Pocket, May 2004, 6.99
In 1865 Vermont widow Rebecca Elliot makes it to Independence, Missouri where she plans to join a wagon train heading to California where her brother lives. Though she purchased a wagon with mules, she learns that single women including widows are not allowed on the wagon train as they cause too much of a dangerous distraction. She needs a husband by the morning or she will be left behind.
Though she feels guilty, she uses her wiles to cons Clay Fraser into coming into her hotel room, getting him drunk, and having a judge marry them. The next morning Clay is irate as his brother Garth chuckles. Though his trust in females is zero following his fiancée's jilting him and his sister's elopement, Clay warns her he expects conjugal rights, which she refuses. On the trail, Clay admires his wife's spunk and soon he and Rebecca fall in love, but he is the poster boy for Johnny Reb and she is the grieving widow who blames him and his kind for killing her spouse at the beginning of the war.
This intriguing western romance stars two fine protagonists who display the impact of the Civil War though the fighting is over. Rebecca has no options left in New England as a war widow and she loathes the South; Clay saw his relationship with his fiancée end while he dodged bullets a carpetbagger married her. Together this delightful couple struggle not to fall in love while Garth and the reader chuckle at their failure to achieve their stated shared objective during their gender battles. This is a fine tale and hopefully Garth's romance will follow soon.
This report prepared by Harriet Klausner