Jove, Nov 2003, 6.99, 336 pp.
In 1883 after confessing that she killed nasty Zeb Whitaker with two other women, Sarah Andrews is placed in a wedding raffle by Sheriff Riles. Shockingly the last person that anyone would expect to enter the contest, bounty hunter Sam Gatlin wins. He pays her fine, gets her out of jail, and marries her. Sarah expects he will abandon her like her husband and baby who died while heading west and the wagonmaster who kicked her off the train.
However, before they can leave town, Levi Reed stabs Sam in the back. He asks Sarah to pull out the knife and to get them out of town as he is a sitting duck for anyone who wants a reputation. She pulls off the impossible, but on the trail meets three children claiming Sam as their father though he denies it whenever he awakens. As she nurtures him back to health, they fall in love, but to have a long term relationship he paradoxically must die because so many wannabees will try to gun him down.
The second “Wife Lottery” tale (see THE TEXAN'S WAGER) is a superb western romance that moves at a fast pace, is filled with plenty of action and contains a strong cast. The key, besides the fully developed lead protagonists, are the townsfolk, the kids, and those foes wanting to kill the hero. Each one enhances the understanding of the inner values of a pair who are on the surface seem inappropriate together yet share similar ethics. Readers will look forward to the final novel in what is so far a delightful series focusing on players with principles.
This synopsis report prepared by Harriet Klausner