Kristin Hannah,
True Colors
(St. Martin's Press, 2009)

"Sisters trump men." That's the pact that Winona, Aurora and Vivi Ann Grey make as children on the Water's Edge ranch in Oyster Shores, Wash. After their mother dies of cancer, the girls learn to rely on each other and vow not to let boyfriends ever interfere with their sisterhood relationship. It's a good plan, in theory. But as the three women grow older, life becomes more complex. And the men who happen to show up on their doorsteps unwittingly create situations that challenge the bond.

Winona is the oldest. She's single and is a serious attorney and perfectionist. Aurora is the middle child, the peacemaker and stay-at-home mother of twins. And Vivi Ann is the young and beautiful equestrian who is making a go at running the ranch. Each one longs to find love in her own way. Each one hopes for a chance at deep passion. Each sister would also like a bit of recognition from their father, Henry Grey, a gruff old cowboy who hasn't spoken much since their mother died in 1979. There are indeed some tense times at Water's Edge.

Enter Luke Connelly, a family friend and former neighbor who returns to the area from Montana. He pursues Vivi Ann even while Winona quietly lusts after him -- as she has, secretly, for most of her life. Then Dallas Raintree is hired as the Grey's ranch hand, and he makes Vivi Ann forget all about Luke. Eventually Dallas' difficult past and criminal record take center stage when a local woman is shot to death, and all the evidence leads to him. Sisters take sides, crass words are spoken. And some of the confusion would never happen at all if people would just be honest with each other and would show their "true colors" right from the start. But that's the way it is in real life, too. We think we can protect our friends and family by hiding the truth, saying nothing, and hoping everything will work out perfectly anyway. It rarely does.

As the pages turn, at least three questions arise. Will Vivi Ann's son Noah grow up to be just like his father? Will familial harmony ever be fully restored to the Greys of Water's Edge? And does every story have to have a happy ending?

Kristin Hannah obviously put some of her own background into the book, since she's a former lawyer who lives in Washington, lost her mother to cancer and has a son. But as a veteran novelist, she has taken the foundation of a solid romantic plot (hardly Harlequin!) and has sprinkled into it a few cowboys, horses and Native Americans to add a Western flair. Then she tucked a murder mystery and investigation inside of it. The result is a satisfying all-in-one-weekend read that should please a wide range of women readers. And of course, if Noah Raintree should resurface in a subsequent Hannah book, well, I don't believe that anyone will complain very much at all.

[ visit the author's website ]

review by
Corinne H. Smith

3 October 2009

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