By Jo GoodmanRelease Date: September 4, 2012
On a train bound for
, Kellen Coltrane is more curious than
annoyed at the stranger sitting cross from him disturbing his reading. Kellen
quickly learns that the man, who is on his way to Salt
Territory, has been stabbed and offers his paperback book to help him staunch
the blood. The stranger identifies himself as Bitter Springs, Wyoming ,
though Kellen doesn’t believe him since that’s the name of a popular character
in dime novels. Kellen goes in search of a doctor and comes back to see Nat
closing up Kellen’s valise. Before he dies, Nat tells Kellen, “Pennyroyal. Should find her...tell
her...she’s waiting.” Kellen assumes he is speaking of a person named Penny
Royal, but finds out differently when he arrives in Bitter Springs. After
Kellen discovers what Nat put in his valise, he decides to stay and get to the
bottom of Nat’s cryptic words. Nat Church
Lorraine Berry owns the Pennyroyal Saloon and Hotel in Bitter Springs. After several months of secretive correspondence, she anticipates Mr. Nat Church’s arrival on the latest train. What she doesn’t expect is the man who arrives in his place. Raine is upset after Mr. Coltrane explains what happened to Nat on the train and she holds herself partly responsible. After all, he was coming there to help put an end to the recent murders in Bitter Springs. After speaking with Kellen, Raine asks him for help, but is still skeptical.
“You’re hiring me?”
“The same arrangement you offered Mr. Church?”
“I don’t know your experience. Perhaps you aren’t as practiced.”
Kellen refrained from pointing out that he was alive while
was very much not. Nat
Raine and most of the town have good reason to suspect the Burdicks of the murders, though they would never say so out loud. Uriah Burdick and his sons own most of the property in the area and consider themselves the “law of the land”. When more killings occur, Kellen and Raine know that time is of the essence; especially when the people who end up dead share a connection.
I know I sound like a broken record, but Jo Goodman is a master storyteller and one of the reasons I love historical romance so much. She has an adroit way of drawing me in from the first page and holding my attention to the very end. And I know I’m not alone in this sentiment. Every time I had to put this one down to make dinner or help my kids with homework, I thought about the story and found myself wondering what was going to happen next. In my opinion, that’s a clear definition of a really great book.
In The Last Renegade, Goodman pairs together two people who harbor secrets, but find solace and an unexpected measure of contentment with the other. Kellen is a man who thinks before he acts and speaks, so he isn’t spending fruitless energy or wasting his breath. He is pensive and sizes up others by observing them, which makes him an excellent judge of character. In Raine, he sees a woman who has been through a great deal and still remains strong.
Raine stood outside his experience. She was strong-minded, unafraid to challenge him. She was also willing to listen and allow that she could be wrong. She had a soft heart for rascals and a hard one for people who wronged her. He knew from her letters that her decision to hire a protector was not the judgment of the moment. She carefully considered most of the things she had to confront. She was thoughtful in ways that demonstrated different meanings of the word. She did not shy away from thinking through a problem, and she was clever.
With Raine, his protective instincts come to the front and he is willing to do whatever it takes to safeguard her. Raine knows that Kellen is only in Bitter Springs to do a job and afterwards will move on. She is determined to help him (for good reason), and despite trying not to, she can’t help allowing her heart to get involved. I absolutely love that about her and I admire her courage and grit through the tough times...and there have been plenty tough times for her.
Much of the time it’s what Goodman’s characters don’t say that tells a lot. I truly appreciate that she allows her readers to figure things out on their own. She layers in little details that perhaps don’t mean much right away, but later on make perfect sense when the reader works it out. I love this and it is one of the reasons she has been an auto-buy author of mine for so many years. In fact, the only bad thing about Goodman’s books is that we only get one book per year. Though, if that is what it takes for them to be this exceptional, I’m good with that. J
The Last Renegade is an outstanding historical western. It releases today and I highly recommend it to everyone. Even if American historicals aren’t your cup of tea, Goodman’s writing is brilliant enough to convince you otherwise. I guarantee you will not be disappointed!