My rating: 5 of 5 stars
I'm not a big fan of historical westerns, but this book might turn me into one. Yup, it was that good!
As the story opens, Jenny Jones is in jail, accused of killing a man. It was self defense, but no one believed a Mexican soldier, no matter how drunk he was, would try to force himself on a woman like her, rough and used to taking all kinds of unsavory jobs to earn a living. As Jenny is contemplating her impending death, Marguarita Barrancas, a wealthy Mexican woman who's clearly dying from consuption, enters her cell and offers her a deal: she will take Jenny's place in front of the firing squad tomorrow. As Jenny has requested to be wearing a hood when her time comes, the Mexican guards won't notice the exchange until the deed is done and Jenny is long gone. Naturally, Marguarita wants something in return from Jenny: Jenny's promise to take Marguarita's daughter Graciela safely to her (Graciela's) American father in California. The catch is, Graciela will become the sole heir to a large fortune when Marguarita dies and her cousins won't think twice to kill her in order to get their hands on the fortune. Jenny is a loner and hates kids, but Marguarita convinces her to accept the bargain. After all, the Mexican woman is dying anyway and even though Jenny thinks her (Jenny's) life isn't much to talk about, dying so soon isn't appealing. So the next day, Jenny finds herself saddled down with Graciela, a prissy, spoiled and snotty kid who hates her and blames her for the death of her mother.
Unbeknownst to Jenny, Graciela's estranged (and wimpy) father Robert Sanders has finally decided to fetch his wife and child. Not that he's grown cojones and stood up to his father after years of submission. No, no. The old man has just died and now Robert is free to acknowledge his Mexican wife and daughter. Obviously, he still isn't man enough to go get them himself, so he asks him brother Ty to do it. Humph! Can you tell how much I disliked Robert? :(
As expected, Jenny and Ty end up running into each other and, boy, that was fun. They are slightly attracted to each other, but mutual distrust keeps them apart. Only when Graciela's murderous cousins catch up with them and snatch the girl, Jenny and Ty decide to join forces to get her back. Not an easy task, considering they have to fight Graciela's belief that they are wrong and her cousins mean her no harm. Will Jenny be able to fulfill her promise to Marguarita and take Graciela safely to Robert? Will she get over her hankering for Ty? Or will she be heartbroken when all is said and done?
I also loved Ty. He was equally tough and imperfect, with his prejudice against all things Mexican - including his niece Graciela. He was in Mexico to do a job, to take his sister-in-law (he didn't know she was dead when he accepted his brother's request) and his niece to their new home, and that was it. He didn't care for Graciela at first, but he was a fair man and it didn't take long for him to realize his prejudice was unjustified. If all cowboys are like him, I'm moving to Texas, LOL.
As for Graciela, what can I say? The girl drove me crazy and I fully understood Jenny's frustration and impatience with her. I don't care much for children in my romance books, but I have to say that Graciela was perfect. Not perfect in the sense that she was a little angel who could do no wrong. Quite the contrary. She was like a real child: one moment, you wanted to cuddle her; the next, you wanted to tell her to shut up and stop pestering you. She was smart, but not adult-smart. She spoke and acted like a 6-year-old, and that was refreshing.
I loved, loved, loved this book! It was funny, it was touching, it was... real. Ms. Osborne has pushed all my emotional buttons. Jenny's transformation from loner to caring mother was aptly written. Some authors would be tempted to turn Jenny into an unbelievably mushy, utter feminine woman, but Ms. Osborne avoided that trap and kept her true till the end. Ty's and Graciela's character growth was also very well portrayed and none had sudden epiphanies that turned them into someone else. Excellent writing all the way, Ms. Osborne!
I realize this review has become quite long, but I couldn't help it. I tend to go overboard when I really like something and, as you surely know by now, I more than liked this book. :) Okay, I'll stop now.
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