I love libraries. Their existence means I can take a line of books I rarely read (say, Harlequin Blaze), coupled with a very hit-and-miss for me genre (the Western) and an author I’m unfamiliar with (Patricia Potter), and voila! Even if the book is a total failure, I haven’t lost. Since I enjoyed this one, that’s even better.
Jared Evans is a marshal out for vengeance. Ten years ago the outlaw Cal Thornton murdered his sister-in-law, and Jared has been on a slow-simmering warpath ever since. Finally, he catches up to Thornton under his new alias, Mac, holed up in a deserted Colorado town. But guarding the house is a youth who challenges Jared, pulls a gun, and ends up shooting him in the leg.
The youth is actually Samantha Blair, who lives with Mac and her two other godfathers-cum-guardians. Jared doesn’t hide his mission, but Sam knows that her Mac could not possibly have murdered a woman, and strives desperately to nurse Jared even as she hides that fact that Mac is wounded and recuperating one floor above. Naturally, they get seriously attracted to each other, and it all ends more or less happily for everyone concerned.
One nice thing about the 130 million books that have been written (according to Google) is that no two stories are alike. We’ve had Penelope Williamson Westerns and Jo Goodman Westerns, as well as Lorraine Heath, Pamela Morsi, and a whole heap of other authors I haven’t mentioned. And all the stories are different. The Lawman isn’t remarkable or unusual, but it is a satisfying diversion that makes good use of the setting. I felt the gritty dust of an empty town. I smelled Sam’s biscuits and gravy. And I heard the rumble of the avalanche the defenders set off to trap the vigilantes at the end. Those are sensations I haven’t encountered in a long, long time, and I am glad I’m reading it again in romance.
Jared and Sam are unremarkable but solid characters, and they get through their moral conflicts with sense and logic. I’m not sure that their romance belongs in the Blaze line-up, because the love scenes and mental lusting often lack the bald concreteness I usually associate with Blaze books. But that’s not a criticism, merely an observation. Ms. Potter carries the story with good old competent storytelling, and the muted, understated prose works in favour of the sombre tale.
So despite a saggy middle and a tiny loose thread, I finished the book happy. It’s a real pleasure reading a good Western again, and I can only hope to see more from the same quarter.