|First, ignore the blurb on the front of the book, “She would have it her way…or no way!” While the heroine is not a pushover, she is not a shrew either. Second, ignore the headline on the back cover, “One wild wedding…” Wrong. The wedding was actually a sedate and quiet affair in a parlor with a sick old man and several friends looking on. Thirdly, don’t think the title is descriptive of the story. Renegade Wife is a formulaic romance with potential for intriguing character studies. Unfortunately, these characters are fairly cursorily drawn, thus lessening the enjoyment of getting to know them and relegating this to a three-heart rating.
Molly McGuire has left her home in St. Louis now that her mother is dead and her brother is gone into the wilds of Texas. She arrives in Bountiful, Texas, to fulfill an agreement she made through a series of letters with a man who she will marry. For that marriage, he will help her find her brother. Kane Jackson is the heir to the Bar J ranch. He did not write her those letters. His grandfather, who wants him to settle down and raise a family, wrote the letters under Kane’s name.
Kane was kidnapped by the Cheyenne when he was just a toddler. The tribe raised him and it wasn’t until he was an adult that he returned to Bountiful to be reunited with his grandfather, Bennett Jackson, who is dying. Kane found out the morning Molly’s train is to arrive that he is to have a mail order bride. He is not happy. Years before Kane had been married to Little Swan, whom he loved wholeheartedly. After she was murdered by white men at a trading post, he sought revenge and killed them. He returned to the ranch, swearing he would never marry again.
Molly is determined to find her brother, Charlie, since he is the only family she has left. When Kane realizes that she will not just return quietly to St. Louis, they strike a deal. They will marry in name only so that Bennett can die knowing Kane is settling down and Kane will help Molly find Charlie. As with most plotlines that involve a marriage of convenience, this doesn’t work. Molly and Kane are immediately attracted to each other and they fight off that attraction as long as they can. Having to share first a room (to fool Bennett) and then a campfire (when they head off to hunt for Charlie), they soon find that temptation is just too strong. Once they make love (and they do it well and often), their attraction grows to love…of course they can’t tell each other that.
Molly is an interesting character, with hints of independence followed by bouts of clinging helplessness. It sounds as if she was independent and kept the family together in St. Louis. She had the gumption to get on the train and make the trip, but basically faints into nothingness when almost bitten by a rattler. Kane is a white man who thinks like an Cheyenne and has never recovered from the loss of his first wife. He resents Bennett for trying to make him accept the white man’s world but loves him for never giving up the hunt. He struggles with where he fits in, but the things that he must experience are only referred to, not shown. Kane talks about the townspeople having trouble accepting him, but all the scenes we are shown prove otherwise. He talks about having to deal with the ranch hands' prejudice, but the couple of examples we see show acceptance and loyalty.
There are some interesting glimpses of Kane's relationship with his adopted Cheyenne family that show his background and again hint at the depths of his character. Full development of this aspect never comes to fruition.
When Molly is her strong self and Kane is trying to deal with this headstrong woman who impresses him with her strength, their love story is engaging and fun. Luckily this is a bulk of the middle of the novel. They travel around Texas and are more like partners. When they share a bed, it is obvious they share more of their souls than they want. But then they revert to the tried and true formula that results in misunderstandings and breaking up before they can reach their happy ending.
Renegade Wife has some good things going for it, and these things help keep the formula from just being predictable.