REVIEW: Once an Outlaw by Debbi Rawlins
Dear Ms. Rawlins,
Since it’s been forever since I read a time travel story, I was all over yours when I saw it listed under the Blaze March offerings. I think that the blurb might be slightly misleading as I was expecting something a little hotter than what I got, but since a lot of hot sex isn’t a necessity for me, it all worked out just fine.
In the rough-and-tumble town of Deadwood in 1876, cowboy Sam Keegan is about as hard as they get. Considered a real sexy piece of man by the local womenfolk, Sam runs the town livery stable. And he was last seen in the company of a pretty gal in a wedding dress, Reese Winslow…who escaped one of the local brothels!
The little lady claims to be a doctor–from the future, no less! Beware of her, as she’s causing no end of problems. Mostly for Sam, who is real skittish about the law. But trouble or not, the man can’t seem to stop himself from wanting Reese…and learnin’ firsthand what women from the future like to do with hot, hard cowboys!
The Blaze line seems to have a shorter word count than the Historical line, so when the number of plot threads kept mounting, I did wonder how you were going to finish them all off in time. I would like to have had a little more time to deal with everything yet at the same time, things weren’t overplayed and padded for no reason.
Reece is 29 and pretty much on schedule for where she’s supposed to be in her medical training. Thank you for not making her a cardiology attending at age 25 or any such crap. What she teaches Doc seems to be mainly basic stuff she would have learned in medical school and internship instead of complicated cardiology which would have basically been useless in 1875.
I liked the level of inclusion of every day western life and how it differed from what Reece was used to. She commented and noticed smells, how difficult it was to stay clean, get hot water, how long every day chores took but you didn’t overwhelm us with facts and tidbits just because your research had turned up some nifty information you just couldn’t bear to exclude – regardless of whether or not it added to the story or caused it to drag.
Reece seems a tad pushy but then she would to Sam as well. She won’t back down from a fight or from what she knows is right or needs to be done (i.e. helping deliver the baby and saving the two children) but she has enough common sense to listen to what Sam warns her about and not make scenes that scream “I’m a time traveler!” The bit about Sam reading Jules Verne and how that might account for him believing her TT story more easily is a nice touch. The whole TT and how it worked wasn’t ever clearly explained – I guess we’re just meant to accept it. I’m glad Reece neither accepted her TT too quickly nor did she persist in thinking it a ruse or practical joke far past the point of my tolerance.
The looming revelation of Sam’s dark past was hinted at one too many times but when the information was finally presented, it made sense for the era. If Sam had been just any soldier in the war, what he had done wouldn’t have hung as heavily on him nor would he have feared exposure as much.
There’s a lot of mention of how Reece instinctively trusts Sam for no good reason. This began to annoy me since you had also mentioned, more than once, how Reece had seen Sam in several situations and how he had always acted with compassion, integrity and honesty. Seems like good reasons to trust him to me. The clash between “us” and “them” showed in how Sam was horrified more at the thought of being hung as a horse thief than for being punished for what he did during the war.
The sexual tension was ratcheted up nicely and the clash between what Reece thought of as normal and how Sam would view it was balanced. The sex scenes, when they arrived, were well timed and not out of place. As well, Reece didn’t flaunt her modern mores to anyone other than Sam.
Until the very end, I was never sure exactly how the TT would be resolved. Usually with TT novels, it gets to be fairly obvious who will stay or if both characters will travel back to the future. The decision you make suits me as I couldn’t see it working out the other way.
I like that you foreshadowed the decision when Reece begins to muse on her life and how much of what she’d accomplished was due to her own actions and talents and how much due to her family. She also began to compare what she could accomplish medically in 21st century America vs the pleasure she got from the more hands on stuff she was doing then. Perhaps she finally realized just how much she could help people by the simple things we take for granted now – better hygiene, sanitation, not purging or bleeding patients.
The epilogue depends on some serendipitous events. Reece has already been accepted as a doctor within 4 months, Sam has managed to buy the livery of a man who just happened to be leaving town anyway and they’re only 50 miles from Deadwood. How long before someone sees the wedding picture and is the danger lingering over Sam from the rest of the men he rode with over?
Will we ever learn how the Golden Slipper ended up in the hands of Reece’s ancestors? And the truth behind Margaret’s relation, if any, to her? What about the wedding dress and Grandma Lily’s ghost stories which scared Reece and Ellie as children and signaled what they thought was Grandma’s mental decline? Perhaps the answers to these questions will be found in the second book, “Once a Gambler” which I already have loaded onto my Sony reader. B- for this one.