Clay Colby’s an outlaw trying to go straight. Working with other men to build a new town called Devil’s Crossing, he longs for a partner in life. His friend Luke runs a rather unusual mail-order bride service, finding brides for men who can’t advertise through normal channels, and through Luke Clay finds Tally. Betrayed by her stepmother, she was placed in a lunatic asylum and horribly maltreated before being able to escape, taking with her several other women and Violet, a blind little girl unwanted by her parents.
Tally’s and Violet’s stories would tug at the hardest heartstrings, and Clay’s an absolute sucker. He’s also a good, patient man willing to wait for both to trust him, demonstrating in every way possible that they can do so. His romance with Tally and his care and love for Violet was both heart-warming and very believable, as well as his outrage on their behalf and determination to see justice done.
However, this is where things got a bit messy. There were an incredible amount of secondary characters in the book, so many I lost track of who was who after a while. I understand this is the first of a new series, and I think Broday may have succumbed to the temptation to introduce too many characters who will appear in later books. There was also a section where I thought the story was about to wrap up, about 85% of the way through the book, because things seemed to be about over. I assumed the rest of the book would be a preview for the next story, but no. Instead, Clay went off on a solo adventure for several chapters, introducing MORE new characters, and doing a lot of unnecessary faffing about, in my opinion.
The whole section could have been erased by jumping straight to the courthouse and having him arrive with his prisoner just in time. It was unnecessary, pulled me out of the story by separating for a long section a couple I wanted to see together, and felt like unnecessary filler to make up a required word count.
While there were parts of the story I enjoyed, there were too many characters, too many subplots and also some really dark and brutal stuff a lot of people could find triggering, for sexual, physical and emotional abuse, torture and even child abuse. It was all a bit too much for a romance and at the end of the day, I wouldn’t read any more in this series or even recommend it to lovers of Western historical romance. Two stars.
Disclaimer: I received a copy of this book for review through NetGalley.