by Linda Devlin

December 2001
ISBN: 0-8217-6744-5
Reviewer Graphic Button Zebra Books
Mass Market Paperback

Jedediah Rourke is supposed to be seven feet tall and mean as a snake. Well, that’s his reputation anyway, so it’s not surprising that Miss Hannah Winters is astonished to learn that one of her traveling companions on the bumpy stage that was bouncing them to the little town of Rock Creek is actually the very same Jed Rourke. For his part, Jed was dumbfounded by the gall and apparent stupidity of the buttoned-up redheaded hedgehog of a woman who managed to cross verbal swords with everyone including the four bandits who rob the stagecoach!

Could these two be any better suited for each other? I doubt it! Linda Devlin has ably recreated a small western town for Jed and Hannah – Jed has family in Rock Creek, and Hannah has a sister she’s not seen in twelve years. The fact that Hannah’s brother-in-law has been charged with murder has brought Hannah running to her sister’s side. Convinced that Baxter Sutton doesn’t have the spine to kill an ant let alone a human, Hannah goes on a one-woman crusade to prove his innocence, crossing paths every step of the way with – you guessed it – Jed Rourke!

In the past, I have been disillusioned by many of the stereotypes I have found in the pages of western romances – the surly gunslinger, the Annie Oakley wannabe who never wears a dress, and the virginal schoolmarm/farm owner! Linda Devlin has taken my preconceived notions and dumped them into a spittoon – these characters are living, vibrant and exceptionally unique people!! Jed, rumpled, mussed, stern and stubborn, is a wonderful hero – convinced that he’s right, and totally unused to anyone standing up to him! His precipitous slide into love with Hannah is wonderful – we know long before he does that it’s all over but the screaming!

Delightful though Jed is, it is Hannah who steals this novel out from under everyone’s noses. I can’t remember the last book I read where I found myself torn between wanting to cheer for the heroine and wanting to throttle her! Hannah is probably the sort of personality you’d get if you crossed a French poodle with a pit bull! She’s all elegance and graciousness and polite manners, until she gets her teeth into something, then she’s fierce, intelligent, honest, and never lets go or backs down! She stays true to her character right up until the end of the book, but we see a new emotion dawning in this complex woman as the chapters progress – hope! Through Jed, Hannah learns about herself and her capacity to love and forgive – it’s a marvelous journey and we’re privileged to be able to saddle up and trot alongside Hannah as she fights for those she loves and what she believes in. The fact that I reacted so strongly to this character is an undoubted tribute to the writing skills of Ms. Devlin. If you like western romances – get your boots and spurs; if you haven’t tried one recently, grab this book and a bottle of the finest whiskey (a cup of tea is OK too) and settle down for a trip back to the Old West – you’ll love the change of scenery.

(I note that this book is part of the “Rock Creek Six” series – I’ve got to wonder about the other five!!)

Reviewed in February 2002 by Celia.

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