Cinnamon & Roses

A Promise of Roses by Heidi Betts
(Leisure, $4.99, R) ISBN 0-8439-4738-1
A temperamental, but kind hearted woman running her own stagecoach line and a bitter bounty hunter searching for the killer of his wife and son are the leads of this western tale set in 1880's Kansas. While, these are fairly typical types for a western novel, the humorous banter between the two was delightful.

Megan Adams has run a stagecoach line on her own since her father died and her brother, Caleb, started a family and a busy ranch. Her stagecoaches deliver the strong boxes that hold the Union Pacific payroll money. The last few times the money has been on one of her stages, bandits have attacked and taken the strong boxes. Several of her drivers have quit, and now Hector, the driver for the next stage, has refused to drive. In desperation, Megan takes the driving duties.

Lucas McCain is a member of the gang who stops the stage and robs it. When the bandits see that the driver is a woman, the leader decides to kidnap her, something he has never done. Lucas is really a temporary employee for Union Pacific. His best friend, Brandt Donovan, persuaded him to help solve the robberies. Lucas has spent the last five years tracking down Silas Scott, the man who killed his wife and son, but he needs the money, so he agreed to help Brandt.

Brandt believes that Megan is the mastermind behind the thefts because she is the only one who is told when the shipments will arrive. Some of her actions after she is kidnapped look like she could be involved, so Lucas gets the rest of the gang drunk and takes off with the money and Megan. He plans to place her in custody with the marshal in the next town, but gets a lead on Scott and takes her with him. This starts a journey for the two throughout the state.

Megan does have a mouth. She can cuss a blue streak and does not know when to hold her tongue. On the other hand, when she hears Lucas' story, she sympathizes with him and tries to help. Lucas has closed down all his emotions except hate and revenge for so long that he thinks that is all he has left. Megan's temperamental say-what-you-think style as well as her empathy for his sorrow start breaking down the barriers. While some men are standoffish with Megan because of her temper, Lucas enjoys it and is quick to respond to her is a way that disarms her.

The banter between the two shows their sheer enjoyment when in each others' company. It is even part of several of their lovemaking scenes. Their mock fight over the last piece of pie that turns into a love scene was fun.

Megan's brother, Caleb, and his wife, Rebecca, and Lucas' friend Brandt Donovan fill out the story. Caleb and Rebecca's story was told in Betts' previous book, Cinnamon and Roses, and Brandt seems the likely hero of Ms. Betts next book.

I have to comment on the cover of the book. Knowing that most authors have very little input on what is on the cover, this comment is directed to the publisher. Ms. Betts describes Megan's hair color as midnight black with auburn highlights and Lucas' hair color as sandy-blond. These colors are mentioned several times throughout the book. So what does the cover show? Megan is pictured with long, golden blond hair and Lucas is pictured with very dark hair. While this may seem a small detail, it invaded my concentration as I read the story. Each time the hair colors were mentioned, I kept seeing the mistake on the front cover. It was quite distracting.

--B. Kathy Leitle

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