The Texas Panhandle in the late 19th century is the setting for the first in Broday’s (To Catch a Texas Star, 2018, etc.) latest Western romance series, which pairs a wounded woman with an idealistic settler.
Ex-outlaw Clay Colby has worked tirelessly to make Devil’s Crossing habitable for settlers and just needs a bride to solidify his new life as a rancher. When flame-haired Tally Shannon arrives, she is just as strong and kind as her letters suggested, but she’s even more beautiful save for a diamond-shaped brand on her cheek. The victim of a jealous stepmother, Tally was committed to the Creedmore Lunatic Asylum, where she suffered unimaginable physical and mental abuse at the hands of the warden, Slade Tarver. From the first page, Broday puts readers in the middle of the action, when a rival outlaw tries to burn down Devil’s Crossing’s new buildings and a gunfight ensues. Readers may feel they have missed an earlier installment as characters and events from Clay’s past drive much of the immediate action, while the actual plot stalls for most of the book until Clay and Tally set out to avenge her abuse at the asylum. Marriage-of-convenience plots work well when the author takes the time to develop the romantic relationship that should have existed before the “I do’s,” but Clay and Tally are instantly smitten and stay that way. Tally’s inability to trust and Clay’s controlling nature could have made for fireworks, but her one-step-forward, two-steps-back attitude is merely frustrating.
Two-dimensional characters, slow plotting, and a lack of romance mark this Western "return to sender."