The Dead Man's hand saves his life. The legendary combo of Aces and Eights becomes a lucky hand for Duel McClain when he ends up winning Marely Rose. This mistreated toddler wakes the once-famous bounty hunter from years of grief and forces him to turn to his family for help. On his way home, he encounters a woman wearing blood and little else.

He takes her home, where Jessie, out of options and hope, finds kindness from Duel and salvation from the little girl. But her past forces her to accept Duel's proposal—strictly a business deal to ensure Marely's safety.

Their newfound family happiness lasts only until Duel's brother, Texas Ranger Luke McClain, arrives. He's hunting Jessie, who is accused of killing her husband. Jessie confesses and must go to trial.

Even though their time together is brief, Duel discovers that Jessie's love has brought him the family he thought he'd never have, and that to save the woman he loves, he will have to face his own past and ask forgiveness.

Gentle readers be warned; this story is a tale of brutal spousal abuse and is told in unflinching detail. After years of torture, Jessie fights her way to freedom, suffering physical and emotional trauma, yet able to find a loving and healthy connection with Duel almost instantly. This reader found the extreme violence real, but the quick healing somewhat difficult to believe. This novel contains explicit violence, but no sex. (Oct., 320pp., $5.99)

Reviewed by: 
Anne Black