Avon, $5.99, ISBN 0-380-79865-4
Historical Romance, 1999
There’s a big party about to start in 1873 Nebraska. Bring your cowboy hats and lasso, people – and don’t forget your Uzi, or you’ll be pretty sorry when cowboys and outlaws and horses start rioting.
Meet Jessi Rose Clayton, who is defending her land and nephew Joth with an extra-large rifle and lots of badass attitude. Her father has been murdered by the villainous town banker Reed Darcy, and now, no way is Jessi letting that scum get his grubby paws on her land. However, she is running short of supplies, and no one dares to sell her anything in fear of angering Reed. Reed’s henchmen are burning her land, killing her cattle, and making her life a living hell.
Joth writes a letter to Sheriff Dixon Wildhorse (the hero of Topaz). Dix has had his eye on Reed for some time, and he and his lawmaking buddies are delighted now that they may have the chance to get proof of Reed’s villainy and slap that scumbag right in jail. However, everyone’s busy. That leaves…
Meet Griffin Sloane Blake, rotting in jail for one train robbing too many. Dix knows he’s an okay fellow, so he makes Griff a deal: go hitch his sexy tight bum off west, protect Jessi and Joth, and fry Reed. If Griff succeeds, it’s freedom and pardon for him. Griff gets a US Marshal badge as accessory.
Griff goes to Jessi’s place, fully intending to be nice and meek, but the first few minutes he is there, he is caught in a square-off between Jessi and Reed’s men. He sees her waving that rifle in Linda-Hamilton-in-Terminator-2 style and it’s lust at first sight. Too bad Jessi, feisty and prickly as a cactus (and she’s witty too) isn’t too keen on trusting a man right now. Worse, Joth, who collects Wanted posters for a hobby, recognizes him immediately as that infamous train robber Kansas Red. Kansas Red is a bank robber who’s slimy as anything, much to Jessi’s delight. Kansas Red is reputed not to be too good with guns. Much to Jessi’s disgust.
“Could be worse. They could’ve sent you a riverboat gambler,” Griff tells her.
Jessi and Griff are really wonderful to read. They really banter and exchange naughty repartee. “You’re as ornery as a she-cat with a thorn in her paw,” Griff tells her off. She snaps back, “I am a she-cat with a thorn in her paw. It’s called Darcy. And now I have another thorn-you.” Sound the bell – the battle lines are drawn already.
Jessi and Griff band together against Reed, of course. And along the way Reed calls in reinforcements: more outlaws. There are a pair of funny, tough-as-nails-but-soft-as-cotton-candy inside don’t-look-alike twin brothers called Two Shafts and Neil July (members of the Bank and Train Robbers of America) as well as a bounty hunter called The Preacher (who, incidentally, carries the Bible and quotes scriptures in the midst of arresting scums). The Dirty Dozen meets Wild Wild West. Bullets start to fly, Jessi stumbles upon Griff butt naked and starts to drool, and I am having the time of my life. Bring on the stampede! Where’s my Bronco? Yee-haw!
Of course, sometimes Ms Jenkins tend to tell instead of show, but The Taming of Jessi Rose is a very, very, very good, exciting ride of a lifetime. Oh, did I mention that Jessi is 32 to Griff’s 26? No matter. A feisty heroine who can hold her own and let her man help her when things are stacked against her, and a man who is reliable, funny, witty, and oh-so-hot-baby sexy… I’m hooked since page 1 and Ms Jenkins never let down the momentum.
You know what? I think I have a keeper in my hands!