Desert Isle Keeper
The Outsider is a keeper. It’s also the second book in Rosalyn West’s The Men of Pride County series. Set in post-Civil War Kentucky, the series features a divided county trying to heal its war wounds. The hero of The Outsider was first introduced in the series’ first book – The Outcast. It definitely helps to have read that one first, although this second release is the superior read.
Our hero is Hamilton Dodge, a Northerner who fought for the Union and came to Pride County at the request of his friend, Reeve Garrett (the hero from The Outcast). Dodge takes over the bank initially founded by Reeve’s brother Jonah, a Confederate soldier killed in the war. Dodge is the nicest of carpetbaggers; he is determined to help these people get back on their feet, even though winning their trust is a constant battle. And as if that weren’t enough of a challenge, he is also recovering from wounds sustained during a gun battle. He can walk with crutches, but still has a bullet lodged in his back.
He meets Starla Fairfax at Reeve’s wedding, and the sparks fly immediately. Starla acts the part of a southern belle, but her vivacious and flirtatious facade hides several grim secrets. Four years before, Starla fled Pride County to escape her abusive father. Although he is now ill, his powerful henchmen try to take Starla to him. Dodge intervenes, and while they share a meal, he learns she is pregnant. He proposes, offering her protection from her father and a name for her baby. Warily, Starla accepts.
Of course we know they will end up falling in love with each other, but the plot is neither obvious nor predictable. Rosalyn West excels in creating three-dimensional characters that are not strictly bad or good but fall somewhere in between. Particularly effective is Starla’s brother Tyler, who is devoted to her; at the same time he is hostile and threatening to Dodge. Tyler’s friends are clearly bad guys; one is even responsible for Dodge’s wounds. But Tyler’s behavior is unpredictable and interesting. I found myself hoping his own story would not be long in coming.
The most fascinating character is Starla herself. I’ve seen abused heroines before, but they usually respond by dressing like a man or withdrawing into themselves. Starla brazens it out, and only Dodge and Tyler seem to see the scared woman inside.
If The Outsider has a flaw, it is in the love scenes, which are scarce and rather tame. However, with a skittish heroine scarred by abuse and a wounded hero who is still struggling to walk, gentle love scenes seemed appropriate. It was a pleasure to watch Starla and Dodge learn to trust each other and fall in love.
What really made this book sing was the complexity of the characters and the story. So many romances feature characters you have seen before, plots that are obvious from the first page, and stereotypical villains with black masks and diabolical laughs. The characters in The Outsider are well-rounded, with flaws and virtues. The problems they face won’t be solved in the blink of an eye. When they ultimately come together, the union is all the more satisfying, which was the case in this wonderful romance
|Review Date:||September 3, 1998|
|Book Type:||American Historical Romance | Frontier/Western Hist Romance|
|Review Tags:||Frontier Romance | Frontier/Western Historical Romance | Kentucky | Men of Pride County series | Reconstruction era | Western romance|