May 2008, Series Romance (1880s Colorado)
Steeple Hill Love Insp Hist #8, $5.50, 282 pages, Amazon ASIN 0373827881
The Bounty Hunter's Bride tells a wonderful story of love and redemption that succeeds at sending a strong message without talking down to readers. The author's characters all find themselves with few options in their lives, but it is in working together and loving each other that they find hope.
Faced with ostracism at home, Daniela Baxter travels to Colorado as a mail-order bride, hoping for a chance at family and a settled life. She arrives to learn that her intended died in a recent storm, leaving behind three lost little girls, and an estranged brother who would like nothing more than to put Dani on the next train back to Wisconsin. However, the orphaned girls latch onto Dani soon after her arrival, and she decides that she would rather take her chances in Colorado than return to the empty life awaiting her back home.
Beau Morgan, estranged brother of Dani's fiance Patrick, makes his living as a bounty hunter. He lives for his own personal mission of vengeance and has no room in his life for his nieces or his brother's intended bride. He makes it clear from the beginning that he plans to send Dani back home and the girls away to school. When Dani announces her plan to stay, it infuriates him but, as he watches her work with the girls and round the farm, he finds himself starting to respect her and even to be attracted to her.
Dani, Beau, and the children have all faced a great deal of hurt in their lives. While they do not particularly wish to work together, they must deal with one another in order to cope with the aftermath of Patrick's death. Though Beau especially is haunted by his past, the farm and the girls face enough present dangers that he must deal with his past in order to help preserve them. While the children's immediate attachment to Dani seemed a bit much, the author does a good job of showing the slow building of a connection between Dani and Beau. Their growing relationship makes sense and I couldn't help rooting for them.
Dani works fine as a heroine, but Beau really stands out as a hero. Though tortured by his past and leading what appears to be a bleak life, Beau has managed to remain a decent person at heart. The contrast between his reputation as a bounty hunter and his true decency as a human being is powerful, and the ultimate changes in him by the end of the story seem both believable and moving.
While the action speeds up a little too much in the second half of the story, and too many loose ends get tied up in slightly hackneyed fashion, The Bounty Hunter's Bride still held my attention. The action flows well for most of the story, and the characters are genuinely likable. Those looking for a sweet and heartwarming romance will want to check this one out.
-- Lynn Spencer
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