The Brides of Durango: Elise



Hired Gun by Bobbi Smith
(Leisure, $6.99, PG) ISBN 0-8439-5665-8
Maybe itís because there arenít many Westerns out there or maybe itís Bobbi Smithís style of writing. While there are some negative Native American stereotypes in this story, itís like a refreshing walk back to the days when the good guys were easily picked out and the bad guys deserved the frontier justice they got. Hired Gun is an entertaining way to spend a few hours.

This is a classic western romance Ė an Apache raiding party kidnaps Abbie, a young rancherís daughter, with the hopes of selling her across the Texas border. In the raid, they shoot her brother, Mason. Her sister Faith, who helps run the ranch, is determined to find Abbie. She sets out with Abbieís beau and neighboring rancher, Jake, her best hand Hank, and a man she hired. Trent Marshall is an expert tracker and has been making his living as a bounty hunter since his brother was gunned down years ago. His friend taught him all he needed to know about tracking and he is considered the best there is. He also has a reputation as a fair man. He reluctantly agrees to take Faith and her band with him, warning them that he wonít slow down for them if they want to find Abbie.

The story follows the trail as they track the four Apaches. Luckily for Abbie, because they want to sell her, they leave her alone for the most part. She is beaten when she tries to escape and she has several run-ins with one of the men who lusts for her despite the warnings of his leader. Another man, Lone Eagle, takes her under his guard and is even kind to her at times. During their flight south, they kill several other men and take a few other women hostage too.

In this story, we actually have three romances going on. Faith and Trent are the primary pair. They fight their attraction as they travel. Yet there is a connection and the fact that they are traveling with others allows them to get to know each other. Their story is fun and engaging with an acceptable level of sexual tension. They are mature and while they want each other, they control their feelings and actions because of their circumstances. This maturity adds to the readerís enjoyment of the romance. Both are headstrong but are able to work together and build a friendship of sorts.

Abbie and Jake are obviously in love. We see them at the beginning before the attack and as Jake searches, it is clear he is in love. The fact that he is prepared to keep loving her no matter what has happened is endearing but at the same time, a bit out of the context of the times.

The third romance occurs back at the ranch between Mason and the doctorís daughter, Larissa. Again we are introduced to them prior to the incident and see things blossom as Mason recuperates.

Smithís style is easy to read and the pages fly by. The descriptions of the trail are solid, but not overwhelming. The story is in the search and the relationships that are being built as we go along. While many of the activities are easy to predict, there is still some tension as to how it will all come out in the end.

Smith has written a western that is not often seen anymore. We have action, romance, relationships, courage, and honor and even a little bit of sexual tension. The PG rating is primarily because of some of the actions of the captors. Most of the sensual action is romantic rather than torrid. Hired Gun is worth a look if you are looking for a romantic throwback to a simpler time.

--Shirley Lyons

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