Monday, July 28, 2008

A Blooming Review!

Nancy at Romance Reader At Heart has made my day!
(Thank you, Nancy!)


Really good Western romances are hard to find, but Stacey Kayne aims and hits the bull's eye dead center with her latest release, THE GUNSLINGER'S UNTAMED BRIDE. The second book in her Bride series, this story also features many of the characters from that first title, BRIDE OF SHADOW CANYON, including Rachell, Jed and their children.

What really takes front and center here, though, are the characters and story of Lily and Juniper. Juniper was the 14 year-old boy who shot a man in self-defense and was taken in to be fostered by Rachell and Jed at the end of BRIDE OF SHADOW CANYON. Now a grown man, he's lived by the gun for so long that he always seems to be confronting his past. Trying to turn his life around by putting on a sheriff's badge, Juniper finds himself suddenly confronted by his new employer, Lily Carrington, a woman whose real reason for being there goes far beyond checking out the records of her newly acquired logging company.

Knowing exactly who Juniper is when she meets him—the man who shot and killed her father in cold blood—Lily is determined to not just get even, but to settle the score and avenge her father, once and for all. But sometimes things aren't all that they seem to be, and even as astute a businesswoman as Lily is, she hasn't thoroughly investigated the story of what really happened that day between this gunslinger and her father. When the payroll she's brought along goes missing and the tension begins to mount between employer and employees, Lily is forced to work alongside Juniper. Soon she realizes that the man she's demonized all these years is not quite the cold, calculating and hardened man she thought he'd be. As attraction grows between them and the air becomes taut with sexual tension, can Lily hold fast to her plans for revenge, or can she forgive this man she blames for taking away all that she once held dear?
Both Lily and Juniper are strong, resilient characters, both trying to find their footing after similar childhood trauma that eventually ended in opposite outcomes—Lily became orphaned and fostered with relatives who disapproved of her, while Juniper found a family who fostered and loved him as one of their own. Juniper would like nothing more than to settle down and raise a family, but his past seems to stand in the way. He hasn't yet learned that you can't expect others to forgive you unless you can learn to forgive yourself.

Lily, on the other hand, dwells on the family that was lost to her—a mother who died of illness and the perfect loving father—in her eyes—whose life was cut short by Juniper's bullet. What she believes happened that day versus what really did, are eventually eye openers for Lily, a woman who has spent her adult life focused on using her business acumen to amass her fortune with an "I'll show you" mentality. Just like Juniper, she needs to leave her past behind her and focus on what could be—the love that has eluded her, while letting go of her hatred and drive for vengeance and learning to forgive.

Stacey Kayne has a wonderful way with her prose, which is why I enjoy her work so much. Her stories are always fast-paced and engrossing, and her in depth characters and their situations believable. The setting of a logging camp in California is definitely out of the norm, and even her secondary characters—like Regi, Lily's spoiled and pampered cousin who's an absolute hoot—are likeable and interesting. Bottom line is, I know I'll read a great Western romance whenever I dive into one of her books.

With a hearty two-thumbs up from this reviewer, Stacey Kayne's THE GUNSLINGER'S UNTAMED BRIDE is one sure shot of a historical Western romance.

Reviewed by Nancy Davis

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