The Outlaw’s Mail Order Bride is the first book in Linda Broday’s newest western historical romance series, Outlaw Mail Order Brides. I’m a big fan of western historical romances and read a few of Ms. Broday’s previous series. Been a fan of her writing style and storytelling since I read the series Bachelors of Battle Creek. This new book was no different. A story in general full of a lot of heart and warmth.
Outlaw Mail Order Brides series is connected to the author’s previous series, Men of Legend. Some were played important secondary characters, while others were just featured for a spell. In Men of Legend series, former outlaw Luke Weston Legend, one of the sons of well-known rancher Stoker Legend, had introduced us to some of the characters in this new series; whom he met while living the life of an outlaw. These men were outlaws like him who wanted to leave that life for good. Motivated by that need, former outlaw—who also worked in Stoker’s ranch briefly— Clay Colby, alongside a few of his former outlaw buddies, has been trying to build a town. Something to call their own where they can finally settle down and call it a home. But easier said than done. Interested females are hard to come by and Clay and his comrades have been having a difficult time trying to make Devil’s Crossing a habitable place. Located in Texas Panhandle, not only the place was middle of pretty much nowhere, it was a rough terrain still. Though the place was hidden enough with canyons around it, which would make it safer from unwanted snooping, it was also a far cry from the town that Clay wanted to make it. TBH, he had big dreams but by the looks of how things were going for him, he had no idea whether he can actually make it.
As the story opens up, we find Clay trying to deal with an overzealous and cranky old outlaw who had set his town on fire. The few structures they’d been trying to erect with the limited amount of woods and other supplies have already burned down and Clay was now trying to fight off the dirty a$$ and run him off his land. Though Montana thinks the land belongs to him. Which is why he was unhappy with Clay making headway with his dream town, or whatever you can call it.
I equally enjoyed and felt sad reading Clay’s monologues while fighting off Montana; like how he hated Mondays cause every bad thing that happened to him happened on a Monday. You know that feeling, right? Like how his life had changed since the war (American Civil War) when he was barely a teen; when he returned home on a Monday to find his family dead. There were other things that he’d thought about. Clay’s older brother also went to war and he’d never seen him again. Had no idea whether he was dead or alive. Clay was 50/50 on this. He had to think John was dead, but he also hoped that his brother was alive and that someday they’d meet again. And now, how Clay was extremely frustrated with the fact that today his new mail order bride is supposed to be arriving and now his town lies in ruin. What a way to introduce a prospective bride to a new life! Dang Mondays!! Clay was sure Tally Shannon would probably turn around and leave as fast as she can when she sees the disaster that was Clay’s town, while stomping on his hopes and dreams.
Clay has been down this road a few times before. He’d tried to settle down. But he had not much to offer and the women never stayed long enough to agree to his proposal. If this fails, Clay wasn’t sure he could do this again. He’d been corresponding with Tally for the past few months. She was introduced to him by Luke though they’re yet to meet face to face. I was amused to hear that Luke has opened up some kind of underground mail order bride service to help these men. LOL From where he’s getting his prospective brides, I’ll come to that point in a bit.... Now, Tally had a sad past, a hint of what she’d talked about in her letters. Clay didn’t know much but Luke had assured him that Tally would be a good match for him. Clay didn’t have much choice. He’d be happy with any woman who’d warm his bed at night and understand his situation. Who’d be the perfect helpmeet he needs to carry on with his dreams of making Devil’s Crossing a top-notch town to attract trade and future settlers. It definitely won’t be an easy life.
Then Tally arrives with Luke and his wife, Josie and Clay finds himself falling in love fast. She was quite beautiful with her red hair and blue eyes; much better in the looks department than what Clay had even hoped to find in his future bride. Clay knew he wanted to keep her but would she even bother to give him a chance, let alone stay and be his wife? Then there was the mark on her face that told him she’d been committed somewhere and that someone had marked her. Clay couldn’t imagine what that meant but he was willing to be the shoulders to lean onto, so long as Tally gives him the chance.
Tally Shannon had an idea about tough living. ‘Tough’ is actually not even the word to describe it. Tally knew about every inconceivable human misery that can be brought upon on a human being by another human being. She knew because she’d lived it. Committed to a lunatic asylum by her greedy, murderous step-mother even though she was completely sane, Tally had suffered what no human being should have to suffer. Her father made a mistake and it ruined their whole family. This woman not only poisoned her father, Tally knew she’d also had a hand in killing her only brother Brady. But Tally had no one and nowhere to turn to and she had no help. This greedy b1tch one night then drugged and bound her to dump her to Creedmore Lunatic Asylum where Tally was supposed to disappear for all eternity, never to see the daylight again. There was no detail description of her suffering but you can only imagine from the hints given here and there. That place was not fit for anyone; whether sane, insane, living or dead. The men who ran the place thrived on torturing the women committed there and doing every unimaginable sh!t they could think of. It included rape, torture and when they were done with one, murdering them.
But even after being abused for a year or so, Tally hadn’t broken down. No matter how much they tried. Tally wouldn’t give in and her indomitable spirit gave her the strength to finally escape from that place, though not on the first try. That first failed attempt had led her to have her feet beaten up so bad that Tally now can’t walk comfortably. They’d broken the bones and the healing process wasn’t easy. Needless to say it didn’t heal well at all.
After her escape, Tally been hiding in a place that’s hidden away from the human eyes, what I imagined was a hidden area in one of the canyons, with more Creedmore victims who were able to escape later with Tally’s active involvement. The story of how they or Tally came by that place was pretty vague throughout but you meet them first in one of the Men of Legend books. Luke found the girls (by accident?) but had kept the whole area a secret for a long time. He was very sympathetic of their plight; he was also the one who helped the girls with supplies they needed to survive. He’s now apparently trying to find them ‘homes’ to settle down, via his mail order bride program. :) Tally had loved and admired Luke, though only like a brother, for all his support and help. Without that they’d find it extremely difficult to survive, no doubt about it whatsoever.
Clay does notice Tally’s limp though he doesn’t ask any questions. He didn’t care what happened to her as long as she agrees to be his wife. For Tally, who had an aversion to men, had now decided it was for the better to try to move on and see if she can settle down. Maybe there’d be more in the future, like children but Tally didn’t know if she would be able to conceive any. Hell, she didn’t even tell Clay yet about her harrowing experience in Creedmore in fear of his rejection. From the moment she saw Clay, even though his town was in shambles, Tally felt this was a man she could come to trust, if not love. There was kindness in his eyes and an earnestness that drew her in. When they talk alone and discuss their future, she decides she’d take a chance, even though she tells Clay that it’s only until spring. They’d see how things go. If they find that they aren’t compatible by then, they’d go their separate ways. And though Clay agrees to it, he isn’t happy about it. But he also felt that Tally needed to be heard and needed her space. She needed to feel her words mattered and he wasn’t going to make her feel uncomfortable to live with him.
Even though their married life begins on a rocky start, soon Tally and Clay begin to discover a nicer pace in their living. Tally had also brought a blind little girl rejected by her parents, who somehow ended up on Creedmore and was rescued by her. Violet was very attached to Tally and called her mommy. Tally loved her and adopted her. Violet wasn’t fond of men either but Clay finds himself forming an attachment with the girl himself. His inherent protective instinct became high in alert, especially after he heard Violet was also in the same place where Tally was. He’d by then heard some of Tally’s ordeal and was absolutely livid that someone would do that to another human being. Soon though, Clay had made Violet comfortable enough to get along with him. He’d also decided to train Violet how to get around town by herself with the help of a stick, his dog Bullet who’d already became friends with Violet and ropes that Clay had meticulously tied around the places Violet may visit.
Trouble comes to Devil’s Crossing soon enough, and it wasn’t Montana who was shot by Clay and ran away before Tally’s arrival. Clay knew sooner or later he’d see the cranky a$$ again if he’s alive. They were looking for her. But the trouble that visited them were the men from Creedmore; the same men who had tortured Tally. If then Clay had any inclination of the depth of their depravity and how Tally had suffered, none would leave Devil’s Crossing alive. And this misstep or whatever you can call it, would come to haunt them later. Because these men were rabid and they were not about to give up on finding their ‘prey’. Not that easily. Tally had defied them by escaping and they were already planning on a gruesome death for her. Disgusting! Tally knew if she’s caught again this time she won’t get out alive. But could Clay help her keep those monsters at bay? Even if he does, how long will he be able to do it? Will he survive?? Tally had by then began relying on Clay, being showered with love and kindness that she had trouble just with the thought of losing him.
Tally and Clay’s fast growing relationship will be put to test more than once in the course of the story as they fight not only the evils from Creedmore but also the evil that was her stepmother, still alive and living off of what she obtained through greed and murder. Even one of Clay’s former flames, a former tavern girl named Rebel. I wasn’t too amused by this development in the story but the author had managed to change my mind about Rebel. She proved herself to be a different person than she initially looked to be. This aside, Tally needed to find closure from the emotional scars of her past ordeal and Clay would do anything to give her that. In the course of the story, these tests would also solidify their relationship to something completely unbreakable; into something that felt a lot like love. Something neither of them even dared to hope they’d ever find.
The Outlaw’s Mail Order Bride was full of actions and thrilling moments. There were times I was scared for them, worried over what will happen next but I was never in doubt that good things were on the horizon for our protagonists. Another classic Linda Broday style feel-good story that I totally enjoyed reading. A great beginning to a new series and now I’m looking forward to the next installment. 4 solid stars and recommended.