Donovan's Bed

 
The Lawman’s Surrender
by Debra Mullins
(Avon, $5.99, PG-13) ISBN 0-380-80775-0
***
It’s 1883 in Silver Flats, Colorado, and Susannah Calhoun has just been arrested for the murder of Brick Caldwell, the owner of the opera house where Susannah sings each evening. Brick had been a bit too forward in his attempt to get Susannah into his bed, so she had no alternative but to hit him over the head with a naked statuette she found in his dining room.

She was certain he was still alive when she left his house. Even the housekeeper, Abigail Hawkins could hear Brick bellowing as Susannah ran off. But now Mrs. Hawkins, the only witness who can prove her innocence, has disappeared, leaving Susannah to wait in a jail cell for the U. S. Marshall who will escort her to her trial in Denver.

U.S. Marshall Jedidiah Brown has been asked by Susannah’s family to personally escort her to Denver. The pair met a year earlier and the attraction was immediate. But Jedidiah was not interested in a permanent relationship and after a brief kiss, decided it was prudent to move on. Since then he’s been unable to get Susannah out of his thoughts, and even worse, his dreams.

Susannah is eventually able to convince Jedidiah of her innocence and the pair takes the longest possible route to Denver in order to try and track down the missing housekeeper who can clear Susannah’s name. Following the pair is Brick’s brother Wayne and his gang, who intend to take justice into their own hands.

While on the road, Susannah decides to act on her feelings for Jedidiah. Since it appears likely she will soon hang for the murder of Brick Caldwell, there’s no sense in concerning herself with propriety.

As for Jedidiah, he has finally realized how much he cares for Susannah. He’s decided to do everything in his power to clear her name and then let her go. As a set-in-his-ways cynic, he knows she’d be better off without him, but he’s not prepared for how difficult it will be to let her go.

A Lawman’s Surrender is the sequel to Donovan’s Bed, which I haven’t read. It appears from the prologue of this book that Jedidiah and Susannah share a history, although I haven’t a clue of what it could be, other than one kiss. Perhaps if I’d read Donovan’s Bed I’d have a clearer picture of these two characters.

Early on, most of what we learn of Jedidiah and Susannah come from the perceptions, or more accurately misconceptions, each have for the other. Susannah describes Jedidiah as “stubborn as a mule and had the manners to match” and Jedidiah calls Susannah “selfish and vain.” Since neither character acts as they are described, the reason for such strong opinions is unclear.

A bit more background on the characters might have helped, particularly in Susannah’s case. I couldn’t help wondering how she went from being the beauty of the Wyoming territory to a singer in a Colorado opera house? Wouldn't that have been a less than respectable career choice at that time?

These mysteries hampered my emotional attachment to the characters and without an emotional attachment, even the love scenes fell a bit flat. Which is too bad, since author Debra Mullins writes some terrific ones.

The plot of The Lawman’s Surrender is nicely paced, with touches of humor and never a dull moment. As soon as Jedidiah extricates Susannah from one mess, she lands immediately in another.

Fans of western romance will probably want to give The Lawman’s Surrender a try. As for me, I’m going to pick up Donovan’s Bed to try and figure out just what I missed.

--Karen Lynch


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