|Texas Rifleman, Will Bondurant, is tracking a murderous outlaw, who happens to be his older half brother, when he comes across a burnt out wagon. A man is lying dead, which is disturbing enough, but then Will spots pieces of torn petticoat. The renegade Sioux have made off with a female prisoner. Anxious to continue his search for Luis, Will, in good conscience, cannot abandon a woman he knows is in serious trouble. He goes after her.
Charlotte Greenfield is a spinster from Ohio who plans to teach at an Indian reservation school in Oregon. After her wagon becomes separated from the wagon train, she finds herself being held hostage by Indians. She is scared out of her mind, but luckily God has answered her prayers. A handsome man has arrived in the Indian village and won her her freedom.
Now that he’s saved Charlotte he’s not quite sure what to do with her. Not only do the Riflemen expect him to have captured Luis within the next month, but also Will was wounded saving Charlotte. However, he cannot just abandon her to the elements, so he decides he’s going to take her to Fort Laramie to meet up with her wagon train. Then he can wash his hands of her and get back down to business hunting Luis.
Will is an admirable man, with the best of intentions, so it will come as no surprise to readers that his “plans” for Charlotte don’t exactly go off without a hitch. Life on the trail is hard as it is, but now he has a woman to contend with. On top of that, conflict soon arrives in the form of Will’s injured shoulder, Luis, and another man who appears to be tracking Charlotte herself.
Charlotte is a nice girl, a preacher’s daughter, who travels out west to do good. The death of her parents has left her without family, and she feels she will be best serving the Lord by teaching Indian children. She’s also traveling out west for another reason, one she has not shared with Will.
The Ranger and the Redhead is a nice road romance, with the characters spending the bulk of the novel on the trail traveling west. And while the characters are interesting people, the conflict is a little scatterbrained. The author throws in several threads of external conflict, and attention is divided between all of them. Threads stop and start at odd intervals, with no clear focus given to any of them. This naturally leads to a rather crowded ending, when the author then must tie up all of the loose threads. She does this somewhat successfully, but other interesting aspects of the story are neglected – namely Charlotte’s teaching position.
Also, Charlotte is fairly religious and secure in her faith. So one finds it rather curious that she has no qualms about losing her virginity and in fact feels no guilt after the fact. Sure life in the west was different, but the Bible is pretty clear on the issue of pre-marital relations and Charlotte barely bats an eyelash. It seemed a tad out of character.
All in all though, The Ranger and the Redhead is a pleasant western read. Charlotte and Will are nice people, and their travels make for interesting reading. A bit more focus on the conflict, or maybe just some weeding of it, would have made this a tighter read – but still, it’s enjoyable fare.