Rugged western landscapes, hardened western men and women, and the wildness of the times always provide good fodder for a story. I adore western historical romances, but most of the time I have to settle for a romance with a teensy bit of western to it. Not this time. Rosanne Bittner must be one of the rare females who knows how to tell a western that includes a strong romance. From start to finish, the storyline that came off those pages just captivated and gripped me.
The story, set in 1880s Wyoming, begins with Maggie burying her husband after a group of evil men approach the hospitality of their campfire, kill her husband, rape her and steal their things leaving her abandoned in the middle of no where to die. But Maggie doesn’t die because Sage Lightfoot rides up looking for a group of men who killed one of the men on his ranch, raped the man’s wife and stole his money while Sage was out seeing to a round-up on his ranch.
Sage can’t help, but admire the strength and spirit coursing through this little female who looks like a child as she looks him in the eye and promises that she’s going with him to exact vengeance. They squabble over this because she doesn’t look fit for something of this nature. On the journey back to his ranch where he takes her to rest and heal, she proves that appearances can be deceptive. Maggie’s a woman to ride the river with and he starts to see that she’s nothing like his deceitful ex-wife who tore his heart out.
It’s not long before Sage and Maggie are on the trail of the villains and things get rough pretty quick. They encounter the harshest of conditions and men who ride both sides of the law. Danger is ever present, but then again they have each other. Sage and Maggie start something up that gets past where Sage wants it to go really quick, but he’s slowly opening himself up to the possibilities with Maggie if they survive their quest. Unfortunately right when Maggie thinks she has her first real chance at happiness with Sage, she discovers something that she must hide from him knowing that he will not take her lie lightly or the reason for it when he discovers the truth.
The plot of this one is not unusual when it comes to westerns, vengeance- one of my favorites though. What set it apart were the characters both Maggie and Sage and the secondary characters. The outlaws who harmed Maggie truly were evil. There was also added tension of Sage’s ex-wife who has decided to re-enter his life at this time. Poor Maggie went through some trials that would have most people curling up in a ball on the ground just after the first thing let alone all the rest. I suppose some would say that it was almost too much, but I just took all her challenges to let her character shine. Sage grew up hard, turned to lawlessness and then became the reformed rancher though the wildness in him is not far below the surface. He is half Cheyenne and half white so walks the tightrope between both worlds.
The romance was heated and honest though gentle love is there too. The romance balances out some of the harsh things that Sage and Maggie endure. It gets moderately graphic so this isn’t the story for those who get squeamish at violence.
The historical backdrop was done so well. The description of the settings, the people and their ways was perfectly done so that I took in all this information without it overtaking the plot. I’ve been all over that part of Wyoming and Utah so I recognized what I was reading about.
In closing, I can only be thrilled to have found a new to me author who knows what to do with a historical western romance and recommend it to those who love equal balance between the western and the romance like myself. My thanks to Net Galley for providing the book for review purposes.
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