The Doctor's Wife

Joe's Wife

The Mistaken Widow

Sweet Annie

The Truth About Toby

The Gunslinger’s Bride
by Cheryl St. John
(Harl. Historical #577, $4.99 PG-13) ISBN 0-373-29177-9
If I had only read the last one hundred pages of this book, I probably would have had a different reaction to it. That’s about when the hero and heroine wake up and start behaving in a likeable manner.

The book begins with gunslinger Brock Kincaid returning to his hometown after a nine year absence. He is dreading his family’s reaction, but also with meeting up with ex-lover Abby Watson. Seems he put a damper on their relationship by killing her brother Gabe (it was self-defense, of course). When he arrives in town he encounters Abby’s son Jonathon, who bears an unmistakable Kincaid likeness. Quicker than you can say “Secret Baby”, Brock wants in on his son’s life.

As one would expect, Abby doesn’t care much for this idea. Forced to marry elderly, but kind-hearted storeowner Jed Watson, she hates Brock for killing her brother. She’s also engaged to respectable banker Everett Matthews and doesn’t want to risk her reputation by revealing Jonathon’s true parentage.

Still, Brock is the boy’s father, and he’s determined to be part of his life, no matter what. This is Brock’s big problem. He’s about as arrogant and selfish as they get. Forget that poor Jonathon loved his “father” Jed, forget that it might not be the best thing for the child. What Brock wants, Brock gets and to get it he threatens Abby with spilling the beans. He could care less how it might affect anyone else. Here’s a sterling example of that attitude:

“I’ll be visiting Jonathon and having him out to the ranch. You and I will be seeing a lot of each other.”
“How am I supposed to explain that to Everett?” she asked sharply.
“That’s not my problem,” he replied

Nice huh? He also likes to seduce Abby and then later throw her reaction in her face as proof that he has some right to have a say in her life.

Still, rather than knee him in the groin, as the reader is tempted to do, Abby seethes quietly. Darn her treacherous body, why can’t she get all worked up like that with good old Everett? Maybe because he’s a cold-hearted slug who acts as if her son is non-existent? Abby, ever the victim doesn’t realize this until she’s almost dead.

As a reader, it’s tempting to give Brock some points for being so good with Jonathon. He obviously loves the child and treats him well. Still, always nagging is the question of how a gunslinger/drifter/loner becomes father of the year the instant he lays eyes on his previously unknown child? Honestly, all Brock needs is a cardigan and a pipe and he’s Robert Young. It also doesn’t help that he’s manipulating the child’s mother and seems to have little regard to how things affect anyone but himself.

Both Brock and Abby have their revelations late in the book. Brock realizes what an arrogant heel he’s been to Abby and decides that he’s going to stop holding her secret over her head. It’s too little too late by that point because the damage has been done. Abby, for her part, comes to the realization that it was really her brother’s fault he got killed. After being militantly anti-gun for the entire book, Abby realizes that only guns in the wrong hands are bad.

Once everything is straightened out, there isn’t much else to do. So the subplot of the identity of Jack Spade gets trotted out from the background to neatly solve Brock and Abby’s last problem.

The Gunslinger’s Bride is part of the Montana Mavericks series. I’m not clear how they are related, if at all, but this title could stand alone without reading the others. That is if it had a story worth reading.

--Anne Bulin

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