Betsy Huckabee might be a small-town girl, but she has big-city dreams. Writing for her uncle’s newspaper will never lead to independence, and the bigger newspapers don’t seem interested in the Hart County news. Trying a new approach, Betsy pens a romanticized serial for the ladies’ pages, and the new deputy provides the perfect inspiration for her submissions. She’d be horrified if he read her breathless descriptions of him, but these articles are for a newspaper far away. No one in Pine Gap will ever know.
Deputy Joel Puckett didn’t want to leave Texas, but this job in tiny Pine Gap is his only shot at keeping his badge. With masked marauders riding every night, his skills and patience are tested, but even more challenging is the sassy journalist lady chasing him.
~ Excerpt ~
Betsy frowned. When would this ornery man behave like a proper hero? He was forever saying the wrong things.
“I don’t know what you have to gain from my company,” he continued. “I’m not enticed by your beauty. I’m not charmed by your manners, and personally I’d rather fall off a cliff and land on a cactus than have to listen to a woman talk. You stand to gain nothing by being in my company, and I surely don’t expect to profit from yours.”
She realized her mouth was hanging open in surprise. No one had ever talked to her like that before. And for good reason. Everyone around these parts knew she could give back in equal measure.
“I’m so glad you explained yourself, Deputy. So considerate of you to protect me from wasting my time pining over you, but allow me to explain something. I am twenty-four years old. I see you grimace”—she waited for him to protest, which he didn’t— “because you know that I’m well past marrying age. I had to work hard to get to this age without being shackled with a husband. I had to be rude at times, unfriendly, and withdrawn to keep the potential suitors at bay. None of those qualities come naturally for me. Since I’ve sailed those waters and have now arrived safely at port, I will revert to being the cheerful, friendly, gregarious woman I was born to be and will not pretend to be otherwise for you.”
“All I’m saying is I don’t—”
“Furthermore. . .” She paused to make sure he understood she was interrupting and he’d better listen. “Furthermore, I’ve been wandering these hills feely since I set feet in the dirt. At five years of age, I escaped from bushwhackers and ran for help when they took my parents hostage. At nine, I’d stay out all night with my brother Josiah, coon hunting. At ten, I left home to raise my nephews and help Uncle Fred when my aunt died. I come and go at will, where I will and when I will. These mountains are my territory, and I’ll not be sitting by the hearth twiddling my thumbs just because a fancy Texas lawman stepped off the train. Is that clear?”
There. She’d said all she wanted, but if she’d hoped to make him mad, she was disappointed. He stood and studied her, his face devoid of any emotion, neutral of frustration or pleasure or the general reconciliatory ruse men usually affected toward women when they threw a fit. Had she not made an impression at all?
Finally he rolled his shoulders like he’d just been released from an overlong Sunday service. “Thank you for the sermon. Did I mention I’d rather land in a cactus than listen to a woman talk?”
And he turned and walked away.
~ Review ~
This was such an engaging read, for so many reasons! But the foremost of those reasons would have to be Betsy Huckabee and Joel Puckett. Both were strong personalities in different ways: Betsy, with the impish twinkle in her eye and an independent spirit that doesn’t shy away from a little adventure; and Joel, the serious lawman who is keen to establish his authority and protect his reputation, but turns out to be more than a match for Betsy in both wit and wiles! He might be quieter about it, but he could certainly be audacious in his own way!
Deputy Joel Puckett arrives in Pine Gap ready to restore law and order, only to find that a group of local men have taken the law into their own hands. Law-abiding citizens by day, they don burlap-sack masks at night and ride anonymously as the Bald Knobbers gang, warning off those who threaten the peace and safety of Pine Gap’s residents and seeking the man who was responsible for the death of one of the town’s residents. Their hearts are in the right place, but they constantly butt heads with Deputy Puckett, who believes they need to do things ‘by the book’.
Betsy makes a point of trailing the handsome new deputy whenever she can, which means she’s often on the fringe of the action—and often exasperating said handsome new deputy. And yet there’s something about her that draws Joel’s attention again and again, and I loved the way their mutual admiration and friendship developed. There were some humorous moments in this story too; sometimes wry, and sometimes laugh-out-loud—the latter often as a result of Joel’s unexpected audacity. Keep a look out for one of the best set-downs ever and a particularly cheeky kiss! 😉
And, of course, what would a romance be without a little personal complication? But with all this drama going on, I never once felt like anything was being forced or inflated or overdone.
Well done on a thoroughly enjoyable read, Regina Jennings!
I received a complimentary copy of this novel from the publisher. This has not influenced the content of my review.
Release date: 6 December 2016
Publisher: Bethany House
~ About the Author ~
Regina Jennings is a graduate of Oklahoma Baptist University with a degree in English and a history minor. She has worked at The Mustang News and First Baptist Church of Mustang, along with time at the Oklahoma National Stockyards and various livestock shows. She now lives outside Oklahoma City with her ornery husband and four dangerously charming children.