I just love a good western historical romance! Childhood memories of watching John Wayne films, spaghetti westerns starring Clint Eastwood, not to mention episodes of Zorro, inspire my imagination. My mind conjures up hard working and often god fearing folk living in small isolated communities, farming a barren landscape upon which cattle roam, juxtaposed to violent gunslingers, seedy saloon bars, Indian attacks and land disputes to mention some of the popular themes. This book, by Patricia Potter contains references to all of these themes and more.
In Lawless, rancher Alex Newton hires Lobo, an infamous gunfighter with a fearsome reputation to do whatever necessary to ‘convince’ spinster school teacher Willow Taylor to sell him her homestead. Willow lives with her adopted family of four orphans, a former whore and an ex-sheriff who is now a drunk. On his first visit to her home Lobo rescues one of the children who has fallen down a well and, against his better judgement, finds himself drawn to Willow and her family. Without revealing his true purpose and identity Lobo continues to act as their ‘guardian angel’, coming to the aid of the household on a number of occasions before he is compelled to renounce Alex Newton’s commission and reveal his true identity to Willow.
Lobo, captured as a young boy and raised by Apaches, has little experience of giving or receiving love and affection and as such, coupled with his occupation as an itinerant gunslinger, feels that he can only bring Willow heartbreak. He resolves to leave once Willow and her family are safe from Alex Newton’s continued machinations. Willow, convinced of Lobo’s inner goodness, despite what many of the townsfolk think, recognises her soul mate and seizes whatever time she can spend with Lobo, whilst recognising that he will choose not remain at her side forever. What happens next impacts greatly on their lives and those around them, as the battle for Willow’s ranch hots up.
I particularly liked both main characters. Willow is a strong and independent minded heroine who is no stranger to controversy, her adoptive family bearing witness to this, At 25 she has attracted male attention in the past but has not found her true love and does not want to settle for second best, being resigned to spinsterhood. The way she encourages Lobo to open up to her, revealing his traumatic past and little by little peels away his protective layers, to find the true heart of the man underneath, is a joy to behold, Willow is also kind hearted and supportive of her adoptive family who have all had their own share of personal trauma. The references to Greek mythology throughout the book concerning the adventures of Odysseus and his quest to be reunited with his Penelope become increasingly poignant as the story progresses.
Lobo’s character is complex. A loner, his character has been shaped by his brutal past which has driven him into the life of a gunslinger. He lives on the fringes of Apache and white society, belonging to neither and to no one. However, as soon as we meet him glimpses of his true self are revealed, which are at odds with his fearsome reputation. The way Lobo supports Willow and her family and tries to fight his growing attraction to her, as he believes he is unworthy, is a major factor in the narrative and is done beautifully and realistically. I quickly found myself wanting a HEA for Willow and Lobo.
The other secondary characters in the book were also sympathetic. There are two secondary romances in the book which do not detract from the main romance or the plot but enrich it. One is between Dr Sullivan, Willow’s friend, and Marisa, the daughter of Alex Newton. This romance has echoes of that of Lobo and Willow’s situation, as Dr Sullivan believes that he has little to offer Marisa. The other members of Willow’s adoptive family also have interesting back stories and it is heart warming to witness how their characters react over time to the events and the actions of other characters, principally Willow and Lobo. I also enjoyed how the actions and opinions of the townsfolk also play a pivotal role throughout the book.
There are, as expected from a romance, a number of sex scenes. I found these to be very well done as they reflect the growing emotional connections between the characters. The story made me eager to turn the pages to find out what happens next, not just in relation to the main romance, but also the sub plots involving the other characters.
I would recommend this book to romance readers in general, particularly those who enjoy sweet, western romances with a strong heroine and hero who come together in adversity and in doing so find their soul mate.
Heat Level – Sweet
Reviewed by Tina Williams