Sometimes, you pick up a book in your favorite genre, by a writer you love and trust, and it disappoints you. Other times, which happens rarely, you pick up a book in a genre you never liked, by an author you don’t know, and you can’t put it down. You make a joyful discovery. This is what happened with this book.
I never read Maggie Osborne before. I don’t like western romances in general. I don’t even remember why this book ended up in my Kindle, but I decided to give it a try, and I couldn’t stop reading. The writing was superb, the heroes sympathetic, and the story engrossing.
It starts with the heroine, Jenny Jones, in a Mexican prison, waiting for an execution. She killed a Mexican soldier when he tried to rape her, but nobody is interested in her excuses. Then a rich Mexican woman, Marguerita, walks into Jenny’s cell and offers her a trade. The woman would take Jenny’s place in front of the firing squad, if Jenny promises to take the woman’s daughter, six-year-old Graciela, to her father’s ranch in California. Marguerita is already dying from TB, coughing blood, but Jenny hesitates to accept the bargain.
Big and row-boned, Jenny grew up in poverty. Without education or family, she has learned to take whatever jobs were available to survive. A loner and a drifter, she knows how to drive a team of mules or skin a buffalo but she knows nothing about caring for a child. She doesn’t like children. Escorting a spoiled rich girl hundreds of miles to her father seems an odd thing to ask, when she had never met Marguerita before.
But Marguerita is adamant. She is convinced that her multiple cousins mean harm to her daughter. Too much money is at stake, so she asks a virtual stranger to save her daughter’s life at the expense of her own. She is already dying anyway.
Eventually, Jenny gives her word to take Graciela to California, but their trip is fraught with dangers and complications. Graciela hates Jenny for “killing” her mother. The girl weeps and throws tantrum after a tantrum to make her point. The cousins, intent on murder, hunt them across the Mexican desert.
And then, there is Ty, an American cowboy and Graciela’s uncle, sent by his brother to escort the girl home. When Ty comes for Graciela, he learns that a gringo murderess kidnapped his niece. He has no choice but to pursue them too, staying one step ahead of the cousins. When he finally catches up with Jenny and Graciela, the situation deteriorates rapidly, the pace speeds up, and breathtaking actions ensue.
Emotions fly high throughout the tale, as Jenny and Ty learn to cooperate, as they fall in love, as they fight the greedy cousins and protect Graciela in their desperate flight across half of Mexico.
I loved Jenny, which was a surprise for me. She is rude and coarse, she doesn’t have a feminine bone in her body, and she cusses and fights like a man. I don’t usually fall for such characters, but Jenny bewitched me. She is like a diamond wrapped in dirty canvas - a priceless gift in crude packaging. Unwrapping that packaging, discovering the beauty inside, was amazingly satisfying.
Jenny’s best feature is her absolute honesty. She never lies. She values her word above all else. Once she gives her word, she would never go back on it, never betray or renege on her promise.
Here’s how it is, kid. After you give a promise, see, the person you gave it to is out of the deal. It’s just you and the promise. If you keep the promise, then you’re somebody. You did right. But if you fail then you might as well stick a knife in your gut because you aren’t worth spit. You’re a person with no fricking honor.
Jenny also has a quirk: she likes new words. Her favorite book is a dictionary. She reads it in her spare time and she savors new words, the longer and more obscure the better. What a delightful kink for a seemingly uncouth young woman.
A wonderful story. I’ll definitely read more of Maggie Osborne.