An Unlikely Outlaw

A Wanted Woman by Rebecca Wade
(Avon, $5.99, PG-13) ISBN 0-380-81618-0
Set in Texas following the Civil War, Rebecca Wade's latest tells us the story of a quirky wanna-be actress and a vigilante lawman destined to tame her. If you enjoy smiling and love a poignant romance, A Wanted Woman is the book for you.

Wren Bradley has been in love with Cord Caldwell since she was a little girl. At the age of sixteen after sharing a few dances and conversations with the legendary tracker, she finally gets up the nerve to profess her feelings to him, naively believing that he returns them. Cord, however, is nine years her senior and much to Wren's chagrin and embarrassment, he doesn't see her in a romantic light at all. Mortified, she vows never again to do something so foolish as to give away her heart and determines never to set eyes on Cord Caldwell again.

Flash forward five years: Wren's family is pressuring her into marrying Edward, a sweet man she's known since childhood, but one that she unfortunately harbors no romantic feelings toward. Wren is dead set on becoming an actress instead, a profession that thoroughly scandalizes her upperclass parents. One night after sneaking out to watch a play at the local theater, Wren accidentally lands smack dab in the middle of a showdown between an infamous train robber and a lawman who is none other than one Cord Caldwell.

Cord can't believe that this is the same little girl whose heart he hated shattering five years past. She has changed unbelievably, having transformed from a gawky little girl into a beautiful woman. He knows that Wren is off limits to him for her father happens to be Cord's boss, but when he's given the assignment of watching over the Bradley's youngest girl he can only hold back his feelings for so long. The problem is, will Wren be able to fall in love with him again after the way he hurt her when she was a young girl?

As my three-year-old daughter would say, "well DUH"! Cord is strong, sexy, masculine, and amusing...what woman wouldn't be able to fall for him twice? I appreciate the way Wade handles the situation, not making it so the heroine holds a grudge against the hero until the bitter end, most especially considering the fact that we're talking about an incident that happened when Wren was only sixteen.

Aside from the well developed chemistry between the lead characters, what I enjoyed most about this romantic romp is the heroine herself. She is spunky, funny, quirky, and undeniably lovable. You have no doubts that a man like Cord has fallen fast and furiously for her because as a reader you've pretty much fallen for her yourself. Since many romance authors pen heroines to be little more than thoughtless wallpaper contrasted against larger than life heroes, I am definitely a sucker for any novel with a spunky female lead.

The only aspect of this book that keeps it from a 5 heart rating concerns the fact that there are a couple of dry stretches past the middle where a few "get the bad guy" scenes are carried out just a wee bit too long. Nothing major, mind you, but enough to keep the novel from breaking into 5 heart territory.

Overall, I'd say this is a solid romance and a fun read well worth the few dollars and few hours investment. I'll definitely be waiting to see what Wade comes up with next.

--Tina Engler

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