|Ana Leigh: The MacKenzies: Cole|
(Paperback), ISBN: 0-380-82009-9
Cole's under-the-table investigation becomes complicated when Pop's will makes Cole the legal guardian of his daughter, Maggie, a stubborn 18-year-old woman who once harbored a serious crush on Cole. Angry at the terms of the will, Maggie -- or rather prim and proper Margaret as she now prefers to be called -- becomes a thorn in Cole's side by continuing to see her beau, Keith Lawton.
Keith's father, Ben Lawton, owns practically all of the New Mexico town that bears his name. But he always seeks more business opportunities. Ben's hounding of Pop to sell the stagecoach line Pop ran as well as a tract of land Pop recently bought put Ben at the top of Cole's list of suspects. Cole also doesn't trust Keith, which compounds Cole's argument that Maggie shouldn't see Keith any more.
As Cole and Maggie battle over her independence, the attraction between them flares, though they fight it as much as they can. When Cole reveals his suspicions about the Lawtons, Maggie hits the roof, refusing to believe them capable of murder. Cole sets about digging deeper into Timberline, Pop's land purchase, trying to figure out why Pop nearly bankrupted himself to buy it.
Cole finally learns the truth about Pop's death, and after some soul-searching, decides that Maggie marrying Keith relieves Cole of his guardian responsibilities as well as makes her happy -- or so she says. But with three weddings at the end of the book, just who ends up marrying whom?
Ana Leigh crafts very strong characters, even the supporting ones. The characters come across as very real, believable and likeable, and Maggie's spitfire tendencies shine through. The plot gets a bit on the soap opera side, but it never becomes too outrageous. Leigh writes both tenderness and comedy with equal ease.
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