Part thriller and part romance, this quick-read melodrama by Mitchard (the Oprah-anointed The Deep End of the Ocean, 1996) tries to keep quite a few narrative balls in the air, juggling jailhouse love, teen pregnancy, escaped convicts, death row lawyers, biological clocks, and the whole capricious character of the lone star state of Texas. When Arlington Mowbray starts writing to Dillon LeGrande at his current place of residence, the Solamente River Correctional Facility, she doesn't expect much more than to fulfill a dare. At 14, what Arley, an honor student and track star, doesn't know about men could fill a book. And when Dillon's letters begin to arrive, full of poetry and cowboy cordiality, Arley starts to fall in love. She visits him, and the two decide to marry secretly. Which is where Annie Singer, lawyer for a women's defense organization, comes in, helping Arley arrange for her first conjugal visit with her now husband. After a tender and wild night in a Wailer by the prison, Arley discovers that she's pregnant, is kicked out by her mother, and moves in with Annie and her longtime boyfriend Stuart. Arley's pregnancy only serves to emphasize the stalemate of Annie's relationship to Stuart, a death row attorney whose crusades for his clients always take precedence over a private life. When Dillon escapes from jail, Arley is placed in hiding in an isolated cabin, learning only from news broadcasts about the antics of the ""Highwayman,"" the romantic persona Dillon has created (based on their favorite poem) for himself as he politely plunders the state. Arley waits for him to come and carry her away. Meanwhile, she's threatened by a forest fire and by the arrival of various violent family members--a crazy sister among them--and is surprised overall by a few too many revelations. A big, readable novel, but also one neither surprising nor penetrating enough to be especially memorable.