This historical western romance is set in Creek County, Colorado at the turn of the century in 1903, so it's a different sort of western. Townspeople...moreThis historical western romance is set in Creek County, Colorado at the turn of the century in 1903, so it's a different sort of western. Townspeople are settled, the law is enforced, and there's not much of the "wild" left in the West. Sheriff Eugene Grey, a local, has matters under control and lives a relatively peaceful life until the young, arrogant Federal Marshal Forest O'Rourke shows up with an ancient wanted poster looking to arrest a local resident.
"I considered punching Forest O'Rourke in the face, the first time, about two minutes after making his acquaintance."
The narrative in this novel is strictly from Gene's first point of view perspective. It is quick witted, engaging, and absorbing throughout the novel, so of course I immediately fell in love with Gene Grey's voice and character. Not so much with young, arrogant Federal Marshal Forest O'Rourke or his brand new shiny tin star. That changes as the story unfolds and Gene exposes Forest's truths and vulnerabilities.
"Still, I gave him the benefit of the doubt that day for a couple of reasons, though mostly I claim I was bedazzled by the sunlight sparkling off his shiny, new badge."
Gene and Forest's story is divided into three parts. It begins with "The Law & Rawley Scoggins" and includes that first meeting, Forest's stubborn determination to arrest the old-timer, the disturbing end to those events for Forest and old Scoggins, and a few days of intimate acquaintance for Gene and Forest. Conversations lead to unexpected private revelations from both sides, particularly from Gene who finds himself attracted to young Forest and takes a leap by answering with the truth when asked why he is not married: "Because I like men, not women."
What follows is a beautiful seductive scene where Forest takes the lead. This is a favorite scene where a tentative physical move with an almost tender quality builds into full-blown lusty passion between the two men. I found the depiction of this scene to be excellent, specifically in how well Wilson conveys sexual tension, lust, passion, and the emotions involved, without going into unnecessary minute graphic or explicit details.
In the second part of the book, "Diotima's Child," Forest returns to Creek County under false pretenses and moves in with Gene as his lover, eventually becoming Gene's temporary deputy. This section details a joyful period for Gene and Forest filled with passion and love. Their relief at having found each other, however, makes them a careless pair, so it's no surprise when all ends badly and the lovers end up making their way to Atlanta and Philadelphia in the final and, to my way of thinking, strongest section of the book "Lonesome Trail," where loneliness and terrible despair awaits them. And where Gene risks breaking the law, prison, and death for love.
Wilson's characters are a study in contrasts with Gene a confident, educated, working man from the West and Forest a hot-headed, almost illiterate (not-so-bright) well-to-do gentleman from the South. Needless to say, characterization is fine tuned as well, particularly Gene. Through Gene's narrative the reader experiences the full scope of the novel, as well as the inner workings of a self-assured man plagued by loneliness whose passionate love leads to such raging turmoil and despair that he will do anything for a smidgen of hope. To a lesser degree Forest's character, the man who inspires such passionate love, is also well rendered as he evolves throughout the novel. Wilson humanizes the characters by portraying their strengths and vulnerabilities during different sections of the novel, making them fit with each other, as well as with time, place, and setting.
A Shiny Tin Star is a romance with a hopeful ending. This historical western is memorable for its characters, its witty, engaging, straight-forward narrative style, and a sweet, passionate romance with conflicts that fit the historical period. It ends with one of the best memorable, quotable, last lines I've read in a long time. I would quote it for you, but don't want to spoil it. Read the book and find out!
Any Other Name begins as Walt's daughter Cady is waiting to give birth and Walt is due to travel to Philadelphia for his first grandchild's birth. In...moreAny Other Name begins as Walt's daughter Cady is waiting to give birth and Walt is due to travel to Philadelphia for his first grandchild's birth. In the meantime his old boss Lucian asks him to accompany him to Gillette in Campbell County to help investigate the alleged suicide of a friend's husband -- semiretired Detective Gerald Holman. The by-the-book Holman was working the County's cold files and his widow, who doesn't believe the forensic reports or the sheriff's assertion that her husband committed suicide, insists that there is some sort of cover-up going on. Lucian warns her to make sure she wants Walt involved in the investigation because “he’s like a gun; once you point him and pull the trigger, it’s too late to change your mind.” And, that's exactly what happens. Once Walt becomes invested in the investigation he's relentless and no matter the results, good or bad, there's no stopping until he's done.
Walt quickly comes to the conclusion that Holman committed suicide. But his question is why? Once he begins digging deeper Walt realizes that Holman may have been hiding information that connected the disappearance of three women, all three investigated as separate crimes. Why would a by-the-book lawman knowingly hold back that kind of information? With the assistance of his Undersheriff and lover Vic Moretti, best friend Henry Standing Bear, Dog, and a rookie from Campbell County, Walt's investigation begins to make sense of the information trickling in until it all takes a dark, unexpected, and dangerous turn. And as the countdown begins to the time when Cady's is scheduled to give birth, the anxiety builds for Walt who won't give up on solving the case or hoping that he will make it in time to get to Philadelphia.
The timeline for solving this mystery is short, a few days, so the pacing is quick and just as relentless as Walt. The bulk of the novel is taken up by the mystery with an anxious Walt trying to find out why a man like Holman would commit suicide while knowing that no matter what happens, he has to be there for over-emotional and demanding Cady. Both the mystery and action are great -- peppered with high octane dangerous situations, Walt's witty narrative, humanity and determination. As in other books, you can count on excellent contributions by Henry, Vic, and Lucian, which are accompanied by a few of Johnson's atmospheric, signature mystic moments. If anything is lacking, in my opinion, it is the page time dedicated for Vic and Walt to discuss the events with which Johnson closed A Serpent's Tooth-- a situation that brought such deep despair to them both.
Any Other Name is another great mystery installment in Craig Johnson's Walt Longmire Mystery series with less of the personal overall story arc involved. Still, I gobbled up this book in one sitting. There's a big revelation at the end of the book that foreshadows what's to come in the next, or in future installments, for Walt. I can't wait to find out how that turns out. If you're a fan, I know you won't miss it. If you're not, I definitely recommend this western contemporary mystery series as a whole. (less)
When it comes to writing gay western erotica and Dale Chase the expression "she ain't no daisy, she ain't no daisy at all" doesn't apply. In her hands...moreWhen it comes to writing gay western erotica and Dale Chase the expression "she ain't no daisy, she ain't no daisy at all" doesn't apply. In her hands, the American West comes alive as she mixes fine details and gritty characters with raw and downright dirty erotica. Crack Shot is one of Chase's latest releases (she has released a few new books lately), and in this collection I enjoyed all five stories: Brazen, Thyself a Man, Gandy Dancer, Crack Shot, and Picture Show. Favorites: "Gandy Dancer," and "Crack Shot." (less)
Taking the Reins by Kat Murray in a contemporary romance set in a ranch with a feisty heroine and a loner for a hero. This is my kind of romance.
Peyto...moreTaking the Reins by Kat Murray in a contemporary romance set in a ranch with a feisty heroine and a loner for a hero. This is my kind of romance.
Peyton Muldoon has been working the M-Star all her life. She inherits when her mother dies only to find out that her long absentee siblings Trace and Bea each co-own one-third of the ranch. She must get in touch with them to make big decisions but needs a horse trainer now. Redford Callahan is that man.
Red's reputation with ranch owners as a horse trainer is impeccable and now that he is free to accept a new contract he can pick and choose. His head tells him that accepting a job at the badly mismanaged M-Star is a mistake and shouldn't even consider it, not with the beautiful Peyton as its manager, but when Peyton personally offer him the job, his gut tells him otherwise. Red accepts, but knows he is in for a bumpy ride.
Peyton is one of those feisty heroines with a stubborn streak a mile long. She carries lots of personal baggage caused by neglect from a mother with a reputation too busy sleeping around with anything wearing pants and no knowledge of how to run a ranch, and a loving father who died too soon. To Peyton the ranch and family always come first and her needs come last, if that. She is attracted to Red big time! And slowly that attraction turns to lust and need. But she's not willing to trust or better yet place her reputation and that of the M-Star on the line for whatever it is that is going on between them. The ranch comes first.
Red on the other hand can't help but admire Peyton's hard work and business sense as well as her beauty. He lusts after her, yes, but everything about Peyton seems just perfect to him, even her feisty and sometimes over the top pride and stubbornness. Red falls in love with Peyton. He is a sweet and sexy man memorable for his patience and heartwarming nature -- because believe me, Red had to be patient with Peyton! The thing is that while working the ranch Peyton is the boss who rules (sometimes she's a bit too insecure about this point), but in bed Red and Peyton together are hot! I like how by the end this relationship slowly balances itself out in and out of bed.
Murray's conflict in this romance is mostly internal between the two protagonists, but aided in part by external circumstances. The internal conflict is excellent, creating the necessary push and pull or tension that makes the happy ending worth it at the end of a romance. The external conflict although used as a device to advance the storyline seemed weaker throughout with a predictable resolution.
Murray creates great atmosphere in this story by providing the necessary ranching details that place the reader right there on that barn with the horses. I really enjoyed that aspect of this novel. The secondary characters are also a contributing factor, although they do not take the focus away from the main couple. The ranch hands become more than just characters as do some of the townspeople, and Peyton's siblings Trace and Bea are key figures in this story that stay enough of a mystery in preparation for their own upcoming romances.
Taking the Reins by Kat Murray is a solid contemporary romance read. I enjoyed the pacing and writing style, but most of all the atmosphere and characters that Murray creates in this romance. Now I'm really curious to find out how cowboy Trace really ended up as a single father, and why Bea left behind her career as an actress and is now sneaking out on those midnight rides! (less)
Never Love a Lawman is set in the small mining town of Reidsville, Colorado and the events take place in 1882. A spur of the California & Colorado...moreNever Love a Lawman is set in the small mining town of Reidsville, Colorado and the events take place in 1882. A spur of the California & Colorado Railroad Company (the C&C) is the only thing keeping it from becoming a ghost town. Those short railway miles linking Denver to Reidsville give the miners and townspeople access to goods. In turn they use the railway as a fast and efficient way to transport their gold and silver.
Clinton Maddox, owner of the C&C and a partner with interest in the Reidsville's mines, is dead. This death sets up a chain of events and like falling dominoes, plans set up by a clever and manipulative Maddox start falling into place. The import of this death to the people of Reidsville is enormous as his grandson and presumed heir, Foster Maddox, has been making questionable changes to the company and is an unknown.
Wyatt Cooper, the Sheriff of Reidsville came west following his father's footsteps. He is sharp and tough -- a lawman through and through -- but also a man of layers whose sense of humor and responsibility kick him a notch above the hero whose obvious passions rule the day. Wyatt takes care of the town and its people as if they were his own, and is willing to do what it takes to ensure their safety and future. Rachel Bailey is about to find out just how far he's willing to go.
Rachel is Reidsville's newest resident. She moved to town over a year ago and although readily accepted, she remains a self-contained woman who prefers her own company. A talented seamstress, she is both admired by the men for her beauty and respected by the women for her skills. She is friendly, but not too friendly, to all except for the Sheriff -- she avoids him at all costs. Unfortunately for Rachel, Clinton Maddox's death is about to change all that. Upon Maddox's death Rachel becomes the unexpected heir to both his interest in the mine and the railroad spur with one condition: in order to inherit, she must marry none other than Wyatt.
Jo Goodman develops Rachel and Wyatt's relationship slowly. These two people don't know or trust each other when they are thrown together by these unexpected circumstances. They circle each other, get to know one another and in the process become friends before acting on their attraction. The dialogue between them is witty and sharp enough to keep the story interesting throughout.
Wyatt is the type of man who makes his moves deliberately at times and goes by the seat of his pants at others, but he has enough insight to know how to deal with Rachel. He seems to know when to use his sense of humor, determination, sensitivity or just plain common sense to win more than one argument and smooth more than one awkward moment. Rachel on the other hand, doesn't really seem to know what to make of Wyatt.
I loved that Rachel was portrayed as an intelligent, independent woman with a sharp-tongue and a dry sense of humor. A woman who was willing to pay a painful price for maintaining her loyalty to a friend, Rachel was an admirable heroine whose past made her strong, but whose vulnerabilities I could also understand. She was the type of woman who was not easily convinced, but whose love was worth winning and waiting for.
Wyatt was just right too. He pushed Rachel but didn't really expect to get away with anything. He knew she would put him in his place sooner rather than later. He was both tough and vulnerable. This was a great couple. I loved the sexual tension and passionate interludes, their witty and joyful relationship... but most of all the friendship that got them to their happy ending.
Having said that, Never Love a Lawman would not be the same without the well-defined secondary characters that abound in the story. From "that no-account Beatty boy" to Rose, Adele and Molly, you'll find a full set of characters in this book that make a whole town come alive. They are the ones that make this romance and the story complete.
The events set off by Clinton Maddox's death are convoluted and the twists, turns and action are well done. The resolution at the end had the drama expected of a western with the Sheriff and his posse, a villain, trains and lots of happy endings.
A western romance with all the ingredients to satisfy my taste, Never Love a Lawman, with Rachel, Wyatt and company, is already a favorite.
4.75/5.0 I tend to enjoy Jo Goodman's western historical romances, but with The Last Renegade she definitely penned a favorite.
It all begins with Kelle...more4.75/5.0 I tend to enjoy Jo Goodman's western historical romances, but with The Last Renegade she definitely penned a favorite.
It all begins with Kellen reading a dime novel while riding the train to Salt Lake City, but when a man dying of knife wounds calling himself Nat Church walks up to him that destination changes. Out of curiosity, impulse, or simply to carry out Mr. Church's last dying wish, Kellen finds himself at the Pennyroyal Saloon and Hotel in Bitter Springs, Wyoming with two guns that don't belong to him hidden in his valise and letters from a Mrs. Berry.
At the Pennyroyal Saloon and Hotel, Kellen meets the Widder Berry as she's known in town. Raine hired Nat Church, a shootist she believes will protect the good people in her town from the powerful rancher Uriah Burdick, his three sons Eli, Clay, and Isaac, and his hired hands. Good people have died or disappeared and there's a possibility that more will suffer the same fate. Raine can't stand by and watch it happen, not when she wants revenge against these men, and not when deep down she feels responsible for what is happening. Kellen Coltrane is not Nat Church, but Raine needs help and comes to believe the new handsome shootist can do just that. After meeting Lorraine Berry and finding out the extent of the town's troubles, Kellen allows her to assume that he was Mr. Church's assistant and takes on the role of protector.
The Last Renegade is tough to review only because I want to let you know how much there is to love about the story, but don't want to give too much away about the plot while doing so. I guess that right there is something to like about the book, there are surprises and revelations along the way about Raine, Kellen and the plot that keep the reader intrigued about both characters and interested in the story. Both characters are full of personal secrets, even as they are quite open about their mutual attraction and desire for each other.
The romance spans the whole book, and it's a wonderful romance. Raine and Kellen make a great couple. They are upfront about desires and feelings, and there's chemistry between them, but there's also a certain connection that the reader feels through the pages that makes this a great read. However, although there's honesty about desire and feelings in this relationship, there are personal facts they keep from each other. Some of those personal facts are revealed throughout the course of this romance while others are kept secret even from the reader until the very end. Goodman sets the stage for a few different mysteries in this western, there's a who-dun-it with a why-dun-it incorporated into it, as there are murders that take place beginning with Nat Church's on the train and continuing with others at Bitter Springs, and then we have those personal secrets kept by Raine and Kellen.
Kellen plays our sleuth in this piece and he works out the why-dun-it beautifully. The who-dun-it is also very well done. The reader may have an idea as to who is involved, but there are many gray areas in this story. The characters, the good people and even the villains of this piece, are not all portrayed as being black and white/good and bad. I think that's where Goodman really shines because you'll find that even the villains have depth of character. And the secondary characters? They really round up this story as only well developed secondary characters can do. And, I wonder if there's anyone out there who is not going to fall in love with Finn and Rabbit! (Talk about memorable characters) These two boys steal every scene where they appear. What a pair!
But this is a western, did it project that western atmosphere? Yes, it did. There are the good people of the town being bullied by the powerful local rancher and his men. Goodman captures the fear, constant anxiety, and sense of danger felt by men, women and children when those men ride into town. These sections, however, are not done in an overly gritty style, but fit the story. Yet, there are also moments when the reader understands why these people love living in the lovely little town that is Bitter Springs, Wyoming. The beauty of the landscape is there, as is the struggle to make a living from ranching, farming and other endeavors in a small, isolated western town.
All in all The Last Renegade is a very satisfying western historical romance. There is a well developed and sexy romance in the middle of what I think of as a mystery in this western historical, but there's also that undeniable western atmosphere throughout the story. Both central and secondary characters are well rounded so and there's a great sense of balance to the story with gray areas and minimal black and white moments. I absolutely recommend it as a favorite read.
Oh, and now I can't wait to read True to the Law, the next installment in this series (Finn and Rabbit appear there too!). (less)
3.75/5.0 Logan's Outlaw by Elaine Levine is the fourth installment in the Men of Defiance series. I read Leah and the Bounty Hunter, Book 3 and enjoyed...more3.75/5.0 Logan's Outlaw by Elaine Levine is the fourth installment in the Men of Defiance series. I read Leah and the Bounty Hunter, Book 3 and enjoyed the "real, somewhat gritty western" atmosphere in that story, and plan on reading the complete series. Logan's Outlaw is a western romance with plenty of violence and events covering the not-so-pretty history of the West. This story takes place during the painful times when the Sioux Nation was in flux, when gold was found in the Black Hills, and while some tribes were left with little choice but to move to reservations, others fought to maintain their way of life.
The story begins with Sarah, a white woman who survived torture as the white captive of a Sioux chief. This beginning worried me a bit, I've read these types of books before (from the 70's and 80's) where Native Americans are often demonized or romanticized. However, pretty quickly I realized that in Logan's Outlaw, Levine goes out of her way to portray both sides of the story. I can't tell you how politically correct the book is, you'll have to decide that for yourself, I can say that it is apparent that Ms. Levine conducted research before writing this story and did not romanticize either side.
Through Sarah, Levine explores life in the aftermath of a surviving white captive who was tortured and married to a Sioux chief. Also through Sarah, the author addresses the subject of how land, when not gained through treaties, was taken through foul means. Through White Cloud and his people, Levine explores the wisdom of the culture and how deeply they were wronged, and through Chayton her exploration goes into the pain and loss of the plains people.
Logan is the linchpin in this story. His position as a trader allows him to straddle both sides, and he appreciates and experiences the pain from both sides. Actually Logan turns out to be the perfect knight for a woman like Sarah. He understands what she went through, has endless patience with her, and all the right connections and courage to save her from her Sioux husband and to protect her from white scorn. There were very few moments when Logan showed his flaws... and even then, his reasoning was quite human. I wondered a few times along the way if there are men out there with his kind of patience. As a fictional romance hero, though, he is just that... quite a hero.
The romance between Sarah and Logan serves as the central focus. When Logan meets Sarah at a coach stop, she is a wounded, traumatized soul. Logan takes one look at beautiful and haunted-looking Sarah and fearing that the coach leaving to Cheyenne is headed for danger, appoints himself her silent protector and joins the group on their journey. That journey is a harsh one. They are attacked by a band of Sioux warriors, their coach is burned and the passengers killed. Although Sarah and Logan survive through Logan's knowledge and brave cunning, their adventures through Cheyenne, Defiance, and eventually to the Circle Bar Ranch continue to be filled with danger.
Levine uses the journey and the different obstacles that Logan and Sarah encounter along the way, including persecution by some goons that are after Sarah, to develop their relationship and romance. When Sarah and Logan find out that she is wanted for forgery, Logan marries her and slowly but surely begins the process of helping Sarah heal from the terrible fears and horrible nightmares that plague her from her days as a captive. She doesn't believe she'll ever be able to have a normal relationship with a man again, and he's willing to have her on any terms as long as he can protect her. How can Sarah not fall in love with Logan?
There's nothing pretty about some of the violent scenes portrayed in this story. There are burned bodies, scalpings, and people are killed ruthlessly. There's no sparing a character for the sake of making this a pretty romance, even as the characters experience their happy moments. This is a warning for readers who cannot tolerate violence with their romance.
Levine's prose is not complex or lyrical, as a matter of fact I find it rather straight forward and easy to read and the dialog can be said to be awkward at times, however the plot carries the day in this romance. Levine handles Sarah's healing, the aftermath of being tortured and raped, quite well (those torture and rape scenes are not shown in the book). The action is there from beginning to end, with quiet, romantic moments in between where Sarah and Logan get to know each other. Logan's attraction is instant and more protective than passionate in the beginning with passion taking over later on in the story.
Logan's Outlaw, like Leah and the Bounty Hunter, is a gritty western with both central and secondary characters that are confronting seriously hurtful situations. In contrast, the romance is sweet and by the end of the story there's a sense that the love found by our couple will endure. A quick western historical romance read, full of action that might not be enjoyed by everyone.