This is the seventh book in Maggie Shayne's “Texas Brand” series and definitely the most unusual. Did you expect a time travel novel to fit within the fabric of her carefully woven stories about the just plain nice Brand family? I didn’t.
But the Brands were not always such model citizens. In 1881, the clan had stolen and cheated their way to much the same positions their descendants hold today. And to do so they murdered Esmeralda Montoya's father, foreclosed on her ranch and Eldon Brand attempted to rape her as she was leaving town. Fighting back, she killed him and was standing on the gallows awaiting her fate.
In the 20th century, Taylor, the archeologist wife of Wes Brand, asks Elliot to take a valuable relic to the university for her. Knowing only sickness would have prevented Taylor from making the trip herself and full of curiosity, Elliot opens the box. As he handles the crystal Mayan skull and reads the inscription, he is immediately transported back in time to the scene of the hanging.
The crowd reacts with astonishment as he walks toward the gallows -- he could almost pass as the dead man's twin. Thinking Elliot is his brother Eldon, Sheriff Garrison Brand lets her go. The truth is soon discovered and the town gives chase. Surrounded by the angry Brands, Elliot notices the crystal around Esmeralda's neck and asks her to rub the proverbial genie crystal.
They regain consciousness surrounded by nearly the same Brand clan, although this time without guns; it is 1999. Until they can figure out what is going on, Esmeralda and Elliot don’t let on what a bizarre experience they have had. This is a little tricky because Esmeralda is thrust into a world of technology beyond her most vivid imagination.
Realizing that she is probably here to stay, Essie forms a plan to get her land back while enjoying the grudging hospitality of the Brands. Her intent is to bed and wed Elliot through a seduction and pregnancy and at least regain a share of what was hers. Since Elliot is besotted with her, the first part is not too difficult, but then she has an attack of conscience.
This story involves the whole clan, and were it not for the fact that cousin Sara is still single, I would think this was the concluding book. The interaction among the siblings and spouses and the mounting sexual tension are all vintage Maggie Shayne and what she does best. The Outlaw Bride is essentially a very clever story about family dynamics, both now and in the past. It moves quickly and seamlessly from suspicion to discovery to acceptance.
This book is also a study of contrasts, the past with the present; the easygoing Elliott with the hot-tempered Esmeralda. Shayne works well with many things going on at the same time, which makes this an entertaining read full of likable characters. If you are unfamiliar with the “Texas Brand “series, The Outlaw Bride will probably inspire you to start looking for the others.