous hard bound I got from the same publishers,frankly speaking this paperback really did not live upto the expectations the first novel mustered upon me by its quality.But everything can't and should not be always compared with other equals,and this one has got its own positives,maybe some of which the previous one lacked in some aspects.So,over and all,you don't loose. 'Lonestar Secrets' speaks about the rather coming-back-to-life life of a girl(or rather a woman) who has seen life from different perspectives,be it the jeery low or be it the glorious top by virtue of her own dignified approach to life,she has gone through all of it.And in that way she is lucky enough to differentiate between right and wrong,black and white,and love and hate.Love gave her the jeer of her life,love forced her to loose all trust on 'trustworthiness',love forced her down the dungeon of darkness and lifenessness.And that too with none there by her side,her parents being dead on way to their journey of 'quick-bucks'.Shannon Astor,the protagonist then survived with her own implications of life,pulled herself throughout high school,and after that joined her very close-to-heart vet discipline,for which she can even give up life's niceties.And this determination with whoch she took up her life of betterment shoved her way up to more brightnesses.In themeanwhile some dramatisms took palce in her life regarding her falling for a shiny-buckled-heartless-cowboy,carrying his twin child,and then a hospital fiasco during her labor which turned out to be a life-changer for her to betterment.And this is the point from where she started to see the light of life,maybe the twin children were god-send to her in that way.And more drama follows,her making up to her babychild-switching,her meeting her childhood crush whom she got forced to marry by circumstances,and then for the rest of the drama was rather in her own side.She won in every aspects of life.She own every hearts and every trusts.Which in turn brings up the woman in her ina big way. Author Colleen Coble has got in her sleeves two more before this one in this series,including 'Lonestar Sanctuary' but maybe this is one of her best works,and who can say we are going to get better of her very soon,if not sooner!
This book was amazing - I truley enjoyed the characters and the storyline. It was something tragic that turned into something beautiful and romantic. I cared about the characters from the first chapter and that grew with each additional chapter I read. It show you that things happen to us for a reason and that there is someone out there looking out for us all the time. I loved this book and can not wait to read more from her.
After I finished reading and reviewing the book Fearless for Thomas Nelson I couldn't wait to go back to their site to pick the next book to review. Lonestar Secrets looked like it was right up my alley. I love Christian fiction books and this book was no different. Here is the book description as written on the website: Can Texas's majestic Big Bend help Shannon find her life again? Shannon Astor returns to southwest Texas to serve as the town's veterinarian, believing she's finally found the space to get her life back on track. Then she catches a glimpse of Jack MacGowan, the man who ruined her life years before. But even more shocking is the sight of Jack's five-year-old daughter Faith, who bears an uncanny resemblance to Shannon's own daughter Kylie. Is it possible that their similarities could be more than just coincidence? Could Faith be the daughter that Shannon has believed to be dead for all these years? As the truth emerges, everyone is forced to take sides--in a story with a heart as big as Texas. Now, does that not sound like a thoroughly intriguing story?!? It was. I was on the edge of my seat reading this and did not want to put it down. I am usually able to figure out a plot fairly quickly because I read so many books but this one kept me surprised until the end. The plot twists and turns and is very interesting. I love that it is Christian based and it is not full of bad language. Plus, you can't go wrong when you throw in horses and cowboys! Just sayin'! Now I noticed at the end of the book that this is the second in this series and there is a third one coming out in April 2010 so I am definitely on the lookout for those. If you like a good Christian story with drama, suspense and romance then this is a book you should read. You can check out the author Colleen Coble's website. Here is the link to www.thomasnelson.com
Lonestar Secrets is a romance novel by Colleen Coble. Veternarian Shannon Astor returns to her home town in Texas to for a fresh start and a better life for her daughter. She discovers Jack MacGowan's daughter is a twin to Shannon's daughter--switched at birth for Jack's dead daughter by a nurse. Jack and Shannon decided to get married, but between Jack holding onto his dead wife and a dangerous man pursuing Shannon for money, the pair must find their way to romance. This story felt not well-thought out and thrown together. Major elements are given cursory treatment and left behind. When Shannon discovers the babies were switched at birth, we get a hasty explanation of a doctor's incompetence, and that's. The same thing for Shannon's illness, which only pops up when the story needs it for complications and the implications of it ignored. The worst for me was the money storyline. Shannon's roommate has been kidnapped, Shannon threatened, and her house broken into. And it gets ignored until the story needs a complication. Then something happens, everyone gets excited for a little while, and then it gets forgotten again. This was an unsatisfying read.