This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.
Genres: Historical Romance, Western Romance
Published by Sourcebooks Casablanca
Released on January 28, 2020
He’s got a price on his head, but that’s not nearly as scary as the three children who get off the stage that are now his. Her life has always been a gamble and now she’s up against a stacked deck. Now, it’s time to roll the dice and take their chances together. I perked right up when I spotted the blurb on this latest in a fabulous Texas frontier romance series.
The Mail Order Bride’s Secret is the third in a spin-off series of standalone western historical romances that are loosely tide together and are much more engaging when read in order and especially, after the Men of Legend series.
Professional gambler and reluctant con artist, Melanie Dunbar is in a peck of trouble when her con artist father skips town leaving incriminating fake promissory notes in the possession of her and her twin sister. They are at the mercy of a sleazy, crooked sheriff and an ambitious and equally crooked judge who are after bigger game. Melanie is just the bait for a trap needed to draw out the hard-bitten outlaw, Tait Trinity and the thousands he stole from the railroad. She can gain the freedom for her sister and herself when she follows up on the letters she has been exchanging with Tait through a mail order bride service and seduce him into giving up the money and leaving the protection of the secluded town of Hope’s Crossing. If only it didn’t feel like she was selling her soul. Or, that on meeting Tait and learning his situation, which is her dream of home, husband and family, she must make an impossible choice of who to betray- Tait or her own sister?
Tait Trinity has rode the owl-hoot trail and earned some hard-bitten enemies, but none so set on destroying him and leaving him in misery as the Berrigers and the railroad man. They started the criminal acts and he responded with force, but lost all he held dear in the process. And, now he has lost even more as his sister is killed and he now has charge of her three grieving children who want nothing to do with their no-account uncle. With the men after him and the law that will catch up eventually, he does not need this added complication. In desperation, he sends out a plea to marry immediately to the sweet seamstress he has been writing. He knows the moment the woman gets off the stage that Melanie has secrets and she is no shy seamstress. He is confused by her responses to his care and attention as if she wants to embrace the new life together, but has reasons to hold back. Slowly, he learns they both have troubling pasts and may be the very thing to heal and help each other. Until Melanie’s secrets and his bloody past blows up in his face…
I love this author’s writing and I love this series. I didn’t even hesitate to pick this book up. But, I would be lying if I said I didn’t wonder just how much I would like this book when the woman is lying from the moment she hits town and there were kids involved. The past books have shown me that the author does a great job of backing her characters into a corner and then getting them out again. Secrets, though…yeah, tough hurdle.
Melanie was confusing at first. Her thoughts and feelings were all over the place. I expected it since she’s come to do a terrible thing to save her sister and then she falls in love with the man, his kids, and his town and learns he’s not ONLY an outlaw. I had more patience with her as a result knowing that nearly every person on the planet would have done the same under those circumstances. Even her fear to put it all out there made sense the longer she let things ride and knew that the way Tait felt about the truth and had poured out his entire past to her would make it worse. In truth, the only time I thought she pulled a stupid was that part she played in the climax scenes which I can’t detail out because spoilers. Let’s just say that she got lucky and this is a romance because in real life, I’m pretty sure the outcome would have been different considering that particular villains proven track record.
As to Tait, I liked that he owned to his past, but had matured and made himself into something more after all the tragedy he had endured. He’s gritty and morose at times, but when the kids and Melanie were there, oh so gentle, caring and loving. He felt he was undeserving, but he still wanted to make the world a better place for everyone he could whether it was with his gun or anything he could give. He had so much on his plate, but he stayed strong even in the face of the further trials that came his way.
The romance had the added complexities of two strangers arranging to come together in a marriage. But, they were both people who had no hesitation in a healthy romp in bed. Tait respected Melanie being experienced and didn’t hold her past as a female gambler and daughter of a con artist who didn’t exactly live the life of the straight and narrow. He supported her even when she admitted to not having any domestic skills and showed her that he thought her a beautiful woman and mother to his nephews and niece. I had no doubt they were good for each other and could only wait to see what the fallout would be when Melanie came clean.
A few enjoyable extras were the town children getting up a circus show, the town dance, and the visit from all the Legend men. Le sigh… I do love a Legend men appearance.
The villains were vile and one was a crazed sadistic who I really wanted to find a gruesome end. The bad guys had it all their own way for most of the book and were a formidable force which made the action-packed climax series of scenes a nail-biter. I love that the author doesn’t go soft on the western action plot side to the story.
So, my qualms were soothed and my senses assaulted in a good way between the gritty action scenes, sizzling sexy times, and a patchwork group coming together as a family. Those who enjoy western historical romance really must give this author/series a look see.
My thanks to Sourcebooks Casablanca for the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review.
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