I’ve seen Western romances marred by overdone dialogue or stereotypical characters, but thankfully, none of these is present in Gwyneth Atlee’s Canyon Song. What is present is a well-crafted story of two people who have met before, with very bad consequences.
Anna Bennett is used to people leaving things at her doorstep, usually some form of thanks for her healing services. This time however, she wishes she could just ignore the wounded man left there, and when she realizes it’s Quinn Ryan, she really wishes he was not there. Years ago, when Anna was known as saloon singer Annie Faith, she fell in love with Quinn, only to betray him and cause him pain he has carried with him ever since. Anna’s heart is as wounded as Quinn’s – the physical and emotional scars of what happened to her after she was caught for stealing Quinn’s money linger to this day.
Judge Ward Cameron is in a bind; the land he thought was his legally belongs to Anna Bennett. Cameron is about to marry Senator Worthington’s daughter, Lucy, and he needs to impress them both with his land holdings so the senator will aid him with a better job. He doesn’t know that Lucy has a secret reason for wanting a quick marriage. The muck that becomes of this deception is intertwined with Cameron’s sending his men to find, and get rid of, Anna Bennett.
Both Quinn and Anna have spent the last few years merely existing. Anna’s betrayal meant time in jail for Quinn, and when he finally got out two years later, it was too late to save his family. When he finds himself being cared for by her, all the feelings he has for her – both good and bad – resurface. When Anna was caught by Cameron’s men after stealing Quinn’s money, she lost more than her freedom. She nearly lost her life. Aside from Quinn and Anna’s internal conflict, there is the external threat from Ward Cameron and his men, none of whom seems to have decency or a heart.
There is a lot happening in this book; lots of action, lots of plotting, lots of angst. Anna and Quinn do get past their hostility, not right away in some contrived turn of plot, but slowly and believably. Much must be acknowledged and dealt with before they can turn to each other with an open heart and embrace a future together. The harshness of the setting is not glossed over, nor is the brutality of a lawless world where loyalties are bought with cash and promises. There is a touching secondary romance that adds texture and depth as well. If you like well-defined characters and an emotional and strong storyline, I recommend you try Canyon Song.