Maddie Chancelor is horrified to hear that the new school teacher tried to drown her brother for no reason, but the truth is that Sam O'Ballivan is a Ranger sent to work undercover as a teacher and was simply giving Terran the same experience he had shown the former teacher. It is 1903 and Sam O'Ballivan has hunted down criminals of all types for years, so he is sure that he can handle a classroom of children while investigating the unusual number of crimes in the area. However, he has to revise that when he sees what the students did to the current teacher. The poor man was tied up and dropped into a well by his students and Sam had to pull him out.
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Terran Chancelor appeared to be the ring leader and he was the first one caught by the experienced lawman, watching the events after the almost drowning. In quick retaliation and as a show of his own strength, he quickly and safely held the young man part of the way into the well, to show him how it felt. Sam also forces him to apologize to his former instructor.
When he actually meets the young man's sister, Maddie, who is raising him alone, she has heard a different version of events and is horrified to believe that Sam tried to kill her brother. She is both the mail clerk and runs the general store for this small town, so they will be seeing a lot of one another. In addition, he has no intention of being bullied by the children and sets firm expectations.
His real purpose for being in the area is to investigate the crimes that have recently occurred. Soon, the Donagher family is introduced which consists of Mungo, a tough man who is hard to like and seems suspicious, his sons Garrett, Landry and Ben and the much younger wide, Undine.
Undine is almost flirtatious with Sam and he is forced to eat diner at their home, where Maddie also is in attendance. The Donaghers own the store where she works and are a very powerful family in the area who are known to make their own laws. Sam also helps a very young prostitute find safely from a vicious madam and helps a poor widow and her family survive through his generosity that is not charity, because he finds things to pay them for.
As the novel progresses, it becomes obvious that the crimes can be attributed to the Donagher family and when he makes the necessary arrests, they try to kill Sam to obtain his prisoner. Sam and Maddie become closer and we find out her deepest secret, That Terran is not her brother; he is her son that she had out of wedlock when she was very young.
Although there are the obligatory fight scenes that any book of the time period usually has, the good guys survive and bad guys are all arrested or die while in conflict with the law. Terran discovers the truth about his maternity and at first is horrified, but soon accepts it.
When all of the Donagher family are arrested or dead, the youngest member Ben who is by now friends with Terran, moves in with them and eventually Sam and Maddie wed, after sharing his real identity with everyone. The school gets a new teacher, again, and the town gets a new Marshal as the book ends.
Best part of story, including ending:
It was a fast and easy book to read. However, I do not either love or hate it, I feel as if so much of the book could have been inserted into any similar book and it would have been the same. Every surprise was not surprising and of course, the teacher/Ranger was perfect. He was kind, tough, and defended nerdy teachers, young prostitutes and destitute families. He was just too perfect and I would like to have seen a few flaws. The man even loved to read and re-read books repeatedly.
Best scene in story:
Although Undine was an awful person, there was a nice scene where Ben ran into the house with his pet dog. His older brothers were trying to drown him and his father was of no help, but Undine convinced him to allow Ben to keep his pet. It was a very humane moment.
Opinion about the main character:
I understand that Maddie was defending her brother/son, but when she had already had the problems with him that she had, you would think she would at least be willing to consider the possibility that yet again, he was lying to her. I understand that she was a strong-willed chracter, but she should have been more reasonable and astute as well.