Sigh. This book ended up in the wrong stack in the many stacks of books around me and my desk, so it didn’t get reviewed nearer to the release date back in September. I hope you’ll give it a chance all these months later, because this is a wonderful read. Jo Goodman has written two terrific characters brought together by circumstance, something one knows and the other doesn’t. They’re up against the old west villain we’ve seen before – own the town to own the people. It’s a good thing Kellen and Lorraine have something to say about that.
Lorraine Berry has lost so much in Bitter Springs, all thanks to family Burdick who run roughshod over everyone in town. So taking the town’s interests into her own hands, she hires a gunslinger to take care of the problem. What she doesn’t know when she meets the man is that Kellen Coltrane is not the original gunslinger she hired. Unfortunately, he died on the train en route to Bitter Springs.
Trying to mind his own business, Kellen gets pulled into a dangerous situation that’s nothing to do with him. But deceased Nate Church – the man stole the popular dime novelist’s name – has left Kellen intrigued and needing to help. Meeting the Widder Berry begins his journey to rid this small town of a man and his sons who have stooped to murder to get what they want. One by one those who served on the jury of Raine’s sister’s murder trial are disappearing, then turning up dead. The way Kellen decides to take care of the problem is to do so from the inside.
And thus begins putting all the puzzle pieces together to come up with the best and safest way to protect the town and its citizens. Thus begins the slow-growing romance between Kellen and Raine, which is an easy but intense relationship when it really starts to heat up. Kellen is the laid-back, take-his-time cowboy in every sense of the word. I find myself smiling and sometimes chuckling at his reactions to people and goings-on and loving his banter with Raine. And she is his perfect match, and it’s just terrific to watch her very slowly give in to his charm and fall into bed with him. But she’s also a strong woman who keeps control of her bar and rebuffs the advances of the oldest Burdick son.
I really like Finn and Rabbit, the town’s precocious young boys who know who’s doing what when and why. And anything else you’d want to know. Their arguing just like brothers do, running around town, elbowing each other to be first, talking to their elders like they’re much older than they are comes off the page so effortlessly you could swear you’re right there with them. They steal so many scenes. Another favorite character is Walt, the one in town every ridicules or pities, and they’re all wrong as can be. He’s a gentle soul and loyal to a fault.
The star of this book for me is Kellen. He has plenty of twists and turns that Raine isn’t aware of and even some the reader doesn’t know about until the end. He’s exactly what I always pictured a real cowboy from way-back West to be. Ms. Goodman is one of very few who is able to get the American West and the cowboy down on the page so accurately and who involves you in the characters and storyline so completely. A must read.
SHE HIRED HIM TO PROTECT HER TOWN
As the owner of the Pennyroyal Saloon and Hotel, Lorraine Berry is privy to almost everything that goes on in Bitter Springs, Wyoming—including the bloodshed plaguing its citizens. With all of the good men dying at the hands of a local rancher and his three sons, Raine hires a shootist to be the town’s protector. But her handsome new employee is more than a hired hand; he’s a man that keeps his guns close and his secrets closer.
BUT NOTHING COULD PROTECT HER HEART
After a chance encounter on a train, Kellen Coltrane travels to the Pennyroyal to carry out a dying man’s last wish. But once he meets the hotel’s fiery-haired proprietor, Coltrane finds himself assuming the role of the shootist’s accomplice and agrees to protect Bitter Springs. And as he learns more about Raine’s own tragedy, Coltrane can’t deny his growing desire for the courageous widow, or the urge to protect her from the threat that draws near…
Read an excerpt.