In the way of all tiny, rural towns, newcomers are usually spotted before they get out of their cars. So it was that Sheriff Devlin McAllister of Cameron, Utah, noticed the arrival of Carly Fitzpatrick.
Devlin lives with his mother and sister, Shea, on the Red Rock Ranch. Since their father's death, Shea runs the ranch while Dev concentrates on his career in law enforcement.
Carly arrives in Cameron to write an article on small town living for Focus Magazine. Her hidden agenda is much different. Carly Fitzpatrick is really Carly Whitman, a former resident. Years ago, her family owned the Cameron Weekly Sentinel. After her father died, her mother sold the newspaper, changed their names and they moved away.
Carly's mission is to investigate the twenty-year mystery surrounding her brother Edmund's murder. Her investigation is just a formality in her own mind, because she is convinced that the murderer was Dev's father. This reality haunts Carly as she struggles to overcome her immediate attraction to Dev.
If only life were as simple as portrayed here! Carly heads for the newspaper office and is convinced that she can solve the crime by reading the newspapers from twenty years ago. When she questions Dev about the crime, he is puzzled because the murder was attributed to a deceased drifter. The only hitch is that apparently Edmund was shot by a gun belonging to Dev's father.
When the first attempt is made on Carly's life, Dev realizes that although twenty years late, it is time to re-open the murder investigation and address the ineptness of the previous sheriff.
The characters are nicely defined, and the mutual attraction between Carly and Dev keeps the romance alive. However, the premises upon which the plot kept turning were not very realistic. The uneven pace of the story made the first half of the book drag. If readers make it that far, the second half picks up and turns Cowboy with a Badge into an enjoyable read.