Danna Carpenter's was one of her husband's deputies. When Fred is killed, the town council appoints Danna marshal. However, even with their endorsement, it's been an uphill battle. Nobody will work for her, which means no deputies. Plus, she's had no success tracking down the culprit who shot her husband. The last thing this gal needs is some citified private detective rolling into town. Especially when she finds herself rescuing the idiot from a stampede.
Chas O'Grady has been hired to look into some suspected cattle rustling in the area. When he's almost mowed down by a stampede, he's shocked to discover that his rescuer is a....woman! And when he discovers she's the town marshal? Yeah, his brain almost self-destructs. Since he's a stranger in town, doesn't really know the lay of the land, it's imperative for him to be on the right side of the local law. Which means working with Danna. A woman he finds exceedingly interesting, and attractive, despite her unconventional ways.
OK, let's get this out of the way upfront. Yes, a heroine who is a lawman in 1889 Wyoming. Yes, yes, I know. I've never been one to drone on about "historical accuracy" in historical romance novels - but even this gave me pause. I'm not saying it couldn't have happened. Maybe it did happen? But it's certainly eye-brow raising. Now, that being said, the author does eventually close this plot hole. How did a woman end up being the town marshal? It's explained, and in a way I could buy-into. She just takes a while to do it (in other words, you can't read 50 pages and expect to have the answer).
What made this story work for me is that I could believe Danna as a town marshal. I really could. She's competent, intelligent, hard-working and observant. In many ways, she reminds me quite a bit of a Maggie Osborne heroine. Unconventional, an outsider, not a frippery-frou-frou sort of female. She's a straight-shooter, which is what I really liked about her. Danna is the kind of heroine that you would not only be friends with, but who would also give you an honest opinion if you asked for one.
Chas is a decent guy, but also a fairly typical man. I don't want to say he immediately dismisses Danna (I mean, she did save his life), but the idea of a woman being the marshal? Ha! However, what I really enjoyed here is that while Danna and Chas do get off on the wrong foot, while there is some animosity there early on - they eventually get past it. Once Chas realizes that he needs her help, and also that she's pretty good at her job. She proves herself to him, and dang if he isn't drawn to her in a way that complicates matters.
There's a fair amount of internal angst floating around. Danna was married before, so there are her feelings for her first husband (she cared for him, but it wasn't a grand passion). Chas feels guilt over his role in a woman's death, and is determined to bring the murderer to justice. Add in the cattle rustling, and Danna's struggles to gain the town's acceptance, and it adds up to plenty of conflict to keep the pages turning.
Since this is an inspirational, I feel it's important to mention The God Stuff. I tend to treat religion a lot like sex in my romance novels. If it doesn't feel organic to the story, it annoys the stuffing out of me. Here, the religious elements are painted with an extremely light brush. So light, that it's easy to forget this wasn't published by Harlequin Historical. When it enters into the story, it's pretty believable fare. Danna believes that God watches over her. At one point, during a crisis, she prays. That's honestly about it. Readers looking for a "heavier" religious tone in this story will likely be disappointed. But if you're like me, and just looking for a good western romance? You won't feel like the author is trying to convert you.
I really enjoyed this debut novel. It was a good story, well told, and featured interesting characters. I liked Danna, a lot. And Chas is also a pretty darn decent guy (red-headed hero alert!). I believed they were falling in love, I liked that they worked together, and I also liked that they rescued each other....in more ways than one. If that's not a good romance, I'm not sure what is.
Grade = B
(Sidenote: Squeeeeee! New historical western author!)