Baring It All

The Last Dance

The Redhead and the Preacher

Scarlet Lady

Shotgun Groom

The Outlaw Bride by Sandra Chastain
(Bantam, $5.99, PG-13) 0-553-58047-7
Josie Miller is a new lawyer in Wyoming Territory. She also knows quite a bit about doctoring because she helped her adoptive mother, Dr. Annie, with patients for years. When a severely injured man is delivered to the family house/clinic, Josie must care for him because her parents are out of town.

Sims Callahan and his brother Ben had been on their way to purchase a herd of cattle for a group of ranchers. They are carrying money and other valuables to pay for the herd. Four or five men ambush them and Sims tells his brother to run while he stays to hold them off. Sims is left for dead. As he recuperates at the clinic, the ranchers who had bought into the venture accuse the brothers of stealing the money and are ready to string Sims up. Lawyer Josie does everything she can legally and, a few not-so-legal things, to try to keep him from jail and danger and to find out who did steal the money.

Meanwhile, Ben Callahan awakens injured and not remembering who he is. He is in the wagon train of a religious group and staying with Rachel, a woman whose husband died, leaving her alone. The only way they can stay in the wagon train is if they are married, despite the fact that he doesn't even know his name.

Josie appears strong and fearless, as shown by some of her more reckless actions, but she is always afraid that she is not a proper lady. She had been a street kid, working for a ruthless man until she tried to steal from Annie who instead of punishing her, took her in. Despite the love and acceptance of Annie and Dan Miller, she hasn't accepted herself. Sims is a typical hero of the "very decent guy who has hardened his heart because he lost almost everything during the Civil War and doesn't want to get hurt again" variety. They both think that a relationship of any kind is not for them, but the attraction to each other is too strong.

The author also develops the love story between Ben and Rachel and even includes third one between the sheriff and a reformed saloon girl. The last romance comes about a little hastily considering the sheriff started the story wanting Josie.

There is quite a bit of back-story, but the author handles it very well. As someone who dislikes reading books out-of-order, I found that she included enough details about Annie and Dan's relationship that I didn't feel confused by the references, but instead, I wanted to go back and read their story in the previous book. (It's in my TBR pile now.)

If you like romances in a Western setting, The Outlaw Bride is worth reading. It is fast-paced, has a strong villain, and number of likeable, if standard, characters.

--B. Kathy Leitle

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