This novella is a historical western romance. While most of the writing seems within keeping of the era in which stagecoaches would be ridden, some of it seems incongruous with that time frame. Or perhaps I'm simply naive. I don't think young ladies who had been sheltered from activities where a man may have a mistress, would be so quick to place themselves in a sexually charged setting with a man of fairly recent acquaintance.
Rosalie Weld, the young heroine is engaged to Winslow & just received some unpleasant news about his character. "She frowned. “Katherine, what are you talking about?” “Winslow’s … situation.” Katherine released Rosalie and began twisting the ribbons that decorated her reticule."
She turns to her mother for comfort. She doesn't receive it. Instead she is told: “Winslow cares for you in his own way. That is all you can expect.” Her mother waved her hand as if to wipe Rosalie’s concerns away."
"Humiliation and misery had been replaced by anger. Her whole body vibrated with rage— rage at Winslow for not being the man she thought he was, and rage at her parents for not believing she deserved better."
She decided to travel to Colorado to her cousin's home. "There was no time to post a letter to Audra and Lilah regarding her visit, as she would likely arrive at the same time as the mail. However, based upon their correspondence, she was sure an invitation would have been extended had she inquired. She didn’t allow herself to imagine differently."
She confronted Winslow & he was quick to admit it but not inclined to give up his mistress who was with child. The following is in the note she leaves behind for him. "I must tell you that your shameful behavior has broken my heart and I am unwilling to proceed with our marriage. Despite assurances that your situation is not at all unusual, I find myself unable to put it in the past and forget what I have learned regarding your character."
Her ride in the stagecoach was something with which she had previously been unacquainted. "Unpleasant smells emanating from the other passengers wafted her way and she surreptitiously tried to keep the end of her scarf over her nose and mouth. Her head ached and her stomach rolled. Her toes were frozen."
Garrett Ballinger was a lawman she met on the way to Cousin Audra's house. "He was rough around the edges, but he’d become entwined in her runaway flight. She frowned as she remembered where she met him. His heroism on the stagecoach kept overriding the image of him sprawled on the plank sidewalk outside a brothel."
To earn her keep, she attempted to help with the household chores. "Rosalie was still trying to get the hang of milking but was secretly proud of her progress with cooking. “Rosalie, these biscuits are your best yet.”
Garrett's smile changed his appearance. "His friendly grin softened the hard planes of his face, making him quite handsome."
He tells her “I’m sorry, Rosalie, for your pain. I’m not sorry you came here.”
They end sleeping on the floor in front of a fireplace. Audra had gone to the midwife & Rosalie stayed behind to tend the animals. Garrett showed up to help her. They reach a place of intimacy very quickly. "An ache pulsed through her, settling low in her belly. It was desire— hot and languid, eager and shy."
Winslow travels to Colorado because the arranged marriage would have been good for his business. He's quickly set straight & Garrett places him into a stagecoach to return to Boston.
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