Matthew Morgan, alias Matthew McCready, is not only fleeing a hangman's noose, but also his very roots. Born the youngest son of a poor Tennessee farmer, he grew up yearning for the good things in life, and once he escaped into the Confederate Army, he knew he was never going back. At war's end, he headed for New Orleans, where his good looks and uncommon skills with cards carried him into the finest drawing rooms in the city. But that was before he killed the son of a prominent Louisiana politician. Now he's on the run, headed for an outlaw haven called Helena, Texas. Until he sees Verena Howard in Galveston.
A determined spinster, the pretty twenty-two-year-old schoolteacher is en route to San Angelo, hoping to settle more than her late father's seemingly worthless estate. She has to know why Jack Howard deserted his country, why he never returned home to her and her mother. At times, the bitterness she feels toward him is almost overwhelming. Sharing her mother's heartbreak has left her wary of men, particularly the handsome ones.
But when facing a rough and tumble Texas frontier, where life is cheap and women scarce, she discovers her aloof manner and sharp tongue provide little protection from drunken, amorous cowboys - or from the handsome, dark-eyed gambler who comes to her rescue, then offers to pose as her husband until the cowboys get off the train. So begins an adventure neither can foresee, where neither quite believes the other, where everything goes wildly awry, and where the law becomes the least of Matt's worries.
Looking for closure, Verena Howard leaves her lonely, schoolteacher existence in Pennsylvania to resolve her fathers will in Texas. She is unprepared for the boldness of western men, in regard to unaccompanied women.
Mathew Morgan, a well-dressed and debonair gambler, notices Verena and warns her about the insults and bold assumptions men will make about her. It doesnt take long for Morgans words to come true. Although their banter is charming and fun, the author didnt convince me that the characters had enough in common to form a lasting relationship.
Verena and her mother had been abandoned by Jack Howard during the Civil War. He never returned; when Mrs. Howard became desperate, she applied for a widows pension. Thats when she learned that her husband had deserted the Army with a group of men.
Verenas mom told her to avoid handsome men; Morgan was everything Verenas mother had warned her about. Morgan was a handsome gambler and he seemed to be on-the-run. Considerable discussion occurred along the story about Morgans hate of farming and getting dirty. Thus, the end of the story left me baffled.
The writing was wonderful but the actions of the main folks in this story didnt stay in character. Ive read other books by Anita Mills and think this was just a fluke.