Monday, December 19, 2016
For the Record
By Regina Jennings
Deputy Joel Puckett has left behind his beloved Texas after being falsely accused of taking advantage of a woman and is looking for a fresh start in Pine Gap, Missouri. He soon finds his new job has plenty of challenges—old feuds, lawlessness, a sheriff who isn’t inclined to stop criminals, and a gang of hooded riders set on carrying out vigilante justice. No one seems to want him there, except maybe Betsy Huckabee, but since he wants nothing to do with women, she’s just another obstacle to him succeeding in his new position.
Betsy can’t help but notice the new deputy’s good looks, even if he doesn’t have the personality to match. While he always seems to want to be rid of her, she keeps tabs on him because in him she sees the way to gain independence from her family: she’ll embellish stories about the Dashing Deputy for a serial newsletter column. But as Betsy writes about the Dashing Deputy, she comes to see that the real Joel Puckett might be even better than the Dashing Deputy she has imagined—and he might be just what she and Pine Gap really need.
This is the third book in a series, but you don’t have to read the others first (I didn’t…but I will go back and read them now!). I wasn’t familiar with Pine Gap or the feuds and trouble with outlaws that presumably were covered in the previous books, and I don’t know if I’ve ever read anything that takes place in the Ozark Mountains (other than Where the Red Fern Grows), so it did take me a couple chapters to feel comfortable with the setting and context of the story. Once I felt a little more settled, though, I was intrigued by the setting.
The characters intrigued me from the beginning—Betsy is funny and refreshing and just determined to do what she wants to do, while I couldn’t help but feel bad for Joel, who had been falsely accused in his old town and is resented and unwanted in his new town. I really liked some of the secondary characters, too, particularly Clive Fowler, who is the leader of the vigilante group; he is really an interesting character because while he’s working against Joel because he takes the law into his own hands, he does so because he’s trying to keep people safe. He’s a great character for making you think about justice, morality, following the law, and what it means to do what’s right.
The plot was fresh—not the same old story that I’ve read a lot of times. The idea of Betsy romanticizing Joel for the purpose of her fictional article was funny, as were Joel’s determination to stay away from her and some of the things he said to her as he tried to accomplish that. The conflict between them, when it came to a head was different than a lot of stories, because instead of just assuming that everything wasn’t going to work out, they gave each other the benefit of the doubt pretty quickly and didn’t just write each other out. I liked that; there really was a problem and hurt feelings and confusion, but instead of just avoiding each other or something, they worked together and fixed it pretty quickly, without months and months of brooding or something.
This is an enjoyable story from Regina Jennings. I can’t wait to read more of her books! I received a free copy of the book from the author and Bethany House. All opinions are my own.