cover image ONCE AN OUTLAW


Jill Gregory, . . Dell, $6.50 (368pp) ISBN 978-0-440-23549-1

The second in a trilogy about the Barclay brothers, Gregory's latest Western-set romance (after Rough Wrangler, Tender Kisses) breathes a fuller life into the sub-genre. Seven years ago, Sheriff Clint Barclay put the Spoon Gang, notorious for robbing stagecoaches, behind bars, but now Jake Spoon and his sons have laid claim to a ranch in Forlorn Valley, Co., ostensibly looking for a fresh start. Doubtful of their intentions, Clint pays the family a surprise visit, only to come face to face with Jake's attractive and fiercely loyal niece, Emily. She has been under her uncle's care since her parents died many years ago, and she's confident that Jake has only the best intentions. Nevertheless, her hopes of being accepted by the community pale when Clint demands to see a deed to the property and persists in pestering her kin. The story escalates with fast-paced action, romance and several surprises as the fiery attraction between Clint and Emily hits fever pitch and Emily begins to suspect that her family may be hiding something from her. At the same time, she strives to build up her own dressmaking business and to protect a friend's son from an abusive ex. Realistic dialogue grounds the reader in this era, but it is Gregory's sensitive characterizations that will drive a herd of new readers to pick up this heartfelt family drama. (Dec. 11)