If you read historical romance in order to learn history in a more congenial setting than a classroom, then Jenkins’ new book is for you. If you’re curious about marginalized groups in the settlement of the American West, then Jenkins’ book is for you. If you like feisty heroines clashing and falling in love with take-charge heroes, then Jenkins’ new book is for you. There’s so much to like about Jenkins’ story of two seemingly mismatched people getting together in a truly believable way.
Half Scot and half African-American Ian Vance, (a.k.a Vance Bigelow, the Preacher) a Bible-quoting bounty hunter, deputy federal marshal, and former outlaw, just wants to go home to his ranch in Wyoming. He’s been to see his mother’s grave in Scotland and been told in no uncertain terms by her lover, a Scottish lord, never to come back. True, the lord paid him off with a bag of gold, but still, money won’t take away the pain Ian is still suffering from his mother’s passing and his wife’s senseless killing a few years before.
Half Kaw Indian and half Black, Maggie Freeman, orphaned and outcast at twelve, has eked out an existence by herself ever since. She’s avoided prostitution at all costs, most of her jobs involving menial labor in impoverished locations. Now she’s accused of killing a rich couple’s son, even though she was merely protecting herself from his lewd advances.
As the rich landowner and his friends get together a lynch party rather than wait for a circuit judge to appear and try her, the local sheriff, not convinced she’s guilty, knows he has to move her to another town or she will die.
Into this mess steps Ian, who is persuaded by the sheriff to escort Maggie to the next town. When she escapes—the first ever in his experience as a federal marshal—he catches her and knows she’s a force to be reckoned with.
Ian is a wonderful character, the kind of proactive man with a code of justice and proper conduct most women would cross a desert to meet. Even though his first wife was imperfect, he grieves for her and just wants to be left in peace.
But peace is exactly what the courageous, stalwart, lovely Maggie won’t give him. She challenges him on all fronts and snaps him out of his doldrums. She shows him what real love is all about just as he shows her that all men are not alike. Together they make an indomitable pair.
If there weren’t so much needless repetition and the occasional dip into purple prose this would be an A book. History from information about the Kaw tribe and the Chinese Exclusion Act to stories about figures such as AA nurse Susie King Taylor and mountain man Jim Beckworth enrich the story, expanding readers’ grasp of American history.
I haven’t read either The Taming of Jessi Rose or Something Like Love in which Ian makes an appearance, but I’ll be hunting for both books now that I’ve read this one.