The Cowboy & the Shotgun Bride is the first in a trilogy set in
Grazier's Corners, California or Smalltown, USA. Mindy Neff comes next with
A Bachelor for the Bride (# 739) and then Charlotte Maclay finishes
with The Hog-Tied Groom (#743).
Thirty-one-year-old Kate Bingham, an elementary school principal, first
sees Mitch Connery as he's being chased and shot at on Main Street in
Grazier's Corners. He shields her from the bad guys, which is more than her
fiancÚ, Moose Harmon, does. Kate takes a special interest in the scene;
she's just been elected sheriff, an office she did not seek. Her fiancÚ put
her on the ballot without her knowledge or permission. She's attracted to
Mitch Connery, but he disappears just as suddenly as he appeared.
The second time that Kate sees Mitch, it's his photograph on a wanted
poster. It seems he's killed a man.
The third time Kate sees Mitch is at her wedding. She spots him as she
walks down the aisle and is perplexed to see him. The reason is apparent
when the bad guys come storming into the church, looking for Mitch. He
again shields her from the bad guys, unlike her fiancÚ, who is pretty much
Kate's lace overskirt and Mitch's belt buckle get inextricably tangled. She
finds herself escaping with him. Taking him to her house, she prepares to
listen to his story. What a tale it is. Mitch has lost his Texas ranch to
a swindler, he's being framed for murder, his cousin is a witness, but has
run away and the cousin is the reason that Mitch is in Kate's town.
Kate innately trusts and believes Mitch and surprises both of them with her
offer to help Mitch find his cousin, in order to clear his name. Thus
begins a multi-state odyssey.
Remember that this is the woman who's just left her fiancÚ at the altar.
As the story continues, it's difficult to take her recriminations regarding
Moose very seriously. They've had a tepid relationship at best. Mitch is
able to bring Kate some long- awaited joy to her life. At least I think he
does. Occasionally the writing is so lackluster that I supplied my own
After a while, they carried their dishes inside, then went
to collect the laundry. While folding it inside the camper, they kept
bumping into each other until finally they gave up, tossed the clothes in
the basket and made love. You're asking yourself, "What's the
problem?" Okay, this is only the second time they have been intimate.
Wouldn't some more . . . descriptive embellishments have added spice?
I immediately liked Kate's reaction when she heard Mitch's blunt confession
that he had killed a man. "I'm going to let you tell me about the
mitigating circumstances, and explain who these bandits were and why you
crashed my wedding." You've got to applaud a levelheaded approach like
Kate's and not some screaming idiot who jumps feet first into the wrong
What's refreshing and honest about this story is how these people, these
mature people, treat each other with dignity and respect. There are no
tantrums, no snits, no theatrics between the two of them. What's there is
so much external melodrama that the story would have collapsed on itself
with the addition of internal stress.
While this story has external conflicts, what it lacks is sexual tension.
These people and their situation are mere words on paper, not characters
who have stepped off the pages and are inviting me to participate in their
adventures. The external tension level and the interest level go up and
down like a yoyo. When Mitch and Kate aren't being ambushed by The Three
Stooges of Gangsterdom, things are okay. But when these yokels appear, you
can start humming the theme from Deliverance. This is another case
of the bad guys being stooopid.
Music plays a secondary role and, in its own way, saves the day. There's a
touching scene where Mitch serenades Kate, and another scene where we come
to see how opera played a part in his heritage. Also, his proposal is
somewhat musical. All of this leads me to my final thought about this
story. I feel a great deal like Peggy Lee's famous song, Is That All There Is?