Here's the cover of this book as it was originally published:
Here's the cover of this book as I found it at Borders last month when I went to the store closing sale:
Here's the cover of The Preacher's Daughter:
Cracks me up. I only discovered this when I was searching for an image for this post.
So anyway... Back in January my TBR Read was Carolyn Davidson's A Convenient Wife. It was part of the Montana Mavericks series and I really liked it. When I was checking out the Borders closing sale I found this installment in the series by Cheryl St. John. It was originally published in 2001 but obviously reprinted at some point. So while I've only had this book a month, it was the only western in my TBR and I love St. John's books--thus a no-brainer to pick it up to read.
The Gunslinger's Bride is the story of Brock Kincaid and Abby Watson. Brock was the town bad boy who one day in self-defense shot and killed Abby's brother. He was young and immature and despite the killing being self-defense, he runs away. He also unknowingly leaves Abby pregnant. The book opens with Brock's return to the town of Whitehorn. It's 8 years later. Abby had been forced by her father to marry a much older man to cover up her pregnancy, but she's now a widow, raising her son on her own and running the hardware store left to her by her late husband.
Abby is understandably deeply conflicted by Brock's return. On the one hand, she'd been very much in love with Brock. On the other hand, not only had Brock killed her brother, he'd immediately run away and left her feeling hurt, betrayed, and very angry. All these feelings re-surface when she sees Brock again.
While he was gone, Brock lived by his wits and by his guns. Now Brock has grown up and matured. He knew it was time to return home and face the music. Of course he's shocked when he discovers he has a son, but he's also delighted and eager to get to know Jonathan and become a part of Abby's life again. It doesn't surprise him to realize his feelings for Abby are as strong as ever. But he has a lot to overcome. Not only does Abby want as little to do with him as possible, she's engaged to be re-married.
The set-up to this book is great and there's a lot of conflict to deal with. Abby in particular has to work through her feelings and find it in herself to forgive Brock. Brock knows that he wants to be with Abby and Jonathan and he works hard to get back into Abby's life. Therefore I find myself somewhat surprised to realize that in the end the book fell flat for me. I didn't care a whole lot for Brock who seemed pushy and insensitive to how Abby must feel after all she'd been left with when he ran away. And I was unconvinced that Abby could feel drawn to Brock so soon without at least talking through some of the many issues that divided them. And because I couldn't connect with either one of these characters I didn't enjoy the book the way I'd hoped to.
Looking around the web, I see I'm in the minority. The handful of reviews I found (and there aren't many--it's an older book) were very positive. Your mileage may vary.
On a side note, can we have a category called the Eastern? I live east of the Mississippi and I'm feeling a tad marginalized. Plus, I have an Appalachian-set historical in the TBR...