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STRIPPED BARE
by Shannon Baker
Forge, September 2016
288 pages
$24.99
ISBN: 0765385449


Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

As she starts a new series, this one featuring Kate Fox, a Nebraska rancher, Shannon Baker focuses on the strength that a woman can exhibit even in the face of deception and peril. Kate Fox is no damsel in distress who needs saving; in fact, she spends the majority of the book attempting to save others. In the end, she faces her fears and makes a choice that will no doubt find her taking on greater villains in future books in the series.

The book opens with a bang when Kate hears from her husband's ex-girlfriend that she's found Kate's husband, Ted Connor, the sheriff, shot and lying next to a dead man. As Ted recuperates from his wounds in the hospital, Kate attempts to balance her efforts to exonerate him and the work involved in running a ranch where new calves are being born daily, while at the same time searching for her semi-adopted teenage daughter. In the wide expanses of rural Nebraska, this means a tremendous amount of driving. Unfortunately, and this is the only real flaw of the book, the constant running from one place to another can make Kate seem unfocused and frantic. However, as the book proceeds and Kate hones in on the killer, the flurry of activity becomes more focused and the reader gains trust in Kate's instincts.

In the end, Kate inspires admiration, while the less central characters are well enough developed that the reader also forms relationships with them. The land-grabbing wealthy rancher convinces Kate and the reader that there's a valid reason for his interference with less well-off ranch owners. The missing teenage daughter, it turns out, is justified in her absence. Ted's being a part of the murder scene well that's a different story. All in all, the plot elements hold together and support the twist that Kate's life takes in the end.

Baker brings to life the challenges of a rural Nebraska spring, sharing with the reader the connection to the land and community that infuses all of the characters. Kate is a member of a large family with wide-ranging influence, and the family members pull together to help Kate (some in rather misguided ways). STRIPPED BARE is an excellent start to a series, making the reader long to hear more about Kate and her entire family as she uses the knowledge and strength she gains in this book to forge her future.

Sharon Mensing is the Head of School of Emerald Mountain School, an independent school in the mountains of Colorado, where she lives, reads, and enjoys the outdoors.

Reviewed by Sharon Mensing, August 2016

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Contact: Yvonne Klein (ymk@reviewingtheevidence.com)


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