REVIEW: Heart’s Bounty by Christine Charles
Dear Ms. Charles,
I like your decision to write a western with a strong heroine in it. Like you, I grew up watching TV westerns and always wanted the women to do more than just wait at home while the menfolk went out and saved the day. You’ve certainly given your heroine something to do, too.
Bethany Hart has no intention of getting over the day her family was slaughtered by renegade Conferderate soldiers. At least not until she’s hauled all five men in to face justice at the end of a short rope. To that end, she’s spent years practicing her shooting, riding, and roping and honed her bounty hunting skills bringing in wanted criminals. One of the former soldiers has already been hanged for his crimes and she’s elated to be bringing in another to the Kansas town of Burnt Prairie. But when she drops him off with the local Marshall, Bethany gets a weird feeling. The Marshall is a little too eager to shut the man up and throw him into a jail cell. The next morning, when she finds out the man escaped, Bethany is disgusted to have to head out after the man again and surprised the Marshall insists on going with her despite the concussion he got during the jail break.
Trent is just one of the names that J.D. has used during his career as Union spy turned special agent for President Grant. He’s grateful that he managed to shut Earl up before the man blabbed the last name that J.D. used during the War when he rode for a short while with the men Bethany has hunted for years. Despite the fact that he arrived after the rape and killing of her family, he knows that Bethany holds him just as responsible as the other men because to maintain his cover he could never turn the men in to Confederate authorities. It tears him to have to let Earl go but the man is the only link J.D. has to a gun running/white slavery ring operating in the Southwest. If he can infiltrate the operation, he can stop it as well as bring Earl, and another man Bethany hunts, to justice. He has to take the risk that Bethany, a woman he’s coming to love as well as admire, won’t find out about his own past before he has a chance to tell her himself. And that if she does, she can find it in her heart to understand and forgive what he had to do.
I like the fact that you keep to one story and don’t tack on any unnecessary subplots. You also include enough detail to ground the story without dragging in too much information just to prove you found it during your research. I like the way Bethany starts out as a strong character but she does tend to melt into mush after J.D. kisses her. Thank you for letting Bethany feel hurt and anger at J.D.’s deception and then let her act on it. She’s pissed and has good reason to be.
I can understand J.D.’s reluctance to take Bethany along for final showdown with the villains. He’s been raised to protect women and to view them as homemakers, not as tough bounty hunters. He’s seen the heroine at work and accepts her but a lifetime of seeing women in subordinate roles is hard to overcome. I also like that you give Bethany time to learn her new role and gain experience at it: she doesn’t suddenly change overnight into the roughest, toughest female west of the Mississippi and we’re expected to believe it. J.D. is put into a tough situation, having to risk a possible future with Bethany against shutting down the gang that’s causing untold misery to so many others. Unfortunately, he tends to agonize a bit too much and discuss it with other men more than seems reasonable. Men just don’t talk out their fears and feelings this much.
But still, I enjoyed the story and the fact that it’s Bethany who brings the gang to justice. I have a feeling she’s going to keep J.D. on his toes after their marriage. At least, I hope so. B- for “Heart’s Bounty.”