Outlaw in Paradise - Patricia Gaffney Although this book was published in 1997, this is my first Patricia Gaffney. It won’t be my last though. I feel like I’ve found a new friend, someone to follow and enjoy and anticipate every new encounter. From cover to cover, I was enchanted by the story, by the characters, and by the language. A Wild West romance with a humorous touch – what could be better?

Warning – spoilers ahead!

The action takes place in a small town Paradise. The town’s weekly is called Paradise Reverberator. Doesn’t that name remind you of a sex toy? It did to me. I couldn’t read the name of that newspaper without a grin.
At first glance, the protagonists of the novel seem standard for a western. Cady is a saloon owner, smart and saucy, determined to survive in a man’s world. Jesse Gault is a gunslinger, a legendary contract killer with an eye patch. His hoarse whisper brings fear into men’s hearts. His spurs’ jingling inspires terror, and his evil, one-eyed gaze is pure menace.
As soon as the news of his arrival spreads through town, everybody with a guilty conscience quakes, convinced that his enemies commissioned Gault to kill him. To escape certain death, people are willing to pay big bucks, sometimes all they have, and Gault accepts their bribes, although he keeps looking sinister and dangerous.
Juxtaposed with his inner musings, the situation is nothing short of hilarious, because in reality, Jesse is a conman … posing as a gunman. Must be the best con in the world, at least until his sham goes askew, calling for actual gunslinger’s skills. Then Jesse would be in a pickle.
The writing sparkles like cut crystal, witty and luminous, even when the tale turns gritty. As Jesse’s and Cady’s mutual affection deepens, despite Cady’s aversion to murderers for hire, their flirting and bantering become more and more magical. I don’t think I’ve ever read such a profound depiction of the beginning of love.
It would’ve been an uncomplicated farce, with the underpinning of a love story, if the real villain didn’t threaten everything dear to Cady, including Jesse’s life. While the lovers explore their passions, the said villain schemes, and the tension mounts. Something is going to explode – and it does. Now both heroes must employ as much ingenuity as they can to find solutions to their unsolvable problems.
The ending is a happy one – a requirement in a romance novel – but it’s also utterly surprising and unexpectedly simple, fitting the tale. On the whole, one of the best books I’ve read recently.