By Melanie Murray, RBTB Correspondent
Remember the opening of “Little House on the Prairie?” Laura, Mary and Carrie run carefree through fields of wheat, pigtails flying, brightly colored gingham swirling… This image always gave me a warm feeling inside. Then the show would start, and suddenly you were contending with life-threatening calamities:
Outlaws. Disease. Nellie Oleson.
Catherine Anderson’s “Early Dawn” is much in the vein of “Little House on the Prairie” in that it celebrates the resilience of those who lived in the untamed West. Anderson’s world has gunslingers and cowboys and damsels in distress, but she doesn’t glamorize it. The perils her two main characters face are very real and very deadly, and how they overcome their trials will inspire you and even give you a little burst of American pride.
Eden Paxton is on a train bound for No Name, Colorado, when she’s kidnapped by the ruthless Sebastian Gang. Intending to sell her across the border, they beat her during the day and force humiliations on her at night. After five torturous days her prayers for rescue are answered, but her savior is a mysterious stranger, a man who’s quiet and dirty and as disreputable looking as her previous captors.
Oregonian Matthew Coulter has been tracking the notorious Sebastian Gang since the day they murdered his wife. For three years he’s been alone on the trail, with only his horse and a mule named Herman for companionship. He’s sent one Sebastian brother to meet his Maker, but each time he gets close to the others circumstances get in the way. This time they come in a beautiful, red-haired, blue-eyed package, one who looks at him as if he were a criminal.
But it doesn’t take long before Eden learns how deep still waters can run. As they travel together trying to elude the Sebastians, Matthew’s caring manner and silent strength stir her desires. Though she wants more than friendship from Matthew, she can’t entirely trust a man’s touch so soon after her ordeal.
And while Eden’s spirit, beauty, and honesty begin to shake Matthew from his comfort with solitude, he has sworn to never marry again. He failed to protect his wife, and doesn’t feel worthy of another’s love.
Catherine Anderson creates a pair of characters as tough as the countryside she so lovingly describes. Matthew’s and Eden’s physical journey mirrors the emotional one they take toward each other. Anderson doesn’t whitewash the dangers they encounter, and it’s because of this that their happy ending seems so well-earned. You’ll root hard for good to triumph over evil when you --
Buy the Book.
What are your favorite Western love stories? And why do you think the setting becomes such a big part of these romances?