A Wanted Man
A Wanted Man, Susan Kay Law’s latest, has all the elements of an enjoyable western: a fine-looking cowboy, a sympathetic heroine, plus trains, horses, and an evil villain. All of these elements come together for an entertaining and romantic read.
Laura Hamilton, a talented artist, is out on her own for the first time in her life. She has lived the life of a sheltered princess. After she survived a life-threatening childhood illness, her overprotective father kept her indoors to ensure she would not fall ill again. Laura only got to experience things from her own home, never venturing out. She is also an extraordinarily talented artist, painting large panoramic pictures, and this is what finally brings her out of her ivory tower. It is brought to her attention that her latest work has mistakes in it, mistakes she wouldn’t have made if she had seen her subject herself instead of relying on descriptions and photographs. She’s now painting a panorama of life on the Union Pacific, so she sets out on a cross-country journey in a private rail car. On this journey, she meets the sexy and dangerous Sam Duncan.
Hired gun Sam Duncan needs information about a friend gone missing. Griff is Sam’s closest friend – okay, he’s Sam’s only friend. Griff helped Sam through a really rough time in his life, and even though they do not see each other often they have kept in contact through the years. Griff has gone missing, and Sam fears the worst. When he poked around Griff’s last job, after all, he was attacked.
Sam needs information and he doesn’t care how he gets it. He tells Laura that her father hired him to come along with her and watch after her. Laura believes him because of her father’s overprotectiveness; for him two guards as well as a chaparone wouldn’t be overkill. Lying to Laura makes Sam feel guilty, but he needs to know what happened to his friend. While protecting Laura he learns all about her life and grows to care for her.
This book starts out really slowly; the back story for Sam’s motivation takes a while to build and makes for a rocky start. However, when the book did pick up the going got good. The reader soon realizes that Laura is more than a pampered princess riding across the country in her own private rail car. We get to experience life through the eyes of someone who has spent her whole existence behind closed doors, which was refreshingly different. Laura is naïve, but she has an appetite to experience the world around her that keeps her from being timid and shy.
The best part of the book is the development of the attraction between Laura and Sam. Because Laura is an honest person, she makes no pretenses about what she wants in a relationship. When she decides she wants Sam, she goes for him full throttle. This is consistent with her character, but it also leads to one of my issues with the book. It took way to long for Sam and Laura to get together, and not just in the physical sense. The growing attraction was great, but Sam’s hesitation got old quick; I was frustrated that it took something outside of the two of them to give them a push. My other minor issue with the book is I felt the ending was rushed. The book starts out at such a slow pace that the dramatic climax came at me way too fast.
Sam and Laura’s story is a good road romance; they travel by train, horse and foot. The settings range from the open plains to train cars, from fancy homes to elaborate hotel rooms. The search for Griff and the cast of secondary characters keep the book moving in the places where the romance drags. The pacing is a bit off – too slow in the beginning and then too rushed at the end – but all in all, this is a solid read. It’s a pleasure to find A Wanted Man at a time when good western romances are hard to come by.