RACHEL AND THE HIRED GUN
First-time author Levine draws on classic western themes and a rugged backdrop like a veteran of the genre. Her realistic characters leap from the pages yet never supersede the emotionally charged romance. The western is alive and well with authors like Levine.
Rachel Douglas travels from Virginia to her father's ranch via wagon train, having an uneventful trip until she's separated from the others. Only the swift intervention of hired gunman Sager prevents her from becoming a wolf's dinner. Rachel's father has sent Sager to bring her home safely, but Sager has his own agenda. He realizes Rachel hasn't an inkling that she's the means to ending a range war between her father and his neighbor.
Seducing the innocent will be the perfect way to get revenge on the man Sager believes killed his Shoshone foster family. It's just that he never expected to admire Rachel and fall in love. For her part, Rachel desires the tough and tender cowboy who respects her independence. With her help he learns the truth, and with her love he's no longer burdened by hate. (ZEBRA, Jan., 352 pp., $3.99)