I really enjoyed this book.
One year after the Civil War has ended, 20-year-old Miranda Hayes finds herself a widow and an orphan. Knowing that she can't manage her father's farm on the Kansas plains after he is killed by marauding raiders, she decides to search for her brother, who has gone to try his luck in the Nevada gold mines. But on a trip to Kansas City one day, she is brought by fate into contact with the outlaw Jake Harkner, who is wanted in Missouri for murder, theft and rape. In the general store, where both have stopped for supplies, Jake is recognized and a shootout ensues, Miranda herself firing at him in self defense. He escapes, and in a semi-believable plot twist, winds up unconscious in Miranda's cabin. When she discovers him, drained of blood but still alive, it's clear that these two are headed for an unlikely though inevitable partnership, as Miranda seems to be the only person who can help Jake settle his troubled and violent past. Charming but at times contrived, Bittner's ( Thunder on the Plains ) western tale is filled with vivid descriptions of the raw, unsettled land from Kansas to California in the 1800s that evoke images of a wilderness too quickly tamed by civilization.
This is the most emotion-laden story I've read in some time. The tension was so high at certain points that I could hardly stand to keep reading. It seemed important to stop and process the gritty situations the characters were experiencing.
The shoot-out between Jake Harkner and Bill Kennedy is beyond anything I've read in American Western novels so far. This is 500 pages of tension, fear, grief, grit and redemption. I read it in less than 24 hours because the story grabbed me and wouldn't let go.
The heroine is Miranda Hayes, a widow who has lost her father and is hoping to find her brother. She is devastated by her losses but has the courage to travel (alone, if need be) west from Kansas to Nevada. However, she encounters a very dangerous man, Jake Harkner, and their lives become entwined.
Miranda is a woman of rare strength of character. She begins to change Jake; to help him see another life path beyond the one he's been traveling along. In spite of all the adversities they face, she is a rock of confidence in Jake's innate goodness. This story takes place over 20+ years of their marriage.
This is the first book I've read by Roseanne Bittner. I just can't say enough about how this story affected me. It will be a long time before I can forget Miranda and Jake.