At Love's Command
Ex-cavalry officer Matt Hanger is used to giving orders and having them carried out but when he meets Dr. Jo Burket, he learns that his heart doesn’t obey him but beats At Love’s Command.
After the disaster of Wounded Knee, Matt critiqued the military’s handling of the situation and left the army. Three of his men followed, and together they formed the mercenary band Hanger’s Horsemen. Their excellent reputation means they only need to take the jobs which meet their code of ethics, opportunities which allow them to defend the innocent and fight for what’s right.
Which is how Matt finds himself exchanging gunfire with a band of ornery cattle rustlers. As usual, Hanger’s Horsemen win the day, but the youngest member of the group takes a bullet in the arm. Matt’s afraid the boy will bleed out before they can reach a city big enough to have medical professionals so he is delighted to learn that the tiny nearby town of Purgatory Springs, less than an hour’s ride away, has a doctor.
Jo is used to men reacting with surprise when they realize that the physician is a woman but she has to hand it to the cranky cowboy, he recovers his aplomb quickly and proves to be a big help during the surgery. He only wants what’s best for his friend and Jo is happy to oblige. She’s surprised by the reaction she has to him, though. Her attention is not normally captured by a handsome face, broad shoulders and commanding presence but she finds that all that, combined with Matt’s kindness to his compatriot and his practical, helpful demeanor in the sick room have her resurrecting dreams of romance she’d abandoned long ago.
Matt knows his lifestyle isn’t conducive to wooing a woman, getting married and starting a family but the beautiful lady doctor has him reconsidering his feelings about settling down. She’s strong, smart, caring and resourceful, just the kind of gal he would want to share a life with. He admires her dedication to her craft and can’t help but think about how handy having a doctor around would be for a group of men who have a violent career.
So it’s with a heavy heart that he gathers up his men and heads out once his friend has healed enough to sit on a horse. He knows he will miss Jo but fortunately, he doesn’t have to miss her for long. They aren’t more than a few hours out of town before they notice a rider trailing them. Turning around to confront their stalker, Matt is surprised to find Jo racing toward him.
The dust hasn’t even settled behind Matt Hanger and his men when Jo gets the letter advising that her scallywag of a brother has gotten himself abducted and their wealthy father is refusing to pay the ransom. Charlie hasn’t been the easiest sibling to have, and his carefree (read careless) ways have cost the family more than a fair share of heartache, but Jo is determined not to leave him in a dangerous situation. She doesn’t have the kind of money the kidnappers are looking for but she hopes she can make a deal with Matt so that he and his men agree to rescue her kin. She puts on some pants, grabs what little cash she has and gallops after the recently departed group.
Matt has his suspicions regarding the details of the hostage situation but he’s not about to turn down this damsel in distress. He and the other horsemen set out to rescue Charlie with Jo accompanying them as a field medic. He’s not sure how successful their mission will be but he does know he will take every chance he can get to spend time with Jo.
At Love’s Command is a classic Western romance sure to delight readers of that genre. Ms. Witemeyer utilizes her authentic Texas setting to advantage and peoples her story with realistic, richly drawn characters that perfectly evoke the rugged, romanticized charm of the stagecoach era. Her hero and heroine fit perfectly into that environment. Matt is the quintessential cowboy: brave, stalwart, stoic, handsome and gallant. His occasionally rough exterior hides a heart of twenty-four karat gold and his bossy demeanor conceals an egalitarian mind which respects independent women and judges a man not by his color but his character. Jo is a competent, clever heroine whose kind heart is balanced by her reason and astute understanding of human nature. She doesn’t wear rose colored glasses but she tries to see the good in the people around her and roots for them to aspire to their best selves.
Their romance isn’t exactly love at first sight but it’s pretty close. Both characters believe they’ve missed whatever opportunity they might have had for love, Jo because she has concentrated so much on her unconventional (for the time) career and Matt because he’s devoted himself to a rambling, danger-ridden life style. They are surprised but delighted when they meet and find themselves immediately drawn to each other. They have issues to work through but quickly realize they are willing to tackle whatever challenges they have to to be together.
This is an Inspirational romance so faith is shown as central to the character’s lives. The issues of God’s will, prayer, and trusting God with what’s important to us are all brought up within the context of the story in a natural, conversational manner. Preacher, one of Hanger’s Horsemen, always had the perfect bible verse for any occasion, but none of the characters sermonize, lecture or otherwise soliloquize about spiritual issues.
At Love’s Command is a fun book full of the adventure and excitement Americans associate with the Old West. Fans of the author will be delighted with this offering and I am happy to recommend it to readers of Westerns, Inspirationals or anyone looking for a light, lively read.