Barbour, Sep 2009, $10.97
In 1879 in a mining camp in Missouri, Claude Leveque orders hymn singer Annette Talbot to perform in a revealing dress or watch her elderly friend Elva die. Fearing the brute will beat Elva, Annie is shocked when her pianist gives her money for a one way ticket out of town saying she is dying from a bad heart. Vowing to never forget her beloved friend, Annie heads to her widower father’s home in Ranger Bluff, Wyoming Territory; six years since she left him a bitter hardened man.
Elijah Walker still reels from the death of his Pa and the betrayal of his beloved Priscilla that destroyed the family ranch. He vows to never trust a woman ever again.
Annie and Elijah meet on the stagecoach and each remembers knowing each other as children. Although attracted to one another, he assumes a young woman traveling alone must be another Priscilla. She thinks he is an obstinate yahoo. As they fuss and fight they fall in love, but he seems incapable of getting past the haunting hardening of his heart.
COWBOY CHRISTMAS is a terrific western romance that grips the audience from the moment the vile Claude grips Annie’s blouse and unlike him never let’s go of the reader. The lead couple is a wonderful pairing, but it is the strong cast even those who have short appearances make this tale work by bringing a sense of time and place to the plot. Sub-genre fans will relish Mary Connealy’s super late nineteenth century romance (see MONTANA ROSE).