Author: J.M. Snyder
Publisher: JMS Books LLC
Characters: Jesse McCray, Ethan Phillips
POV: 3rd Person
Jesse McCray ekes out a hard living cutting cattle from the local beef baron of Defiance, Texas. He’s known for his quick draw and his steady aim; no one outguns him. Whenever he and his ragtag group of friends known as the Rustlers ride into town, the local cowboys hold their breaths, waiting for the men to ride through. But one evening, while playing faro at Billy’s Saloon, Jesse’s attention is drawn to a new face in the crowd.
Ethan Phillips is an idealistic tenderfoot from back East, passing through Defiance on his way to the California coast. He’s heard tales of the gold that enriches the west coast, and he’s looking for a way to make his dreams come true. When his horse pulls up lame, he offers to sing for the cowboys of Billy’s Saloon to earn a few coins, but the men jeer at his song until a man in black quiets them. With one look into Jesse’s dark eyes, Ethan finds himself falling for the man.
Ethan’s horse heals but he stays in Defiance, enamored by his outlaw lover. But the cattle baron has a grudge against one of Jesse’s outlaw friends, and a gunfight in Billy’s Saloon puts a price on the Rustlers’ heads. Can Jesse protect Ethan from the lawmen gunning for him and his friends?
There was a breed of lawless men in the Old West, men who lived by their own rules, saw what they wanted and took it, and lived and died by the luck of the draw. The Rustlers are such men, cattle rustlers who’ve carved out a reputation for being very good at what they do, and made an enemy of Newell Sutton, the cattle baron who’s placed a bounty on the heads of the Rustlers, marking them as wanted men.
Billy’s saloon sees its share of cowboys and outlaws, sees plenty of short fuses lit with a little help from the liquid courage the bartender serves. Jesse McCray spends his share of time there with his gang, playing cards and keeping a wary lookout for the hunters who’d love nothing more than to profit from their deaths, trying to stay one step ahead of a bullet.
When a stranger walks into the saloon, young, an obvious tenderfoot who’s just passing through on his way out West, where the streets are paved with gold, he captures Jesse’s attention. Ethan Phillips’ horse has come up lame, leaving him stranded in Defiance, Texas and looking for a way to make some quick money, which he does, playing the piano and singing for tips.
Jesse and Ethan fall into a romance that is based partly in urgency and partly in the uncertainty of what may come between them, especially when one of them is targeted for death. The spark that ignites between them marks them both as wanted men, but vengeance and greed are two very real threats that might tear them apart almost before they’ve begun.
Wanted is a good old fashioned gun-slinging Western romance, with plenty of suspense to keep me worrying all the way to the very end over how the story would play out. While the relationship between Jesse and Ethan is a bit rushed, there’s a certain sense of romanticism to the idea of the attraction between the naïve tenderfoot and the hardened desperado. I’d have loved for J.M. Snyder to have taken this one a bit further, but what is there is a true adventure.
Reviewed By: Lisa