The Outlaw Bride
by Sandra Chastain, historical (2000)
Bantam, $5.99, ISBN 0-553-58047-7

The Outlaw Bride is a pretty standard Western fare that succeeds mainly because of the buoyant charisma of the two main characters and the humor in the prose. It sort of dips into farcical elements towards the end, and the secondary romance drives me nuts, but all in all, a fun Western romp indeed this book is.

Josie Miller, the heroine, is the obligatory healer as well as female lawyer and budding feminist champion of downtrodden women of the West. She is adopted by the main characters of the author's last book The Runaway Bride as a child, and now she intends to continue her adopted momma's footsteps in making the West a better place for women.

When Sims Callahan is found injured and taken to the Millers' place, Josie finds herself tending this man. Dr Annie Miller was after all away with her hubby. After seeing him naked and getting tingly all over, Josie is stunned when the sheriff comes in and demands to arrest this injured man. Sims may be involved in embezzling ranchers' money in some cattle transaction gone awry.

Sims - can I call him Simmy? - just want to find his missing brother Ben who may hold the answer to his current problems. So all he need to do is to get okay, stay out of jail, and stay away from the Doctor. No problem, only his Mr Wonky has lots of disagreements about the last thing on his list.

This story offers nothing new - there's bedside nursing, hero-turned-fugitive, sexual healing, and the usual la-di-da's, but it sure is fun. Simmy, sorry, Sims is a rather sexy and reliable guy who never prolongs his Can't commit nonsense to the point of giving me headaches, while Josie only does at most two stupid things. They click well and I have no problem rooting for them.

The ending Big Showdown is a bit of a let-down though, with elements bordering on farce start showing up, and I do want to strangle Rachel, Ben's girlfriend, who shows the ugly side of the word Codependency. Otherwise, there's nothing to stop The Outlaw Bride from being a fun romp through the good ol' West.

Rating: 85

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