Montana Actually

Montana Actually

by Fiona Lowe

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Overview

A big-city doctor in a small-town Montana practice....A former nurse who has sworn off doctors forever....The scene is set for passions to ignite in Big Sky Country. For readers of Robyn Carr and Sherryl Woods.  

City doctor Josh Stanton and his sports car don’t suit the country, but with his medical school debt about to bury him, Josh has to make the best out of a bad situation. Adjusting to his new job and life in the middle of nowhere isn’t easy, but at least the views of the mountains—and one distractingly attractive local—are stunning...
After eight years away, Katrina McCade is back in Bear Paw for a break from her life, bad choices—and men. But when a broad-shouldered stranger bursts into town, she finds herself unexpectedly saddled with the town’s sexy new doctor as a tenant. Katrina doesn’t need a man to make her happy, especially a disgruntled physician.  But try telling her body that…

"This is a funny, sexy, and heart-warming novel that I feel is a must-read and a keeper. It made me laugh. I loved each character, and wish I could visit Bear Paw."
Catherine Anderson, New York Times bestselling author of Silver Thaw

"
Delightful." --Publishers Weekly (starred review)

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780425276952
Publisher: Penguin Publishing Group
Publication date: 01/06/2015
Series: A Medicine River Romance Series , #1
Pages: 320
Sales rank: 875,725
Product dimensions: 4.10(w) x 6.70(h) x 1.00(d)
Age Range: 18 Years

About the Author

Fiona Lowe is a RITA and RUBY award–winning, multi-published author with twenty five novels to her name. She’s lived around the world, including very happy years in the USA. Whether her books are set in Wisconsin, Montana, or outback Australia, they feature small towns with big hearts, and warm, likeable characters that make you fall in love. When she’s not writing stories, she’s a weekend wife, mother of two “ginger” teen boys, guardian of eighty rose bushes, and often found collapsed on the couch with wine.

Read an Excerpt

Chapter 1

The thirty cows blocking the road were a good indication to Dr. Josh Stanton that he was no longer in Chicago. That and the inordinate number of bloated roadkill with their legs in the air that he’d passed in the last few hours along Highway 2 as he traversed the north of Montana. Sure, Chicago had its fair share of flattened cats on its busy inner-city streets, but he’d stake his life no one living between North Halsted and North Wells streets had ever had to step over a deer.

He watched the cows lurch from decisiveness in their chosen direction to utter chaos as two border collies raced at their heels, barking frantically and driving them determinedly toward an open gate on the other side of the road. Josh’s fingers tapped on the top of the steering wheel as they always did when he was stuck in traffic in Chicago’s clogged streets. What was the collective noun for a group of cows? Bunch? Herd? He’d once seen a documentary on ranching in Australia and they’d said “mob” in their flat accent.

He guessed he’d find out the name soon enough, as he was close to finishing his 1,458-mile journey across Wisconsin, Minnesota, North Dakota and three-quarters of Montana.

When he’d left home three very long days ago, he’d thought the north woods of Wisconsin were as isolated as things got, but now, as he gazed around him and felt the howling west wind buffeting the car, he knew Menomonie was positively urban in comparison to the endless grass plains that surrounded him. Where the hell were the trees?

An older man on a horse, whose weather-beaten face told of a life lived outdoors, stopped next to Josh’s low-slung sports car. Josh wound down the window, his gaze meeting jean-clad legs and horse flesh. He craned his neck.

“Taking a trip?” the cowboy asked conversationally, as if they had all the time in the world to chat.

I wish. “Relocating.”

“Yeah?” His gaze took in Josh’s Henley shirt and the computer bag on the seat next to him. “You’re a bit far north for Seattle. Don’t reckon you should risk the mountain roads driving that vehicle.”

Josh automatically patted the dash as if the car’s feelings needed soothing. Granted, his sports car wasn’t the latest model this side of five years, but it was in great condition and he loved it. The buzz it gave him when he drove it more than made up for the extra money it had added to his outstanding loans.

“I’m not going over the mountains,” he said, his mouth twisting wryly as he checked his TripTik. “I’m going to Medicine River County and a town called Bear Paw.”

A town that was wrenching him from his home and staking a claim on his life that went straight through his heart. A town that Ashley had refused point-blank to even consider visiting, let alone living in.

The cowboy called out an instruction to his dogs, who immediately raced behind a recalcitrant calf, and then he lifted his hat and scratched his head. “Bear Paw. Okay.”

Josh wasn’t certain what to read into the statement. Sure, he’d seen a photo on the Internet of the small hospital, but short of that, he didn’t know much else. “My cell’s out of range, so I’ve lost my location on the map, but I think it’s about twenty miles away. Do you know it?”

“Oh yeah. I know it. What takes you there?”

Debt half the size of Montana. “Work. I’m the new physician.”

The man nodded slowly. “Ah.”

Unease skittered through Josh’s belly. What did the cowboy know that he didn’t? “What the hell does ‘ah’ mean?”

He laughed. “Relax, son. Your trip’s over.”

As the last cow finally conceded the grass was indeed greener on the pasture side of the fence and had moved through the gate, Josh looked down the now clear road and saw nothing. Nothing if he discounted some sort of a crop and a hell of a lot of sky. He squinted and just made out what looked like a communications tower. “So where’s the town?”

The older man pointed down the dead-straight road. “Three miles gets you to the outskirts and another mile to the traffic signal. Two miles past that, you’re done with the town and heading to the mountains.”

That distance in Chicago wouldn’t even get him from his apartment to his favorite deli. How small was this place? “What if I turn at the traffic signal?”

“Right? Now that will take you straight to Canada, eh.” He grinned at his own joke.

The town couldn’t possibly be so small. “According to Wikipedia,” Josh said, “it’s got a population of three thousand people.”

The cowboy scratched his head again. “I guess if you include the ranches, it does. It’s surely bigger than Bow. Mind, just about everywhere’s bigger’n Bow.”

Disbelief flooded Josh as he remembered passing a rusty town sign. “That place with the tavern and nothing else?”

“Yup, that’d be Bow.” He shoved his hand through the open window. “The name’s Kirk McCade. Welcome to Bear Paw, Doctor.”

Josh gripped his hand. “Josh Stanton.”

Kirk slapped his hand on the roof of the car. “No doubt this baby is a sweet ride, but once you’ve settled in, best buy yourself an outfit.”

“A what?” Surely the cowboy wasn’t talking about clothes.

“A truck, a pickup. Winter here’s tough on vehicles.”

A slither of indignation ran up Josh’s spine. He might not be used to wide-open spaces, but he knew weather. “I’ve just spent two years in Chicago, so I know all about winter.”

Kirk laughed so hard Josh worried he’d fall off the horse.

KATRINA McCade loved her family dearly, but there were some days she wished they didn’t have her cell phone number. Today was one of those days. Every time she got the paint roller primed, raised and in position, ready to paint the living room walls of her cottage, her phone beeped. Over the last hour, almost every member of her family had contacted her.

Her father had been the first—brief and to the point—calling to confirm that she was cooking supper tonight for her mother’s birthday. She’d reassured him, and the moment he’d hung up, her mother, who had no clue about the surprise birthday supper, had called. She’d wanted Katrina to check the menu at both Leroy’s and the Village Lounge and book the one with the best steak special because her father loved his beef. Even on her birthday, she was thinking of others. Ten minutes after that, her phone had vibrated with the sound of a motorcycle, which meant her younger brother, Dillon, was texting her.

Please buy gift for Mom that looks like I chose it. Also wrap it cos I suck at bows.

The moment that missive had pinged onto her phone, her younger sister called wanting dating advice.

Dating advice? Hah! Katrina gave the roller such a hard push that it skated across the wall spreading paint in a wide arc instead of the even vertical plane she’d intended. When Megan, her twenty-one-year-old baby sister, had asked her opinion on the best way to hook up with her latest crush, it had taken all of her self-control not to blurt out that all men required a police check, marital status verification and blood tests before the first date. Only such a caustic comment would have invited questions she didn’t want to answer. Instead, she’d suggested Megan invite a friend to go with her to the Jack-Squat bar.

Her sister had hinted that maybe Katrina might like to come along and meet the guy in question and give her opinion, but the thought of driving an hour and a half south tomorrow night and spending time in a loud and noisy bar with a group of college kids was the last thing Katrina wanted to do. It made her feel old. No way did she need any more reminders that her thirtieth birthday was bearing down on her as fast as the Amtrak that ran through Bear Paw every day at noon. Heck, since coming back to her hometown a few weeks ago after working away for eight years, she’d deflected so many questions about her lack of a boyfriend and her future plans, she could teach a course.

A fine spray of paint dusted her as she found a rhythm, and a sense of satisfaction built on seeing her progress. Her phone buzzed again and she sighed. The only person in her immediate family whom she hadn’t spoken to so far this morning was her older brother, Beau. Technically, he was her cousin, but for as long as she could remember, Beau had lived with them and she considered him a brother as much as her parents considered him their son. He preferred to text rather than to talk, but he’d probably just realized the date and wanted her to buy a present for their mother as well. Men!

Wiping her hands on her paint-stained shorts so that she didn’t swipe paint onto the phone’s touch screen, she hit accept, not recognizing the number. “Hello?”

“Trina.” A familiar voice—one that had made her heart flutter for months and now made it cramp in anger and betrayal—came down the line. She could hear the sound of a code being called over a PA in the background.

“Brent.” She sighed, closing her eyes and automatically calculating the time zone change. She hated that her mind immediately pictured him coming out of surgery wearing his monogrammed scrubs and distinctive red clogs. She quickly opened her eyes and stared out across the plains toward the Rocky Mountains in the distance, desperately seeking calm. “I thought we’d agreed to no calls.”

This time he sighed. “I agreed you needed time and I’ve given it to you. You’ve made your point, Trina, I get it, but it doesn’t change the fact we still love each other. With some compromise and understanding on your part, we can still make this work.”

Still. His arrogance astounded her, although it shouldn’t be a surprise. She still whipped herself for having been oblivious to that particular character flaw. His tone said everything was her fault but she was being forgiven.

She pinched the bridge of her nose, welcoming the pain because she had no clue how to even go about explaining that no amount of trying was going to make them work. Ever. “Nothing’s changed, Brent.”

“I miss you.”

Her throat tightened as the quietly spoken words caressed her, reminding her of the wonderful times they’d shared. Her resolve wavered.

“Trina, I just want to reassure you that you can get me on this number anytime.”

This number. Her brain jolted her back to reality so fast she got whiplash. He’d gotten another phone. Another number just for her. Again. Her knees wobbled and she gripped the doorjamb to hold herself up. Wet paint squelched around her fingers. Shit. She pulled her hand away and found her voice. “Good-bye, Brent.”

She cut the call, hurled the phone onto the sofa as if it were radioactive and then ran fast and hard on the spot, letting out a scream that came from the center of her being. A deer grazing at the edge of the now weed-choked garden took off at a run. All the feelings she’d spent weeks letting go of surged back, buffeting her like the frigid and biting arctic winds that swooped in from Canada. Anger at Brent. Even more anger at herself and at her own stupidity. Anger period. She hated how it dug in, making her feel so powerless, desperately foolish and immensely sad all at the same time. She bit the inside of her cheek to try and stall the shakes that threatened to send her into the fetal position on the couch.

She never, ever wanted to feel like this again, which was why she’d come home in the first place, effectively putting two thousand miles between her and Brent. Closing the door to temptation and poor judgment.

Her old border collie, Boy, heaved himself off his rug and came over to her, licking her hand. He was deaf and half blind but he always knew when she was upset. She rubbed his ears and buried her face in his coat, thinking about how her life had changed so much. A few weeks ago she’d had a great job and a clear vision of her future firmly set in Philly. When it all came tumbling down, she’d bolted back to Bear Paw, telling herself it was only temporary. A breathing space. She’d even made some calls about doing some health care volunteering in Ecuador, because at least that was a plan of sorts and it reassured her that her time in Bear Paw would be short.

She hadn’t told her parents the real reason for her return, because she didn’t need to see or hear their disappointment that she’d failed, especially as she’d been heard to say more than once that she preferred living in the city. Instead, she’d skirted the truth and told them she was burned-out from her high-pressure unit manager job and she was taking a break to visit with them and work on the cottage. They’d immediately suggested she work at the Bear Paw hospital like she’d done when she’d graduated, but she was determined to avoid anything to do with doctors and hospitals. Instead, she’d gotten a part-time job at the diner and at Leroy’s. Although her parents had never been thrilled she’d left Bear Paw and they’d been the ones to urge her two years ago to buy the cottage, they’d silently accepted her decision, but she caught their troubled gazes on her from time to time. She hated that. Hated that her inability to make the right choices in her life had landed her back at home.

Giving Boy a thank you but I’m fine rub around the ears, she grabbed the roller with a jerk and quickly made short work of the rest of the walls. By the time she’d finished and was surveying her handiwork, she’d found a modicum of hard-earned calm. The new paint had gotten rid of the nicotine stains left by the stressed-out accountant who’d run from town the moment tax season was over. He’d been a lousy tenant despite Walt, her Realtor, promising her six months ago that he came with great references. After the mess he’d left behind, Katrina was convinced the previous landlord wrote the glowing report just to get rid of him.

The fact that her tenant had broken the lease was timely, because as much as she loved her family, she’d lived alone too long to go back to living in the ranch house. Coming home for short visits was one thing, but there was something about moving into her childhood room that turned back the clock. She ceased being Katrina McCade, independent career woman, and became Katrina—dutiful daughter, sibling mediator and general go-to person. It was all wrapped up with a distinct lack of privacy and it was wearing her out.

The moment the paint fumes had vaporized, she was moving in, and she’d repair the other damage that had been inflicted on the house. She’d even use some of her savings to renovate the kitchen. After that, she might go to Ecuador and be useful or she might head to California or . . . She had no clue. All she knew was that her plans were open-ended.

You’ve never done fluid. Her mind went straight to the very scheduled life she’d shared with Brent over the past eight months. She immediately hauled it back. She could do fluid. She could try and go with the flow with one exception. Lesson learned—no matter how much she enjoyed being in a relationship, she was not getting involved with another man anytime soon.

She pulled a screwdriver out of the tool belt around her waist and levered open the paint can containing the lavender paint for her bedroom. She suddenly smiled. At least Bear Paw didn’t have a surgeon with devastating charm, or for that matter a physician under sixty. She was totally safe on that front, and for that small mercy, she was truly grateful.

JOSH drove down a long gravel road seriously doubting the directions the hospital administrator had e-mailed him. Surely, the house that came with the job would be in the town and close by the hospital? Only he’d passed the hospital, two miles back, where he’d be reporting tomorrow morning at eight. Now Main Street, with its mixture of flat-fronted brick and clapboard shops, was well behind him, too. He appeared to be heading for Canada.

He hit a pothole and his front fender scraped the road. Shit. He slowed his speed and zigzagged his way around another four potholes before he pulled over to face the intensive stare of a jackrabbit, whose large ears mocked him. This was ludicrous. It was one thing for his student loans to have mortgaged his life, bringing him to a small town in the middle of nowhere, but surely the hospital wouldn’t have rented him a house way out here. He must have missed the turn back in town.

At least he now had one bar of service on his phone. He plugged the GPS coordinates of the house into the app. The melon-colored exclamation point magically appeared one-quarter mile away from his current blue location dot. He looked to his left. He needed to turn onto a driveway that had never seen blacktop or gravel.

“You’ve got to be kidding me,” he muttered as he threw the gear stick into first. No wonder the hospital administrator had said the house would be open and not to worry about a key. It was in the middle of damn-well-nowhere.

Five bone-shuddering minutes later, he pulled up outside a house or a cottage—he wasn’t sure which, and he wasn’t certain the builder had known, either. It was a mishmash of design and was neither attic cottage nor log cabin. One section was cladding and the other logs, and he thought he glimpsed some exposed house wrap between the two. The eaves extended over a door that was offset, in fact the whole side of the house he was facing looked as if it had been tacked on as an afterthought. A small satellite dish clung precariously to the roof, and Josh was surprised it hadn’t been blown away and taken the house with it.

The property screamed first homeowner’s dream, renovator’s delight or student housing. It had been a very long time since he’d been a student, and the gloss of living in a house that had seen better days had well and truly lost its shine. A few scraggly trees attempted to survive to create a much-needed windbreak, but most looked like they’d given up on the job. Weeds dotted the short path to the house, and a rusted-out truck was parked outside, possibly abandoned. Just fabulous.

The property was wrong on so many levels that it had to be a mistake. Reaching for his phone, he prepared to call the hospital administrator to complain when he remembered he’d gotten a message from him saying he was out of town today. Reluctantly, Josh pushed himself out of the car, locked it behind him and walked directly to the door. He knocked and waited but no one came, so with a firm grip, he turned the handle. Surprise jolted him when it opened smoothly and without a squeak.

He had to duck his head as he walked through the small entrance with its coat hooks and a boot box, before stepping into a pine-clad kitchen. Circa 1970, it came complete with faded lime green counters and a breakfast nook. It was a far cry from the granite countertop kitchen with all its modern stainless steel appliances back in his Chicago apartment.

Her Chicago apartment.

Not wanting thoughts of Ashley to creep into his mind, he decided that even though there was no way in hell he was going to live here, he’d explore the house and list all the reasons why the place was unsuitable. Paint fumes hit him the moment he crossed into the living room, and moving carefully, so as not to get paint on his chinos, he soon found himself facing a small, steep staircase.

Years of experience running between floors of the many different hospitals he’d worked in had him taking the stairs two at a time. His head suddenly slammed into the sloped ceiling. “Jesus.”

His vision swam and he rubbed his scalp, already feeling a lump the size of a golf ball rising under his fingers. He mentally added another reason to his mounting list. Not only was the house in the boonies, it was built for dwarfs. Moving decidedly more slowly, he took the rest of the stairs one at a time with his head bent low. He didn’t risk straightening up until he was well and truly on the landing.

Raising his head, he realized there was no landing—he was standing in a room. A dormer bedroom. He blinked in surprise. An old dog lay sleeping on a rug, and a short woman stood on a ladder with her back to him and with white earbuds in her ears. She was carefully painting the area where lavender walls met the white ceiling. Her heavy leather work boots gripped the second-top step and thick, bright red socks peeked out over the top. A paint can perched precariously on a board near her knees.

He almost called out but he didn’t want to startle her and risk her falling off the ladder and breaking something. Plus, his gaze seemed fixed on her bare legs. They weren’t model-long, but the calves were muscular and sculpted as if they worked out often and were strong for the effort. And the skin was tan. A beautiful, golden tan from sunshine, not the orange tint from a bottle like he’d noticed on some patients after the long Illinois winters. Just as his mind and gaze slid upward, hoping to glimpse what he imagined would be the sweet curve of her ass, denim cutoffs rudely broke the view.

Damn. Still, the shorts hinted that the naked view might well be a good one. A bright blue paisley blouse that didn’t remotely match the shorts—and reminded him of his grandmother—flowed over the waistband at complete odds with the wide black band of a tool belt. His brain jolted, trying to merge the juxtaposing images of modern meeting old-fashioned. His gaze had just reached short, glossy black hair when she turned and saw him.

Before he could raise his hands to show her that he came in peace, her enormous green eyes—the color of spring—dilated in shock.

The dog barked.

She moved abruptly, her actions jerky, and her knee caught the edge of the board, sending the paint can flying.

Two seconds later, Josh was wearing lavender paint.

Chapter 2

Good manners almost made Katrina splutter “I’m so sorry,” but self-preservation generated on the back of fear stopped her. Her heart was hammering so fast she could hear it whooshing in her ears. There’s a stranger in my house. A very tall, broad-shouldered man whose height and breadth blocked her only exit. A man with a menacing two-day growth of dark stubble.

Think! Boy was too old to protect her, so she plunged her hand into her tool belt, her fingers gripping the plastic handle of the screwdriver. “Don’t move. I’ve got a gun.”

Boy barked with all the menace of an aging biker.

“So why the hell did you incapacitate me with paint?” Incredulity dripped from his words as paint dripped off him onto the floor.

His eyes were scrunched tightly shut, and he frantically tore his shirt off over his head, exposing a chest with well-developed muscles that bunched and rippled with the movement.

It was poetry in motion.

First rule of safety: Don’t ogle the house invader.

He pressed the shirt to his eyes. “God damn it. This stings like a son of a bitch.”

“Don’t do that.” The nurse in her overrode her fear that he might have arrived with intent to harm her and she jumped down from the ladder. Grabbing the tail of the shirt, she whipped it out of his hands. “You’ll make it worse. Don’t move and I’ll help you.”

“Yeah, like I’m going anywhere when I can’t damn well see.” His voice rose, edged with pain. “I need water. Get me to water.”

“The bathroom’s downstairs.”

“Of course it is,” he muttered as if the bathroom’s location was yet another inconvenience on a very long list of many. “Take me there.” He shot out his arm.

She stared at his broad hand. A hand that wide should have chunky fingers, but his were long and tapered with neatly cut nails.

“Hello? Miss? I’m going blind here.” His voice combined a thread of anxiety with absolute, authoritative control. “Let’s go.”

“Sorry,” she said, snapping to attention. She slid her hand into his and gripped it firmly, reasonably confident he was too distressed to be of any danger to her. His palm wasn’t calloused like a cowboy’s, but it wasn’t soft and smooth, either, and it utterly consumed her smaller hand. “There are ten stairs.”

He immediately grimaced. “The fourth’s a bastard. We’ve already met once and it wasn’t pretty.”

“Did you hit your head?” she said, thinking of the barely legal height clearance, which conveniently wasn’t an issue for her but was for most everyone else. “You need to duck.”

“You think?” His exasperation rolled into her as he stooped down in preparation.

Ignoring his grumpy rhetorical question, she talked him down the stairs and into the small bathroom where she turned on the water. “It’s probably best if you tilt your head under the shower head.

Before she could direct him, he’d kicked off his shoes, turned toward the running water and stepped into the shower. “Fuck!” A shudder ripped across his body. “It’s freezing? Are you trying to kill me as well as blind me?”

“I never told you to get in,” she said, her annoyance with him edging out her guilt about the paint. “It takes a few minutes for the hot water to kick in.”

“You’re a sympathetic woman, aren’t you?” he muttered sarcastically.

A retort rose to her lips but she cut it off. Treat him as a patient. “Let the water flow over your eyes to rinse out the paint and everything will feel better.”

To her surprise, he did exactly as she instructed. Water sluiced over his face, around the dimple in his chin and then ran in lavender rivulets across his chest and down his flat abdomen before sliding in under the waistband of his chinos. Within moments, his pants were soaked and clinging to him like a second skin. The wet cotton outlined perfectly his tight behind, his solid thighs and the substantial package between his legs.

Big hands mean a big—

Shut up! That’s a myth. Be professional. Look away. Look away now!

She dragged her gaze to the faded and peeling wallpaper near the vanity that screamed to be replaced, and she focused on the dated geometric design. “I’m Katrina, by the way.”

“Josh.”

At least she thought he said Josh. It was hard to understand him with water rolling through his mouth. Her eyes strayed to the mirror where she could see him in the shower. “You need to stay under there for twenty minutes, Josh.”

He nodded, blinking furiously as the water cleaned his eyes.

“It was water-based paint,” she said, trying to reassure him, “so that’s a good thing. Much better than oil based.”

He grunted and she interpreted it as “if you say so.”

She checked her watch. “Is the water a comfortable temperature now?”

He nodded again.

Granted, he had water flooding his face, but he seemed to lurch between stoically silent and issuing curt instructions like a drill sergeant. Her gaze stalled on his tribal band tattoo, which hugged his left upper arm. Its intricate black design seemed to come to life when he flexed his biceps.

Perhaps he was in the forces after all. No, his hair’s too long. His sable brown curls, which had bounced in shock and then quivered in indignation when the paint had landed on him, now lay flat and black against his head.

A definite zing of sensation buzzed deep down in her belly and she blew out an unhappy breath. No way. Not cool. Not even safe. She refused to recognize that the tingle might be attraction because it made no sense. He was a stranger and she knew absolutely nothing about him.

Remember the top tips to keeping safe.

Rule one was trust your instincts. She took another surreptitious glance at Josh. There was something about him that made her feel he wasn’t dangerous or a psychopath. Then again, perhaps even psychopaths were rendered powerless by paint in their eyes.

She hauled her gaze away again and tried to be rational. It wasn’t as if she’d never seen a good-looking guy before. She’d even had the opportunity to wrap herself around one or two. And then there was work. As a nurse, she’d seen naked men of all ages, shapes and sizes without breaking out in a sweat. Yet, right now she had a definite glow happening, and this guy wasn’t even naked.

There’s only one small step between wet cotton and nakedness.

Okay. Time out. Go to the kitchen.

I’m fine. I can stay here and—

“I need saline.”

His deep voice made her jump. “Excuse me?”

He sighed. “Say. Leen,” he enunciated slowly as if she were slow. “Salt water. I’ve got some in the blue bag on the backseat of my car. Take my keys and bring in the bag.”

She concentrated on his request, glad that he couldn’t focus yet and see her burning cheeks. If he had saline, he must wear contacts and by now they’d be long washed away. Great. She knew intimately how bad it was to be without backup prescription eyewear and had the physical scars to prove it. She hoped he had a spare set in his bag. “I’ll go grab it.”

Once outside, she sucked in some calming breaths, glad to be out of the close confines of the hot and steamy bathroom. She hadn’t felt this rattled in a long time, but then again, she wasn’t used to strangers appearing unannounced in her house. That was all this was about; the leftover effects of adrenaline making her skittish and on edge.

She glanced at the yard and blinked. Parked next to Bessie, the old ranch truck, she saw a sports car with Illinois plates. Bessie suddenly looked like a monster truck in comparison to the low-slung vehicle. Given his type of car and the fact that he’d locked it, he had to have just arrived in Bear Paw, because otherwise he’d be the talk of the town. New men were always a very popular point of discussion everywhere from book club to the Pioneer Women’s association bake sale, and at any other venue where women gathered. So why was Josh here and, more importantly, why had he walked uninvited into her house?

Slinging what looked like a large, multipocketed athletic bag over her shoulder, she stopped off at Bessie and grabbed a blanket out of the cab. She returned to the house, adding a kitchen chair to her haul, and carried it all into the bathroom. Josh was out of the shower, standing half naked and buff with the thin, old towel she kept for hand drying wrapped low around his hips.

A hot flash of lusty appreciation socked her. No. Please, no. “I’m back,” she said, her voice coming out in a squeak. She forced it down four notches as she offered him the blanket. “What have you got in this bag? Weights?”

Squinting, he accepted the blanket and pressed it to his face. He seemed to stop and breathe in deeply.

“Are you okay?” Worried he might faint, she shot out her hand and gripped his arm. One very solid arm. “You’re not feeling dizzy from all the steam and the heat?”

“I’m fine.” He shook off her hand, threw the blanket around his shoulders and sat down in the chair.

Well, there was no ambiguity about any of that.

“Open the main section of the bag,” he instructed firmly.

She slid the multisectioned bag to the floor, and as her fingers gripped the large silver zipper, she saw the words Josh Stanton written in black ink next to the very distinctive logo of a medical supplies company. Surprised, she unzipped the lid all the way and opened it up to see a fully stocked medical bag.

No. Surely not. The universe couldn’t be that cruel. “You’re a physician?”

“Yep.”

The word held resignation in its depths, in stark contrast to her high-pitched astonishment. A multitude of questions immediately fired off in her head, including a warning as loud as an emergency siren. “So why are—”

“Eyes first,” he said in an authoritative voice that was becoming familiar.

The I’m in charge tone now made complete sense. Doctors owned a sense of entitlement that seemed to be bestowed upon them with the arrival of the letters MD after their names.

“Can you see the squishy bag of fluid?”

She sighed. “I can see an intravenous bag, yes. You can relax, Josh. I’m a nurse and I’ve irrigated eyes plenty of times.” She thought about last month when she’d treated fifty firefighter’s eyes during the forest fires.

“I’m not that reassured,” he growled softly.

Great. A doctor and one who had little regard for nurses. “Why not?” She plunged the cannula into the bag with more force than necessary before priming the tubing.

“You threw paint at me.”

She leaned over him, perversely happy that she was the one in a position of power. “I did not throw paint at you. You startled me and I bumped the can. The fact that it landed on you was unintentional.”

Cool, gray eyes met her gaze. Granted they were red rimmed and held a supercilious gleam, but underneath all that was a swirl of emotions that mesmerized her.

His light brown brows rose. “Are you waiting for anything in particular?”

“Just checking you’re ready,” she said quickly, kicking herself for her lapse of concentration.

Get a grip. He’s a grouchy, bossy stranger. Worse than all of that put together, he was a doctor. Doctors were most definitely off her dating list for more reasons than she cared to count.

She’d fix up his eyes and send him on his way. Job done!

Grabbing a disposable towel from the medical kit, she positioned it around his neck to absorb the runoff solution and commenced the irrigation. A moment later, Josh’s shoulder’s fell slightly.

“It’s helping?” she asked hopefully.

“Yeah. They’ve stopped stinging so thankfully there’s no damage.”

“Good. Panic’s over, then.” She let the saline drip at a steady rate until Josh held up his hand, signaling that he wanted her to stop. She shut off the drip and wrapped the tubing around the bag before dumping it in the sink.

He carefully dried his eyes before sitting up. “I guess I should thank you.”

Ouch. “Oh, bless your heart,” she said, borrowing the favorite expression of her aunt Evelyn from Georgia. One she used when someone was seriously ticking her off.

The corner of Josh’s mouth twitched.

“You might want to get that tic looked at.” She crossed her arms, intending to give him her best in-charge stare, only she caught an eyeful of bare skin in the mirror. Her bare skin. Oh God. Her painting shirt wasn’t buttoned up properly and right now her breasts looked set to tumble out of her old bra, which provided no support whatsoever.

She quickly dropped her arms by her side and tugged Nana’s old blouse down to cover herself, struck by the irony of its failure to provide modesty. As she looked up, she met Josh’s gaze and instantly knew he’d seen everything. Heat flooded her. “So, Doctor,” she said, flustered and sounding terser than she intended, “why are you in my house?”

“Your house?” He shook his head and damp curls spattered her with water before his face filled with something that looked like utter relief. “Thank God. For a while there I was thinking I might have to live here.”

She tried hard not to take offense. She knew the cottage needed work and that was the only reason she’d been able to afford to buy it in the first place. “As relieved as you sound, you still haven’t answered my question as to why you just walked right on in.”

“The door was unlocked. Where I come from, an unlocked door is an invitation to enter whether you’re welcome or not.”

She’d lived in the city, where everyone locked their doors and shut their windows down tight, so she understood, but Bear Paw wasn’t a city and no way was he making this her fault. “No one locks their doors here. It’s one of the joys of living in the country, but people usually call out ‘hello’ before they step inside.”

“Hey, I knocked but you didn’t hear me.” His head tilted slightly and his now-focused eyes zeroed in on her. “You’ve read the articles about ear damage from loud music delivered by earbuds, right?”

His words triggered the voice of her father and her defenses rose. “My music was not that loud.”

He shrugged. “Damage done, then.”

His patronizing tone irked her and her temper started to fray. She knew yelling at this guy wouldn’t help, so she concentrated really hard on trying to sound quiet and cool. “My level of audio acuity is not under question. Are you going to tell me why you’re here or do I need to call the sheriff?”

“The sheriff?” The dimple on his chin seemed to deepen with amusement, making him look sexier than ever. “No need for that. I’m Bear Paw’s new physician.” His tone inferred that this fact explained everything.

“And that’s supposed to reassure me?”

He looked slightly taken aback, as if he’d never experienced this reaction before. “Have you had a bad experience with a medical practitioner?”

Not the way you mean. “Put it this way: I’ve worked with enough.”

All the concern on his face vanished and he nodded slowly. “So you’re one of those nurses?”

She felt herself frown. “One of what nurses?”

His shoulders rose and fell, the movement catching her gaze as it wove across his chest and around abdominal muscles that were indecently ripped.

“Bitter.”

“I’m not bitter,” she said hotly, but at the same time mentally checking whether she was or not. The fact that she felt the necessity worried her. “I’m pragmatic.”

He snorted. “Call it whatever you need to make yourself feel better.” His reddened eyes suddenly narrowed. “Do I have to work with you?”

“God, no.” It came out far more emphatically than she’d intended.

He stiffened as if she’d slapped him, and a spot of heat burned on each of his bladed cheeks. “Just as long as we’re on the same page.”

His arctic tone cooled the hot and steamy room, for which she was thankful. This version of the man she could resist. This version trampled over the unwanted heat her body had so quickly and familiarly given in to. She wrenched the conversation back to where they’d started. “I’m still not clear how you being Bear Paw’s new physician is connected to you coming into my house.”

He sighed as if she were clearly less intelligent than him. “I get a house as part of the job, and the hospital gave me this address. Obviously there’s been some sort of major screwup on their part.”

“You get a house . . .” Her voice trailed off as a slow slither of dread crawled across her skin. There was a severe shortage of rental properties in Bear Paw. Surely Walt hadn’t rented out the house again without telling her? She tried to recall their last conversation. She was positive she’d told him she was moving in.

She pulled her phone out of her pocket. It had been switched off since she’d cut Brent’s call, and she held down the on button. It beeped and vibrated wildly and she stared at the screen. There were six missed calls including two from Walt and a text. Nooooo. With a sense of foreboding, she opened it.

Good news, Katrina. Call me. Walt.

A strangled sound came from her throat.

Josh leaned forward. “Everything okay?”

God, I hope so. “I . . . um . . . I . . . I need to make a call.”

JOSH watched Katrina rush distractedly from the bathroom, pause and then return.

“Feel free to make yourself some coffee. There’s a jar of instant on the bench.” She spun on her heel and disappeared from view, her jet-black hair swinging wildly.

Josh shuddered at the thought of instant coffee. He had yet to taste any that didn’t make gasoline seem palatable. A coffee connoisseur, he had an Italian coffeemaker sitting in his car waiting to be unpacked in his new house. His colleagues at Mercy Hospital had given it to him as a going-away present, saying he might be going west to the middle of nowhere but at least he’d have decent coffee. The state-of-the-art machine would look ludicrous here. He was sure the kitchen hadn’t seen a new device since the invention of the microwave forty years ago.

He heard the echo of footsteps beating a tattoo against the old linoleum floor and the murmur of Katrina’s voice. The woman could go from conciliatory to abrasive in a heartbeat, and she definitely lacked the sympathy gene. Still, no matter how much she annoyed the hell out of him, he hoped she hadn’t just received bad news. No one deserved that.

He’d been the bearer of bad news too many times, watching people slump as his unwelcome words struck them. Seeing their heads rise and their eyes fill before they pleaded with him that surely there had to be another outcome. It was the one part of his job that he found the toughest, because he’d gone into medicine to help, not to cause pain. He preferred to deliver good news and have his hand pumped furiously, which he enjoyed more than being enveloped in a bear hug by the emotionally demonstrative patients.

And he’d just received good news. He wasn’t going to be living in this half-built, half-tumbling-down house. The blanket around his shoulders rubbed against his skin, and a subtle scent of vanilla, freshly cut grass and sunshine tickled his nostrils. It was unfamiliar but he liked it. Ashley had always worn a bold perfume that frequently scented his clothes. More than one patient had given him an odd look from time to time when they’d caught the heady mix of jasmine and lily of the valley.

He breathed in again and realized he’d smelled the scent once before—when Katrina had taken him by the hand and led him down the stairs. It was herperfume. The fact that it was redolent of warm, lazy summer afternoons was an oxymoron.

Nothing about Katrina was warm. The physical package of tight, toned and curvy that was utterly enticing on first glance was still gorgeous, and had that compact body come with a fun and flirty personality, he might have been tempted to enjoy some no-strings good times. As it was, he didn’t need the bother of a cold and bitter woman. Given what had gone down with Ashley over the past few months, he wasn’t certain he wanted the bother of a woman, period.

He closed his eyes to rest them. The image of sparkling, emerald green eyes that reminded him of moss, shady glades and crystal clear swimming holes scudded across his vision. Eyes he’d stared into for far too long when she was leaning over him.

Nothing cold there.

He wrenched his eyes open against the definite rush of blood to his groin. Shit. Why was this happening? He didn’t even like her.

Back in college that never stopped you.

College was a long time ago and he’d wised up a lot since then. He’d learned the hard way that nothing about women was straightforward. Everything was complicated and came with an emotional overlay he never saw coming.

Used to making quick decisions and acting fast, he stood up. It was time to put on dry clothes, drive back to town and check into a motel for the night. Thankfully, this crazy, paint-filled interlude with Katrina Whoever was over. Tomorrow was another day. Hopefully, it would be one where he wasn’t at risk of being injured or insulted.

He strode quickly across the kitchen and outside to his car where he hauled some clothes out of his travel bag. Glancing around and seeing nothing but miles and miles of flat plains and not one single person to offend, he dropped the towel and pulled on jeans and a polo shirt. When he straightened up, he saw what he thought must be a female deer staring at him from across the yard.

After all the dead ones he’d passed on the road, it was great to see one alive. He was surprised at the reddish brown color of its coat, but then again, he’d never given any thought to deer, period, let alone their color. The deer held his gaze for a moment before prancing elegantly away behind the scraggly trees.

The bucolic moment over, Josh picked up the towel and headed back inside to collect his shoes and medical kit. When he had his gear together, he went looking for Katrina to say good-bye. As much as he wanted to avoid another conversation with her, he couldn’t in good conscience just leave without telling her.

She was standing in the living room staring out at the mountains in the distance, and her hair stuck up in jagged spikes as if she’d been pulling at it. This time he didn’t worry about not startling her. “I’m leaving.”

She spun around, her teeth grazing her bottom lip. A very soft and kissable lip. His blood pumped just that bit faster, and he hauled his gaze upward fast, away from the delectable view.

I don’t like her. He met her emerald eyes. They sparkled like sunshine on moss like before, but now they held a hint of vulnerability that he didn’t want to acknowledge.

Her ebony brows pulled down, giving her a worried look. “Actually, I’m the one who’s leaving.”

“Excuse me?”

She sighed—a weary, heartfelt sound. “Do you want the good news or the bad news first?”

He knew he should take the bad, but after the paint episode, he figured he deserved the good first. “Good.”

Her wan smile barely turned her mouth upward. “This is the house the hospital’s rented for you.”

His gut rolled over. “If that’s the good news, then what the hell is the bad?”

Her face scrunched up in a grimace that under any other circumstance he may have conceded was cute. “Sadly, I’m your landlord.”

Right then, he didn’t know which one of them was more sorry.

Chapter 3

The long wooden table in the ranch house kitchen was strewn with the remnants of the birthday supper Katrina had cooked for her mother. All that was left of the prime rib, mashed potatoes, green beans and dessert were a few crumbs that had once been part of a vanilla-frosted layer cake.

“Ty Garver’s bought the adjoining ranch across the west coulee,” her father said when there was finally a break in the conversation.

She gave a silent sigh. Her dad had a large soft spot for Ty, who was the only cowboy she’d ever dated. They’d broken up when she was twenty-two because she’d wanted to leave Montana and experience the East Coast frenzy and have some exciting adventures—live somewhere bigger than Great Falls where she’d gone to college. Ty would have shriveled up and died if he’d left the land, so their parting was inevitable and without rancor. That had been years ago, but the fact that they were both still single seemed to give her father hope.

“I think we should all go visit and welcome him. Katrina, you can take some of those cinnamon cookies you like to bake.”

She opened her mouth to tell her father that he made a better cowboy than a matchmaker but she closed it. Perhaps she should consider her dad’s suggestion. After all, choosing her own partners had hardly been a success.

Are you listening to yourself? You’re an adult and you make your own life choices.

“Dad, I’m sure Ty’s capable of baking his own cookies or he can buy them from the diner. Shannon’s baking them fresh every day.”

Her father’s sky blue eyes met hers, backlit with disapproval. “Have you been in the city so long you’ve forgotten how to be neighborly?”

Crap. So much for being an adult. “Of course not but—”

“Good. While you’re baking cookies for Ty you can also make some for the new doctor who I met today when I was moving cows.”

No way in hell. Only this time Katrina wisely kept her thoughts to herself to avoid five sets of eyes zeroing in on her. Eyes filled with what and why; two questions she didn’t want to answer.

“Female?” her mother asked as she stood up to clear the table.

“Sit down, Mom, we’ve got this.” Katrina put her hand on her mother’s shoulder and gently pressed her back into her chair, wondering why her mother seemed hopeful that the doctor was a woman. To her knowledge, Bear Paw had never had a female doctor.

All evening, her mom had been quiet and she looked tired, which was unusual because Bonnie McCade was always brimming with energy. “Are you okay?”

Her mother looked up at her with a smile. “How could I be anything else with everyone home for my birthday this year? You cooked a beautiful meal, honey. Thank you.”

“You’re welcome.” Reassured all was well, she kissed her mom on the cheek before turning to face her younger siblings. She gave both of them her “big sister” death stare. “We’re cleaning up as part of Mom’s birthday treat, right, Dillon, Megan?”

An hour ago, the two of them had rushed into the kitchen asking, “What can we do to help?” Their arrival was perfectly timed to coincide with every task being completed, and the only thing left for them to do was call their parents and sit down to eat the meal. She didn’t know how they managed to do this every single time, but they had domestic avoidance down to an art form.

“You forgot Beau,” Megan said, sounding fourteen instead of twenty-one. “He never helps with the dishes.”

Beau leaned back in his chair and gave his quiet trademark smile. “I butchered the meat,” he said slowly and carefully as was his style. “I carved it”—he took in a breath—“and I set the table, so . . . by my reckoning . . . that gets me out of dish detail.”

Katrina threw dish towels at Megan and Dillon and turned on the hot water faucet.

“The doctor looks to be in his thirties,” her father said as if his conversation hadn’t been truncated by squabbling adult children. “I swear they’re getting younger.”

Bonnie laughed. “I think that means we’re getting older, Kirk.”

“Never.” He leaned across the table and kissed her. “We’ve got years ahead of us still.”

Katrina smiled. She remembered at thirteen being acutely embarrassed when her parents showed any public displays of affection. Now she envied them their deep and abiding love for each other built on a foundation of respect. And she envied their honesty with each other. They were a team in every sense of the word. She’d never gotten close to having that sort of a relationship with another person.

An unexpected ache pressed heavy in her chest, and she had to fist her hand to prevent it from rising to rub it. What on earth was the matter with her tonight? She didn’t need a man in her life to be happy, and given her track record, she sure as hell didn’t need another one to make her unhappy.

“It’s a shame they couldn’t hire a female doctor,” Bonnie said, sounding disappointed.

Katrina shut off the water and glanced at her mom. “You’re never sick, so why the worry?”

“Oh, I was thinking more of the young mothers in the county,” she said quickly, waving her hand as if that explained everything. “Sometimes it’s easier to talk to a woman.”

Kirk and Beau exchanged a look of horror that the conversation was about to stray into the terrifying territory of women’s bits and pieces, and Kirk said hurriedly, “And before you ask, I took note. No sign of a wedding ring on his finger and he seems pleasant enough.”

Megan, a literature student, elbowed Katrina in the ribs. “A single man in his thirties with good financial prospects. Maybe you should wear a dress to work in the diner tomorrow instead of your jeans.”

“I’m not looking,” she said more curtly than she’d planned.

Megan looked at her far too intently for comfort. Katrina immediately went into damage control and addressed the room. “Why am I always the one supposedly looking for a man? What about Beau? He’s still single and he’s older, but no one’s hounding him to settle down.”

“I don’t think Beau’s looking for a guy, unless there’s something you’re not telling us, bro?” Dillon said, flicking him with a dishcloth.

Beau laughed easily and put Dillon in a headlock before dragging him toward the door. “For th-that, you’re helping me . . . check fences. While there’s still . . . light.”

“Hey, you’re poaching the help,” Katrina protested, but the screen door was already slamming shut behind them.

Her parents headed out to the double rocker on the porch just as Megan’s phone rang. She checked the caller ID and her eyes lit up. She immediately dropped the dish towel. “I have to take this,” she said with all the drama of a just-post-teen.

As she walked out of the kitchen, Katrina heard her say, “Hi. This is unexpected,” in the throaty voice she always used when she was talking to a guy she liked.

The old kitchen clock ticked loudly on the mantel as Katrina plunged her hands into the white, frothy suds. She stared out the kitchen window, watching the moths flying toward the light, and she fought the melancholy that she was almost thirty, stuck living with her family who had her placed firmly in the role of eldest daughter, and now she was unable to move into her own place.

She gave a wry smile. If the new doctor had been the woman her mother was hoping for—and that hope still confounded her—then perhaps she could have suggested a house-share arrangement. But there was no way on God’s green earth that she was ever suggesting that idea to Dr. Josh Stanton. She could just imagine his reaction.

Thinking about him exploded the memory of his naked chest in her mind. It was hard not to think about it, given it had always been at eye level this afternoon. He was so much taller than she was, so unless she tilted her head all the way back, her gaze had constantly been facing his delineated pectoral muscles with their light dusting of sandy brown hair.

Soaking him in. Wondering what they felt like.

She pulled her suddenly itching hands out of the dishwater, feeling hot and disoriented. Flicking on the faucet, she ran cool water against her wrists and sighed. Thinking about Josh had to stop, because no matter how decadently sexy he was, the antipathy that ran between them was palpable. It had disaster written all over it, and she was not falling back into bad habits. Coming home to Bear Paw was supposed to protect her from that.

She plunged the greasy baking dish into the suds, thankful that the day was almost over and that tomorrow was a new day. A perfectly normal day that had absolutely no reason to involve a doctor.

JOSH bounced his leg up and down and stared at the pile of hospital forms in front of him, certain his already tender eyes would bleed. Day two in Bear Paw was proving to be similar to day one, but instead of paint and the difficult Katrina with the very kissable lips to frustrate him—lips he was so not thinking about—he had jovial Floyd Coulson, the hospital administrator.

“So complete those forms and then you’ll be good to go,” Floyd said, handing him a pen. “How’s the house?”

Where to start? “It’s not in town.”

What People are Saying About This

From the Publisher

Praise for MONTANA ACTUALLY:

"In the first Medicine River contemporary, the charismatic little town of Bear Paw, Mont., hosts delightful characters whose interactions feel deep and real. Chicago doctor Josh Stanton decides to knock off some of his huge student loan debt by working in rural Montana. His fiancée declines to relocate to the boonies with him; heartbroken, he swears off lasting relationships. Nurse Katrina McCade returns to her hometown of Bear Paw to lick her wounds after an unhappy affair. Katrina and Josh are poleaxed by mutual lust, and they decide to become lovers with no strings attached—but as they begin confiding details of their lives, feelings change. The plot twists around medical emergencies, a second romance line involving Katrina’s brother, the troubles of a local youth, relationships between parents and children, and former lovers learning to be friends. All these elements contribute to the comfortable feeling of smalltown life. The witty conversations, family drama, and accurate (but never maudlin) descriptions of loss and grief will have the reader laughing out loud, wiping away tears, and eagerly awaiting future books." Publishers Weekly (starred review)
 
"This is a funny, sexy, and heart-warming novel that I feel is a must - read and a keeper. It made me laugh. I loved each character, and wish I could visit Bear Paw." —Catherine Anderson,New York Times bestselling author of Silver Thaw

“A humorous story full of likeable, distinct characters set in the small town of Bear Paw, Mont. Josh is charming and sexy, and his chemistry with Katrina ignites the pages. Lowe's beautiful story-telling sets up a heartwarming romance between two relationship-challenged people who are reluctant to give their hearts. This is a delightfully modern read."—RT Reviews
 
Praise for Fiona Lowe's previous romance, Boomerang Bride:
“With the perfect mixture of romance, sadness and Australian/American wise-cracking, Boomerang Bride is one of the best romance novels this reviewer has read in a long time.”—RT Reviews
“Funny, well-paced plus a well-done secondary romance. Go read this book.”—Smart Bitches, Trashy Books
“I really enjoyed this contemporary fairy tale. The love story was sweet and beautiful and I hope to see more of Lowe in the future.”—The Book Pushers

Customer Reviews

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Montana Actually 4.3 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 8 reviews.
CoffeeGoddessTK More than 1 year ago
Katrina McCade has come back home to Bear Paw, Montana, to heal her broken heart amidst her loving family. With a less-than-stellar romantic track record, Katrina is happy to spend her time far from anything that reminds her of the mistakes that she's made, especially good-looking doctors with smooth lines and hidden agendas. For Josh Stanton, coming to Bear Paw as the interim ER doctor/GP is nothing more than the fastest way to get out from under his mountain of debt from medical school. A city boy born and bred, he's convinced that life in a small town is a chore to be endured. Montana, Actually, is the first book in the Medicine River series by Fiona Lowe. I enjoyed it from the first page, and read it in one sitting. Bear Paw is a community filled with camaraderie and love, and all of its inhabitants immediately captured my heart. Josh shows up in town with a superior attitude, but is not a bad guy at heart. He's a first-rate doctor and pretty darned hot, and not at all what Katrina was expecting. The more time they spend together, the more they become their real selves, and it's a pleasure to see this evolution. As much as I liked the romance, banter, and sexy times between Josh and Katrina, though, I have to say that it was Beau, Kat's cousin, that stole my heart. His and Shannon's storyline was sweet, sexy, and touching, and was a welcome side story that made the book that much more enjoyable. Fiona did a great job with all of the supporting characters and their part of the story, and I am looking forward to reading TRULY MADLY MOTANA, the second book in the series.
ehaney578 More than 1 year ago
3.5 Stars I enjoyed this first book in the Medicine River series. Fiona Lowe is a new author to me and she definitely captured my attention with her story lines and interesting characters. Ms. Lowe takes us through a gamut of emotions and really does a number on our heartstrings as we follow the lives of the people of Bear Paw, Montana. I did, however, feel that the chemistry between Jason and Katrina was a little off. It didn’t feel consistent and that made it difficult for me to connect with them. I was more vested in Shannon and Beau’s relationship (secondary characters) and wished for more scenes with them. I felt their relationship was more powerful and overshadowed Jason and Katrina’s.  Overall, MONTANA ACTUALLY is an entertaining and heartfelt read. I look forward to the next Medicine River book. ***I was gifted an eBook copy from the publisher via Net Galley in exchange for an honest review. All conclusions reached are my own***
JensReadingObsession More than 1 year ago
This is the first book by Ms. Lowe that I've read, but I am a now a huge fan! Not only do you get the main romance between Josh and Katrina, you get a extra helping of love with her cousin Beau and and her boss, Shannon.  There were plenty of moments to laugh, sigh and cry in this story. I can't wait for the next book in the series! Highly recommended to contemporary romance lovers!  eARC received via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review
gaele More than 1 year ago
A wonderful start to a small town romance series, Fiona Lowe starts with Dr. Josh Stanton, who has set up practice in this little town to be able to pay off loans and escape from the big city ER.  He’s busily adjusting to the remoteness of the hospital and the small-town atmosphere, and the adjustment is a big one for him.  Katrina grew up in Bear Paw, but left to pursue her nursing in the big city. While in Philadelphia, she was involved with a doctor that turned out to be married: she needed a change and home felt best.  From the start, these two were vibing off one another, but both were tentative and reluctant to get involved. When you added in Katrina’s family and the ‘small town’ feel, a relationship doesn’t feel like what either wants, but two adults can enjoy the benefits without attachment. Or so they think.  Adding to this is a lovely secondary storyline that is equally as sweet and endearing – love is in the air in Bear Paw Montana, and few will escape unscathed.  Low on angst and tension , the characters in this story shine through with challenges and expectations that feel real and honest. Humor and clever dialogue, descriptions that bring the town and Montana to life and a story that will have you laughing, crying and thoroughly enjoying the story.  I received an eArc copy of the title from the publisher for purpose of honest review. I was not compensated for this review: all conclusions are my own responsibility. 
UndercoverBookReviews More than 1 year ago
When life throws you heart ache sometimes you just have to escape. Just like Katrina and Josh. Both have dealt with heart break in their own personal lives. But what happens with these two turns it all around. Loved the plot as well as the characters. Love a the small town feel of the book. This is a book that will be on a MUST read list this year! *Received for an honest review*
Turophile More than 1 year ago
Fiona Lowe serves up another treat for lovers of contemporary romances that combine humor, a picturesque setting, and layered external and emotional challenges without the sticky sweetness that can show up in a small town romance.  Montana Actually is the first in a series set in Bear Paw, Montana, a fictional town nestled in the mountains near a national park. Our hero is Dr. Josh Stanton who’s moved to Bear Paw for a few years so that he can pay off his medical school loans. It’s apparent from the start he’s not used to small town living, but he also recognizes with a little prodding that he needs to adjust his actions and his expectations if he’s going to survive the next several years in Bear Paw.  Helping him figure things out is our heroine, Katrina McCade, who grew up in Bear Paw but left as soon as she could for the bright lights of the East Coast. An affair gone bad drove her back home, but the wounds are still fresh and she’s not ready to share her challenges with her family or acknowledge the impact it had on herself.  Sparks fly from the moment these two meet, but both are reluctant to let it go any further because they’re both gun shy about relationships and commitment. They convince themselves they can have a no strings attached physical relationship, but as one might expect that can’t work if one starts developing deeper feelings for the other that may or may not be reciprocated.  The theme of family expectations is never far from the surface in this book and there is a significant subplot involving the health of a family member that plays a significant role in the arc of Josh and Katrina’s relationship. Ms. Lowe captured the impact that this health challenge had on the characters in a realistic manner that advanced the story without bogging it down in sentimentality. Josh’s conflict with his family is also addressed and advanced without complete resolution.  That’s a trait I really enjoy about Ms. Lowe’s books: the characters face real challenges large and small that don’t get neatly resolved in a nice package with a bow on top, kind a like relationships in real life.  Combine that with the humorous dialogue and beautiful setting in Montana, and it makes for a great read. 
Alwaysscrappin More than 1 year ago
My review: 4 1/2 stars Dr. Josh Stanton has taken a job in the rural Montana town of Bear Paw. He has never lived in the country, drives a low-slung sports car and has no clue what he has gotten himself in to. Katrina McCade was born and raised in Bear Paw, but left to go to nursing school and pursue her career. She has returned to town to nurse her wounds, both professional and personal. When Josh and Katrina meet, the sparks are instant. But Katrina has sworn off both men and medicine. Will she be able to resist the pull of Josh and nursing? I love Montana Actually from the very first scene, finding myself laughing out loud on several occasion. I love that Katrina could completely take care of herself, including house repairs. I love the banter between Dr. Josh and Katrina and Dr. Josh and his staff. I love that Dr. Josh could think on his feet, often coming up with incredible medical saves because of the town's distance to a major hospital. I highly recommend this for anyone who enjoys medical love stories, cowboy stories, or contemporary feel-good romance stories. Montana Actually is the first book in the Medicine River series and I cannot wait until the next release.
sbart84 More than 1 year ago
I absolutely fell in love with this book. Fiona Lowe has written the perfect small town contemporary romance set in beautiful Montana. Loved the characters from Josh and Katrina to all of the secondary characters. Josh and Katrina, both with broken hearts from previous relationships are afraid to develop their relationship. So sex is ok for sex, until feeling develop. I so enjoyed the medical aspect of the book, as a RN myself, Fiona did a great job with the writing. Even though some of it brought tears to my eyes. I so enjoyed how Josh changed his attitude towards medicine. The secondary romance was wonderful, loved those characters too. Beau was so wonderful and giving. I am looking forward to MIllie's story in the next book. I can't wait to return to Bear Paw. I received this book from the author for an honest review.