Con man Logan Brisco breezes into Serenity, Texas, with the aim of relieving it's good citizens of their cash. Carny Sullivan is a widowed single mom who grew up surrounded by con artists, and who is not about to let her friends get ripped off by Logan, despite his good looks and endless charm. Carny makes no secret of her desire to bring Logan down a peg or two, and her challenge both amuses and intrigues him, setting the scene for some colourful goings-on.
But trying to persuade a town full of honest people that Logan is running a con might be more than Carny can manage. Meanwhile, Logan is excited by the challenge Carny presents, and stays in town even though it is against the 'rules' of a good con. However, as Logan spends longer in Serenity, he develops relationships with more of the people, and his perceptions gradually begin to change. Meanwhile, Carny knows from her own life that God can change anyone, even a con artist, and begins to doubt her initial impressions of Logan.
Basically, this was a hoot. The scenes between Carny and Logan were consistently underpinned by an amusing combination of mistrust and attraction, the story was fun, and the book had the desired ending without in any way appearing predictable. I really enjoyed this as a fun read underpinned by a sound Christian message.
Terri Blackstock was published in the general market before she became a Christian, and this book was previously published with another title and under a pseudonym. Terri has now revised and updated it for the Christian market. The new and revised passages are well integrated into the overall story, and there is no sign that you are actually reading an updated book.
Thanks to Zondervan and NetGalley for providing a free ebook for review.
Serenity, Texas is a town in decline. One of its citizens, is Carny Sullivan. She had grown up in the crazy world of the carnival and had survived a hurtful marriage. Now she and her son enjoy the quiet town, her flying service, and her relationship with the Lord.
Then a handsome fellow, Logan Brisco, comes into town. He has ideas of making the town alive again. Be plans to build an amusement park just outside of town. It would draw thousands and bring life back into the community. He says he has investors lined up. All he needs is the people of Serenity to buy into the project and invest some of their own money.
But Carny can spot a con artist when she sees one. She tries to warn the people of her beloved town, to no avail. And then she begins to fall for him.
Logan begins to have feelings for her. He knows he shouldn't let his emotions get in the way of his money making scheme.
Should Carny trust her head or her heart? Is she just one more conquest for this con artist?
This is certainly a character driven romance. The typical romance plot of boy and girl love each other but there is an "insurmountable" problem that needs to be conquered, is the major aspect of this novel. In fact, it repeats several times. For me, it was a bit too much. I thought the novel could have been shorter, say around the typical 300 pages. The plot did drag on. I would not rank this among one of Blackstock's best, and I have read most of her work. On a positive note, I did learn how carnival people make their money.
Carny Sullivan was named aptly for the world she grew up in. Her parents worked on a travelling carnival who taught her to see the world through very different eyes than most. She was raised to trick, con and steal almost anything. Which gave her an ability to read people far deeper than most could.
Now living in a quiet "Mayberry" types town in Texas she doesn't need to use that skill much, until Logan Brisco strolls into town. His slick and saavy ways are no match for her insight, until he finds a way past her head and into her heart. Then he has to pull off the greatest con ever in his life ... the truth.
This story held so many great elements for me. The best part was the intriguing relationship between Logan and Carny. The back and forth banter that ignited their interest in each other was fun to read and be a part of. Ms. Blackstock did a fantastic job of getting into the head of a swindler both present and past. It is like a ex-con trying to catch a con. Fun to read!
As for the plot, although it was not a suspenseful book it was definitely anything but predictable. For a 315 page story, I still didn't know how the author would finally unite the hero with his prize until page 310. (Don't peek if you haven't read it - you'll miss the best parts!)
I also appreciated the spiritual arc of the characters. In particular Logan 's journey felt real and authentic to me. This is an important element for books that I enjoy.
There were only two areas in the book that I would mention in my dislikes. (And they are quite small.) The first was in the form of dialogue. There is a young boy in the story who is age 7/8. He speaks with too much wisdom and understanding much of the time as well as seems like an informant at others (speaking info that the reader needed to know). I felt that his innocence needed to be more evident especially in light of the way his mother had chosen to raise him away from the world that taught her so much in the opposite.
The last comment I would make is that there is a decision that Carny, the heroine makes towards the end of the book. It is crucial to the plot and helps make the ending so satisfying. By the end of the story I knew exactly why Ms. Blackstock wrote it that way but I could not reject the notion that it seemed too out of character for Carny. From the way I got to know the woman in the story she wouldn't have done it that way. However perhaps you may find as you read the story that you do not agree with me. This particular 'flaw' does not reflect negatively on the outcome or satisfaction of the story. I still give the book two thumbs up. Way up!
I received a free copy of this title from Shelby Sledge representing Zondervan Publishers and Terri Blackstock in exchange for my honest review. I am not required to give a positive response.